Your nursing program may be almost over, but you’re not entirely done yet. Your nursing clinicals are coming up, and you likely feel a little nervous about what to expect.
Don’t worry; you are not alone, and many other students feel the same way. Fortunately, clinical experience can be excellent preparation for the work you will do as an RN.
Nursing clinicals allow you to work with patients in real-life situations while you develop your nursing skills. You might feel excited to complete your clinical rotations and apply everything you’ve learned to real-world problems.
However, nursing clinicals can be a challenging but exciting time in your education. For instance, transitioning from a classroom to a clinical environment can be difficult if you’re unprepared.
As a result, it’s essential to understand what to expect to prepare for the most successful experience possible and to learn from the process.
An overview of nursing clinicals
Clinicals are typically the first time a student will provide hands-on patient care. They are designed to introduce students to the various aspects of nursing and help prepare them for employment.
Nurses need a lot of information to provide safe, quality care; this is where clinicals come into play. Clinical instructors can take the time during clinicals to talk about specific skills and procedures and answer any questions students may have.
Students should also ask as many questions as they can during these sessions because it gives them a chance to clarify anything they may not have covered.
In addition, clinical instructors can provide feedback on each student’s performance so they know what areas they might want to work on before beginning their formal training.
Plenty of programs offer helpful tips and advice on preparing for your upcoming clinicals. For instance, Elmhurst University’s online ABSN programs provide management services for your clinical placements.
They partner with you, from securing a spot in an excellent school or hospital to managing your clinical assignments. As a bonus, you will not have to pay any extra fees, allowing you to focus on your studies while they do all the hard work.
12 tips to prepare you for your upcoming nursing clinicals
If you’re planning on becoming a nurse, you’ve probably already started preparing for your clinical experience. Clinical experiences can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time in a hospital setting. Follow these tips to help you prepare and make the most of your upcoming clinical experience.
Relax and de-stress
As you may have heard, nursing clinicals are a big part of the nursing curriculum. Clinicals can be intense and stressful. However, your clinical experience will be even more overwhelming if you do not prepare adequately.
It is essential to take care of yourself before clinicals to have the best possible experience. It would help if you found ways to relax and de-stress regularly.
For instance, you can employ meditation, exercise, yoga or walking. These exercises will help you stay focused rather than letting negative thoughts distract you.
They will also help reduce your anxiety levels so that they don’t consume all your attention during clinical days. Focusing on caring for patients is difficult when you are mentally distracted.
In addition to these techniques, you can use aromatherapy, music therapy and deep breathing to clear your mind before starting clinicals. These activities require little time but yield considerable benefits in preparing yourself mentally for clinicals.
Network with nursing mentors
It is always beneficial to have mentors and support when pursuing any career. Mentors can provide knowledge, advice and guidance to help you excel in your profession.
When preparing for your nursing clinicals, the best mentors are nurses working in the field. These nurses can give you helpful tips on what to expect when you are doing your clinicals and answer any questions about the nursing profession.
Find a nurse mentor who can guide you during this critical time. There are many ways you can seek out mentors in nursing. One way is by asking current nurses or faculty members at the clinical site where you will be doing your clinicals.
If you are unsure who that person would be, try talking with someone in the hospital’s human resources department. They will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
Another option is to reach out through social media and connect with other nursing students. Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to post questions and get feedback from professionals in the field.
Know your support system
When preparing for your clinicals, your support system is an essential part of your preparation. Your support system refers to people who care about you, such as your family and friends. These people are necessary for your life and may be able to provide emotional or physical assistance when needed.
Reaching out to your support system before, during and after clinicals, so you can take advantage of their help. Having people who are there for you will be a tremendous asset as you prepare for clinicals.
For example, if you know that your coursework can sometimes be overwhelming, ask a friend or family member if they can give you some time each week to help you review the material.
You can also contact the nurse educators at the school where you are taking clinicals to see if they have any study groups available. Many students find this helpful because it allows them to get together with other students and work on topics together.
Reflect on what you have learned
It can be overwhelming walking into a clinical for the first time. It is an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and unfamiliar expectations.
During your learning experience, you may have had some moments of aha where you learned something new that helped you understand what’s happening in the room.
Reflecting on these moments will help you in a new situation at the clinic. There will be things that happen during your clinicals that might not make sense, and there will also be times when things don’t go as planned.
With that in mind, it is essential to note those moments, so they don’t become confusing later on. The key to successfully getting through clinicals is preparing and knowing yourself so you can take care of your needs as they arise.
Learn new skills before you start your clinicals
As with any profession, there are skills you will learn in school and then need to practice independently. These prepare you for starting your clinicals and allow you to build confidence in what you have learned.
They may include taking blood pressure readings or inserting an IV. Practice these skills before starting your clinical experience so that you can feel confident during the experience.
You may ask a family member or friend if they will try these new skills with you. Once mastered, make sure that these skills are fresh in your mind by reviewing them now and then.
For some students, the most intimidating part of nursing is getting to know all the equipment. Ensure you review the instruments ahead, so you do not waste time learning how to use them on your first day.
The best way to prepare is by going through each one, reading about it and understanding how it works.
Be prepared for long days
Long days are the norm during your clinical nursing experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.
You can take steps to prepare for such days, including sleeping well the night before, eating a good breakfast and taking care of yourself while on site. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet will help you through long days.
Make sure to pack snacks such as protein bars, nuts or dried fruit in case you’re hungry later on. Snacks would be ideal as they give you energy and keep you going when the day drags on.
Additionally, drinking plenty of fluids is crucial because nurses need more liquids than the average person due to their workload, including frequent hand washing.
Even if you are tired or overwhelmed by being in an unfamiliar environment, remember why you wanted to be there in the first place; it will make it easier.
By preparing well for the prospect of encountering long days and hours of work, you’ll feel better mentally, physically and emotionally throughout your clinical nursing experience.
Comfortable shoes are an absolute must
While working during your clinical rotation, you’ll be on your feet for hours. This experience can lead to extreme discomfort, soreness and even blisters.
To combat this, you must wear the right shoes with good arch support and ample cushioning to be comfortable while completing your tasks throughout the day. One of the most crucial parts of your nursing wardrobe is suitable footwear.
It’s worth spending money on a quality pair of shoes that can withstand the amount of wear and tear you’ll be putting them through. Think about what type of shoe will work best for the type of surface within the hospital or activities you need to perform.
If possible, bring a second pair of shoes to rotate them out as needed. Otherwise, consider getting thick socks to provide additional comfort when on your feet all day.
On the flip side, you should also prepare for those days when long periods are spent sitting. Consider investing in a small inflatable travel pillow to keep your head upright and reduce neck strain.
Stay focused and avoid distractions
You will be surrounded by distractions from your peers and technology in a clinical setting. Staying focused on what is happening during the clinical can be difficult when so many other things can distract you.
To help yourself stay focused, it may help to think about what questions the instructor may ask you. Knowing these questions will allow you to organize your thoughts and have an answer ready when they ask the question.
Other tips you can employ to stay focused include:
Make a schedule or list of things you need to do
When you have a clearly stated plan, you can more easily prioritize what tasks should be done first.
Determine how much time is available
Knowing the amount of time you have will help you decide what tasks need to be completed first and help prevent procrastination.
Keep track of time spent on each task
Keeping track of the time spent on each task ensures that important tasks aren’t overlooked because they are too short or easy. It also prevents long tasks from taking up most of your time. Finally, it helps identify when you may have been distracted or spent too much time on one particular task.
Maintain a balance between work and breaks
Taking breaks allows your mind to process information and boosts creativity and productivity during work hours.
Create positive expectations
Coming into a clinical experience with the idea that this experience might not go well can cause self-defeat before you even begin. With positive expectations, even if mistakes happen, you know how to correct them or learn from them, so they won’t happen again.
If you can employ these steps in your clinical preparation, you will be better able to manage stress and frustration. This will be crucial to your success during the clinical experience.
By maintaining this balance and prioritizing tasks, you will learn which aspects of nursing are challenging for you more efficiently and effectively.
Invest in practical knowledge
Practical knowledge and hands-on experience are the best ways to prepare for clinicals. The more you know about what it is like in the clinical setting, the less anxiety you will feel in a new environment.
For instance, if you want to do your clinical at a hospital, consider volunteering at the hospital first to get an idea of how things work before your first day of nursing school clinicals.
If this isn’t possible, ask people who work at the hospital what their favourite part of working there is. Learning from them will give you a better understanding of whether this place would suit your needs.
Additionally, by doing some research online or with your professor, you can gain insight into what to expect during your clinical experience. That way, when you enter your first day of nursing school as a student nurse, there won’t be any surprises.
Review simple nursing procedures
Reviewing basic nursing procedures before going into clinicals will help you feel more confident when you are onsite. You must know how to:
- Take a patient’s temperature
- Take blood pressure
- Give an injection
- Catheterize a patient
- Suction a patient’s airway
- Suture minor lacerations
- Administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
Use this time before the clinicals to practice these skills so that you can focus on them during your scheduled shift.
If there is something you do not know or don’t feel comfortable with, do not be afraid to ask your instructor or another student. The knowledge and confidence you have gained from practicing these skills will show and make the process much smoother.
Time management is imperative
Time management is imperative during clinicals, as you are often assigned tasks with tight deadlines. Get used to prioritizing your work in order of importance, and remember that there will not always be time to complete every task.
There is never enough time in a day, and some days it may seem like there are never any hours left. It would help if you started thinking about this from the moment you get up in the morning.
You need to plan your day before it happens. There will always be things you have planned that don’t go as expected.
However, it would help if you had a backup plan in the event your original plan doesn’t work out. As long as you’re prepared and don’t get too stressed out about it, you should be able to bounce back quickly.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
What are the questions I should be asking? What is a clinical exam like? What do I need to wear? These are all great questions that you should have answers to before your first day of clinicals.
Nurses who have been there before can answer these questions, but they may not be available at every clinical site.
A good idea is to ask an instructor or someone with experience what you need to know before going into your first clinical. It will prepare you and ensure there are no surprises on your first day of clinicals.
Nursing clinicals are an excellent opportunity to practice what you’ve learned in the classroom. You may feel nervous initially, but if you prepare well, it will go smoothly. Remember that nursing is a profession where there is always something new to learn.
Your goal should be learning and practicing as much as possible during your time on the unit. Bring your nursing school notebook with all your notes from class so you can refer back to them when needed.
Lastly, speak up if something doesn’t make sense or needs clarification. Hopefully, with these tips, you will enjoy and feel more confident going into your upcoming clinical experience.