What Are the Best Tips for Nursing Clinicals?

Nursing students must complete a specific number of clinical hours during their training. During these hours, nurses get practical training by observing and assisting nurses on the job. The number of hours required vary depending on the school and the degree program, but most students can expect to spend some time in a clinical setting, and many programs include several hundred hours of clinicals. The best tips for nursing clinicals include being prepared, eating a healthy breakfast before arriving, wearing comfortable shoes, and, most important of all, providing the highest level of patient care.

During nursing clinicals, student nurses can expect to spend long hours on their feet with minimal break time. In the beginning of their training, their primary role is similar to that of a nurse’s aide. They learn how to bathe a patient, strip and remake a bed, feed those who cannot feed themselves, and assess vital signs. As they get further in their training, they progress to dispensing medication under supervision, starting catheters or intravenous lines, and giving injections.

Providing high quality patient care is the most important tip to succeeding during nursing clinicals. Patients are always the first priority. Nursing students are typically required to arrive the night before or early in the morning to review and familiarize themselves with patients’ medical charts. Students should look up any unfamiliar terms, ask questions about anything that is unclear, and be prepared to answer instructors' questions the morning of the clinicals. Keeping a notebook specifically for clinicals is a good way to stay prepared, but students must remember to never use patients' full names when recording case details; if the notebook is lost, it can constitute a violation of privacy laws.

During nursing clinicals, patients should be treated with respect and dignity. Many of them are asked ahead of time if they mind having a student assigned to them, meaning that they have chosen to help in students' training. Nursing students should take the time to thoroughly assess vital signs, listen to the patient’s concerns, and follow up with a supervising nurse or physician regarding those concerns.

While patient care is the most important aspect of clinicals, student nurses also need to ensure their own safety and well-being. Most nursing clinicals start very early in the morning and it may be hours before the first break. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before and eating a healthy breakfast before arriving help ensure that students perform to their highest potential. It is easier to miss minor yet important details when students are hungry or tired. Comfortable shoes are also a must, as students will spend the majority of the day on their feet.

Nursing clinicals can be an emotional experience, especially for students with no prior medical experience. Many nursing students are tired, stressed, and overwhelmed the moment they enter the facility, and when a patient dies or an extremely frustrating situation arises, it can induce a breaking point. It is important for students to remain professional. If emotions threaten to overwhelm, finding a quiet place to rein them in can help. Firmly but gently pinching the bridge of the nose or looking up with the eyes while keeping the head forward are other good tricks to avoid crying.

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