“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar
Registered nurses are some of the most important members of a patient’s healthcare team. Nurses dedicate their days to helping people who are sick, injured, and disabled. They provide hands-on, preventive and emergency care to patients in need. And in order to deliver this level of care, they must be experienced and knowledgeable. They must know how to orchestrate certain procedures, administer medications, treat various symptoms, and problem-solve on the spot. These skills come with time, training, and practice – which is where nursing clinicals come into play.
Clinical rotations are an essential part of nursing school. These experiences allow aspiring nurses to gain valuable, hands-on practice caring for real-life patients. During clinicals, nursing students work under the supervision of licensed RNs, nurse educators, and physicians, honing their skills in preparation for future careers.
Nursing school clinicals are an exciting venture—but they can be intimidating, too. If you are nervous about your nursing clinicals, try not to sweat. Remember that these experiences are meant for learning. Nursing clinicals are all about teaching you how to care for patients, while also allowing you to figure out your nursing style and get a feel for a fast-paced work setting.
Want to feel more prepared stepping into your clinical assignment? Read on to get all your questions answered about nursing school clinicals.
What are Nursing School Clinicals?
Nursing clinicals, also known as clinical rotations, are a core requirement in nursing school. Every nursing student must complete a clinical experience prior to earning their degree. This clinical nursing experience is all about giving students the opportunity to put their learned skills to practice, in a real-world healthcare setting.
Nursing school clinicals are experiential learning opportunities where students work under the direction of licensed health professionals. During clinicals, nursing students practice important skills like administering medications and IVs, dressing wounds, taking patient vital signs, preparing exam rooms, assisting with laboratory screenings, and delivering general bedside care. All the while, students are getting used to a fast-paced healthcare environment, learning how to work with diverse populations, and making connections with other providers and students at work.
Goodwin University’s career-focused nursing programs emphasize the importance of hands-on experience when preparing to enter the healthcare field. Take a look at our state-of-the-art on-campus Nursing SIM Lab, where you can practice critical patient care skills before ever interacting with real patients.
How Do Nursing School Clinicals Work?
Like many aspiring nurses, you may wonder how clinical rotations work. Can you choose your clinical assignment? How often do you attend? How long are your shifts? These are all important questions to ask, though answers will depend on your nursing school of choice.
At Goodwin University’s nursing school, students are able to express their preferences for clinical assignments during their nursing program. They are given a list of clinical options in Connecticut, and asked to rank them from “most” to “least” wanted. Their clinical site is then decided with this information in mind. Options for nursing clinicals include hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, schools, and community settings. Students are typically offered a first (morning) shift or a second (night) shift, around eight hours long. For flexibility, clinical assignments always include day, evening, and weekend options.
Why are Nursing Clinicals Important?
Nursing clinicals are important for students to gain experience in patient care. You wouldn’t want to walk into your first day on the job, at a hospital, without any practice under your belt! Your nursing school clinical is a wonderful opportunity to practice your skills and get hands-on training through licensed professionals. You can ask questions to other RNs, familiarize yourself with medical equipment, try your hand at certain procedures, and get comfortable talking with patients.
Nursing clinicals are also a great opportunity to explore your interests and see where you might want to take your career. In nursing, there are various specializations and certifications you can pursue outside of general patient care. For example, many nurses choose to specialize in pediatrics, oncology, women’s health, trauma, and more. Take advantage of your time in the healthcare setting to figure out what areas interest you most. This can help propel your career forward from the very start.
What Can You Expect in a Nursing Clinical Rotation?
Before Nursing Clinicals:
Before stepping into the healthcare facility, you will need to prepare a few things ahead of time. For example, you will need to purchase scrubs (in the proper color) and comfortable closed-toe shoes for your uniform. Additionally, you may need to obtain a stethoscope, and bring a notepad and pen to your first day.
Additionally, it can help to review your classroom notes prior to entering your clinical experience. Just as you would go into any exam, take time to study your materials, eat a healthy meal, and get enough sleep prior to your first shift.
Your First Day:
On your first day of clinicals, you will likely meet with a nurse educator or clinical instructor. This professional will give you a tour of the healthcare facility and the floor to which you’re assigned. During this tour, you will meet with nurses in the department and get familiar with the location of patient and procedure rooms. Think about day one similar to a job orientation. On top of your tour, you will also learn all about the facility’s policies, processes, expectations, and general information (like parking).
Once you get going in your clinical assignment, you can expect to meet with your clinical instructor (or similar) at the start of each shift. This is when you will discuss your plans and responsibilities for the day, including patient assignments.
After this meeting, you can really step into your scrubs and your clinical role. While you will be consistently supervised by other nursing professionals, nursing school clinicals are your opportunity to practice patient care. You might start by caring for one patient during your shift, or by shadowing and assisting a dedicated RN throughout the day. Tasks you can expect to handle in your clinicals include:
- Taking medical histories of patients
- Performing patient examinations
- Checking patient vital signs
- Bathing or dressing patients
- Preparing exam rooms and hospital beds
- Assisting with procedures
- Administering medications
Your clinical instructor will likely check in with you throughout your shift, so do not fret if you have any questions or obstacles. They are here to help you learn! At the end of each day, you will also be given the chance to meet with your clinical advisor again, where you can discuss your patients, case assignments, and any lingering questions you might have.
The end of your nursing school clinical is a great milestone. By this point, you should be more confident in your skills as a prospective RN, and feel prepared to deliver care to multiple patients in the healthcare setting. You should also have a better sense of your strengths and your nursing style, which can carry through to your next endeavor as a nurse.
As with any course in nursing school, your clinicals will be graded, too. Typically, nursing school clinicals are Pass or Fail, and decided based on:
- Homework assignments
- Participation and engagement
- Quality of nursing care
- Medical knowledge
- Patient care techniques
When your clinical assignment comes to a close, it is a great time to reflect on your experience. What did you enjoy about your clinical site? What did you feel was missing? Where did you feel that you excelled, and where could you improve? Use this as an opportunity to figure out where you might want to take your career.
Clinical Experience is Vital to Nursing Success
In nursing school, there is in-classroom learning, simulation laboratory learning, and clinical rotations that every student must complete. If you were to ask any nursing student, it’s likely they would tell you that their clinical experience was the most valuable component of their nursing program. Nursing clinicals are where you can gain hands-on experience, develop your skill sets, and set the stage for your future success as a nurse.
Goodwin University is a recognized nursing school in Connecticut, with associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree options in Nursing. We also have partnerships with healthcare employers throughout Connecticut, and aim to connect our students with amazing clinical experiences across the state. If you are interested in becoming a registered nurse in Connecticut, do not hesitate to learn more about our nursing programs. Contact us at 800-889-3282, or visit us online here to get more information.