What are Nursing Clinicals (And How Do I Survive)?

Students who want to become a registered nurse (RN) or earn their bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) have to undergo nursing clinicals. Just what are nursing clinicals? When taking a look at what are clinicals for nursing, you’ll find that they’re the point in a nursing student’s education that allows them to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. At this point, you’re probably still asking the question of “what are nursing clinicals?” because the phrase itself isn’t very clear as to explaining what are clinicals for nursing.

What Are Clinicals in Nursing School?

Let’s take a look at the question of “what are nurse clinicals?” for a better understanding of the answer to the question. Nursing clinicals are the portion of the nursing education that gives a nursing student the opportunity to show they’ve paid attention in class, asked questions about their role in general healthcare, how they’re expected to perform in a typical healthcare setting, responding to emergency situations, and how to provide compassionate treatment to those who are in need of medical assistance. The clinical trials allow students to perform in simulated and real-life settings while supervised. Simulated settings are observed by a supervisory nurse from a distance while the clinical rotation is done under the guidance of a clinical supervisor and while shadowing a nurse on their rounds.

Nursing school clinicals tend to be stressful because nursing students are gaining their first real-life job experience as a nurse. While the clinicals aren’t exactly a job interview, students are observed by senior staff during the simulation labs and clinical rotations and assessed as potential new hires upon graduation. The pressure is on for students to do their best work in order to get a start on their career.

What Can I Expect in Nursing School Clinicals?

Nursing school clinicals tend to vary between schools and nursing concentrations. Students who are working towards their RN will attend clinicals that reflect the generalist nature of the role. Whereas students who are attending nursing school for specific area of healthcare such as cardiac care or geriatrics will engage in clinicals that work with those types of patients. Nursing school clinicals take place in a controlled setting with live patients as well as in the simulation lab with a medical mannequin.

The simulation lab gives nursing students the opportunity to apply the healthcare knowledge they learned in the classroom to a medical mannequin. The medical mannequin is designed to simulate a variety of healthcare needs that are found in real-life settings, but without the stress of working with an actual patient. Prior to beginning the simulation, students are given an idea of what they’re about to experience before entering the room. Once the simulation begins, nursing students are given the opportunity to act and react to the simulation presented by the medical mannequin while being observed by a nurse supervisor. The nurse supervisor watches and observes how students perform, but never steps in to direct or otherwise show students the correct steps to take for the scenario. Students are graded based on how they performed and utilized their knowledge.

The clinical rotation portion of the nursing clinicals involves working with a clinical instructor, shadowing a nurse who’s involved in patient care, recording patient information on behalf of the nurse, observing how nurses interact with patients, and learning how to record patient information while preserving a patient’s privacy. Students also learn how to interact appropriately with patients and their families in order to provide compassionate care and empathetic behavior. The clinical instructor tracks a student’s progress to determine if they’re learning how to use their nursing skills and assigns grades appropriately.

How Do I Survive Nursing School Clinicals?

The nursing school clinical portion of a nursing degree is a stressful experience because it’s the early stages of a nurse’s career. This is where nurses get to start practicing their knowledge on health mannequins and live patients with minimal supervision. Nursing students have to find their footing, get validation of their skills, and take actions that can make a difference in a patient’s quality of life. That makes surviving nursing school clinicals all that much tougher because so much rests on the decisions made by a nursing student.

A nursing student who’s looking into how to survive nursing school clinicals first needs to take care of themselves. Get enough rest the night before, don’t try to cram in more information because nursing school clinicals are trials, not tests, and eat a good breakfast. Nourishing your body and giving your mind a chance to relax makes it that much easier to handle the stress of the experience along with helping you perform better. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, keep a notebook handy for personal notes, and always keep an open mind when learning how to work as a nurse.

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Sandra Janowicz
Author

Keeley Jones
Registered Nurse

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief