how to survive clinicals

August 24, 2016

Back to school means back to clinical rotations. While I was in nursing school, this meant 1 day a week I would be in the hospital for 8 hours straight. And depending on the rotation, I would be spending 5 hours the night before preparing. 

Looking back on it now, I realize the amount of time I actually put into preparing for a clinical day sounds ridiculous. I would get to the hospital by 1600 and spend 2 hours gathering information from my patient's chart before leaving to actually research what it meant. Along with filling out my clinical paperwork. However, we know what needs to be done to make the grade, so we do it. With minimal complaints of course. 

When the day actually comes where you are in the hospital, your stress and anxiety levels are through the roof. What if your nurse is mean? Will my patient like me? Do I know what a bedpan is? What is my name? Oh, the joys.

Now it does not have to be like that and I am here to help with some simple tips. 

One// Just jump in

Everyone is nervous on their first day! I know it can be scary because of the unknowns, but just jump in! Know what you are and are not allowed to do. For example, nursing students can not take TB patients because we are not fitted for an N95 mask. 

Two// Make friends

Nursing school friends have a special bond. A bond where only you two know the smell C-Diff or the experiences of cleaning up a bowel movement. Your friends are always there, a shoulder to cry on, to understand the stress and anxiety of nursing school. You should also practice clinical skills on each other. 

Three// Play the student card

The great thing about being a nursing student on a unit is that you really have not had too many experiences and still find procedures exciting. If you hear something will be happening on the unit ask your preceptor if you can attend. Use the student card to get access to as many experiences as you can. This is how I was able to go to IR my first clinical rotation as well as float to the trauma unit 3 different times. 

Four// Pre-clinical write up

Complete your paperwork to actually learn instead of seeing it as busy work. The actual preparation typically includes looking up the pathophysiology of the admitting diagnosis, looking up the patient's medications, interrupting abnormal labs, and possibly creating nursing care plans. The work you do the night before prepares you to care for your patient in a safe manner. Your clinical professor may also quiz you in the morning before they feel safe letting you care for someone. Take it seriously. 

Five// Get some sleep

I know this is easier said than done. However, if you are not well rested the night before, then you are compromising the safety of your patient. Remember that you are caring for someone's life, as well as protecting your future.

Six// Take notes

What I mean by this is start a word document on your computer and jot down situations that happen during clinical that can help you later answer behavioral interview questions. For example, tell us about a time you went above and beyond for a patient. OR tell us about a time you had conflict with a coworker and how did you resolve it.

Hope this helps.

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