Tips To Be Successful In Nursing School Clinical

September 21, 2019

Clinical is arguably the most enjoyable part of nursing school. It's the time where you get to blossom into a nurse. All the reading, quizzes and validations have prepared you for this moment. Below I have jotted down just a few things I found helpful while preparing for the past 3 semesters of clinical. Enjoy!

  • Keep a clinical bag inside of your car: This bag can include a variety of things but at the minimum, it should include: your university name tag, hospital-issued ID, penlight, stethoscope, a note pad/clinical paperwork, pen or pencil, and a watch with a second hand. I keep my clinical bag in the backseat or the trunk of my car, that way there's no excuse for my forgetting these critical items. 
  • Invest in compression socks: 12 hours is a long time to stand. Like work, clinical can be hit or miss. One day you may do quite a bit of sitting while the next day you are standing for the majority of 12 hours. When I don't wear compression socks there is a noticeable difference in the amount of swelling and leg pain I have. It's a good habit to practice early on so eventually it becomes second nature. I'm currently in my third semester and some weeks my schedule looks like this - Wednesday: 12 - hour clinical day for High Acuity (Med Surg 2) Thursday: Campus Clinical for 3-4 hours. Friday: 12- hour clinical day for Maternal Health. Saturday: 12.5 hour workday at my externship or PRN PCT position. Be kind to your legs, invest in a few pairs of compression socks. You won't regret it!
  • Arrive early: No matter where you live there's no excuse for showing up late. Atlanta is known for traffic nobody cares. "But there was a really bad accident!" There's always a really bad accident. I like to factor in about 30 extra minutes to my commute for the cushion. Yes, I could spend that time sleeping but sometimes a 15-minute commute magically becomes a 40-minute commute. Use that time you arrive early to review notes, practice your head to toe assessment, etc. 
  • Pack snacks, eat breakfast, drink plenty of water: 6 hours, 9 hours, and 12 hours are all long periods. Eat something prior. Lunch breaks can be variable. Nobody ever wants to be the person who passed out because they didn't eat breakfast. 
  • Pack lunch: Hospital food is expensive. Most of us are broke college students and nobody wants to spend all the money they're earning in the hospital cafeteria.
  • Research common medications for the floor/specialty you are currently in: This is the quickest way to earn brownie points with your instructor. Before giving medication, you should always know what it is and why you're giving it. Some medications are universal throughout the hospital. There are some medications you will only see on cardiac floors. Read up on your drugs and eventually, you'll begin to see the connection between clinical practice and classroom learning.
  • Ask questions: Clinical is the time to be a sponge. Always ask about things you're interested in or unsure of. Clinical is where some people do the bulk of their learning! By asking questions your preceptor is more likely to pull you aside to show you "cool stuff".
  • DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE: *Bryson Tiller voice* DON'T. Put your phone in airplane mode at the beginning of your shift and you'll be less likely to pull it out and check for notifications. Even if your school gives you the green light to use certain apps still try to avoid it. It's too easy for someone to see you in passing and say "Sally Sue was checking Instagram in the supply room instead of shadowing her preceptor."
  • Treat this as a job interview: You never know who is connected and who is watching you. Prime example: I have absolutely no interest in OB, but during OB clinical you would never know it. I am engaged, I ask how can I help, I take notes, I am invested. I'm not interested now but who knows what will happen 5-10 years down the line. Stranger things have happened. I've had clinical faculty offer to write me a letter of recommendation and let them know if I ever need a job just based off of the few weeks we spend together. 
  • Keep a positive attitude and always find the good: The first semester I had clinical in a nursing home. We had to do manual blood pressures and they used paper charting. Although I complained at first you want to know something? I AM A BADASS when it comes to manual blood pressures. I know the importance of writing everything down. If you don't chart it, it didn't happen. You might not be at the hospital you want or the floor you want but every semester there something to learn. 
This isn't everything but just a few tips that have guided me along the way and remained consistent between semesters! I hope you find these helpful and feel free to pass them along to a friend you feel would also find them helpful!

Wishing you all the best in everything that you do,

Share your opinion: