Nursing Clinicals: What to Expect

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Summary: During your time in nursing clinicals, you can expect to work with faculty to treat diverse patient populations in myriad situations. Your clinical experience will also immerse you in real-life nursing experiences to give you a better idea of what the day-to-day role of a nurse is like.

2 UIW nursing students in lab setting

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, you’ve probably heard that part of the process includes clinical rotations. Clinicals are an instrumental part of your learning experience in nursing school.

Clinicals typically pull together all the nursing theories you’re studying in your courses and in your skills and simulation labs, and give you the chance to apply them in real-world patient care situations.

Read on for more information on nursing clinicals, what to expect and tips to help it all run smoothly.

What Are Clinicals, and Why Do They Matter?

Before we get into the specific benefits of clinical experiences through the University of the Incarnate Word Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track and how clinicals are beneficial to your future nursing career, it’s important to understand what clinical rotations involve.

Clinical rotations allow nursing students the opportunity to care for patients under the supervision of clinical faculty or preceptors in local healthcare facilities.

In this space, nursing students put everything they’ve learned in their nursing theory courses and nursing skills and simulation labs into action in a safe environment. They also hone their skills of interacting with patients in a real-world healthcare setting.

Other advantages of clinicals include:

  • Networking and job opportunities
  • Exposure to nursing leadership roles beyond the bedside
  • Real-world patient care experiences
  • Development of time management and professional communication skills

You can expect your clinical rotations to give you experience caring for diverse patient populations in a variety of healthcare settings. Your clinical experience also functions to give you a clearer picture of what it’s like to be a working nurse after graduating.

6 Nursing Clinicals Tips

The University of the Incarnate Word ABSN track makes sure there are plenty of rich learning opportunities in clinicals, but there are also steps you can take to get the most out of the experience and set yourself up for a rewarding career as a nurse.

Let’s go over a few tips to make sure your clinicals are as advantageous as possible.

1. Be Prepared

Before you jump into the clinical practicum, make sure you’re as informed as you can be. Practical things like knowing where to park, where to report, and who to check in with should be on top of your mind.

Additionally, your clinical supervisor may give you materials such as a patient’s medical history, current conditions and treatment plans for you to review prior to coming in for your shift. Make sure you review those materials and brush up on the basics before your first day.

2. Speak Up in Debrief Sessions

UIW ABSN students sitting at a table and studying together

During your time in clinical, you will have opportunities to discuss and debrief before and after your shifts. These conferences are a great time to ask your clinical instructors questions and learn from mistakes you may have made. Be sure to talk through anything on your mind — this is where you can really process and grow as a nurse. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and these talks provide a safe space to discuss and reflect, so be sure to make the most of them.

3. Anticipate Needs

If you go into your clinical with an enthusiastic, can-do attitude, your efforts will not go unnoticed. By being on top of the next steps and anticipating needs quickly, you can help make sure things run smoothly and keep your patients comfortable.

4. Communicate with Staff

In clinicals, you’ll be working with expert preceptors. As with any job, you’ll be working with a variety of different personality types — some who will be outgoing and friendly and some who will be more down to business. You’ll need to communicate effectively with these different personalities in stressful situations and be able to trust one another. A great way to start this off is by learning their names, greeting them during your shift and figuring out how to work together effectively.

5. Recognize Opportunities for Improvement

Being open to constructive criticism is key to being successful in the clinical setting. As we mentioned above, you’re there to learn and mistakes are expected. Take pointers and advice seriously and don’t get down on yourself if you receive feedback. Instead, keep track of what you can improve and create a list of short-term goals to help you get to where you want to be. Remember, feedback in these situations is generally not personal, but rather a way for you to learn how to become the best nurse you can be.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Remember that your clinical instructor is there to help you learn. If you ever have a procedural question or feel unsure about something, be sure to ask questions. You may be able to get some information from the nurses’ reference station that may be in your healthcare facility, and of course your peers and preceptors are great resources too.

Are You Ready to Become a Nurse?

Now that you know what to expect from clinicals, it’s time to learn more about the University of the Incarnate Word ABSN track. If you love helping others and want to make a difference, you owe it to yourself to talk to one of our admissions counselors and get the ball rolling on your nursing education.