I recall my first clinical rotation as being one of the most exciting but stressful experiences as a student nurse. I was excited to finally apply the theories that we were taught in class to the ‘real world.’ However, I soon realized I was very unprepared. From the very early start times, extremely long days, and limited support from some faculty and peers as I ventured down this new path ultimately resulted in exhaustion and feeling unprepared. These feelings eventually affected my self-confidence more times than I care to admit. In addition to that, let’s not forget the culture of the units that I would be assigned to for weeks at a time. No one told us that the nurses would scatter when they saw students enter the ward and those that were forced to be with us made it known that they were not pleased with having us ‘tag along.’
Based on my personal experiences, I decided to put together a few key steps that I know would have been beneficial to me when I was a student nurse entering my clinical rotations and hopefully will be a benefit to you today.
1. Be Prepared.
- If you’re able to get some basic information regarding your specific patient or the types of patients on that unit a night or two before your clinical day, take some time to do some research.
- Look up the diagnosis and medications attributed to these patients.
- Write this information down in a small notebook that you can keep in your pocket that is easily accessible for you to review.
2. Be Early.
- It’s a good practice to start this habit now in preparation for the real work world. Treat clinicals like your job!
- Arrive a minimum of 15 minutes early. Grab some coffee or tea and take this time to review your material. This will also give you a few minutes of alone time with your clinical instructor, which is always a plus.
3. Look the Part.
- I know that ‘looking good’ is NOT on the list of priorities for someone who is sleep deprived and stressed. However, it’s necessary and will leave a positive lasting impression.
- Always make sure you are dressed per your school’s policy. If scrubs are provided or purchased, make sure they are always neat and pressed. If you are like me (i.e., not a morning person), pick a day during the week to complete this small task and NOT the night before.
- Carry a small personal hygiene bag with you always so that you can ‘freshen’ up midday. This will revitalize you, especially if your clinical days are long.
- Most importantly, don’t forget your necessary equipment: pens, stethoscope, penlight, scissors, etc.
4. Be Professional.
- ALWAYS address your patient by Mr. and Mrs./Ms. unless they say otherwise, especially with patients who are older than you are. This is not only professional but also respectful.
- ALWAYS introduce yourself to your patient when you enter their room and let them know that you are a student nurse and will be a part of their care team for the day.
- Most importantly, SMILE. Patients and staff will appreciate it.
5. Be an Active Participant.
- It’s OKAY to say ‘I don’t know but I will find the answer for you.’
- It’s important to ASK for help when needed. As we all know, there is no I in TEAM.
- I encourage you to ASK questions and ANSWER questions. This shows that you are not only prepared but eager to learn.
- Whenever possible, volunteer to observe as many procedures as possible. The more you can observe the better!