When you’re in nursing school, your clinicals give you the essential hands-on nursing skills that form the basis of the start of your nursing career. But while you’re learning how to do the million and one tasks nurses do, take this great opportunity to sharpen other career skills.

While it might seem like the day is filled with so much information that you can’t remember one more thing, a nursing student is in a great position to pay attention to how everything, and everyone, else contributes to a smoothly running unit.

What kinds of things are worth noting?

Interpersonal Interactions

Watch how colleagues work with each other, and notice any differences within the hierarchy of the staff. See what works when nurses have conflicts. Do they work it out with help? Do they get others involved and make it uncomfortable? In your working life, you are guaranteed to have a few differences of opinion and learning to resolve them effectively is worth your time.

Professional Habits

It won’t take long to notice who has professional behavior and work habits that are worth adopting. Watch for the people who always arrive on time and are ready to get to work. Do others react to them differently? Are they in higher positions? What are their habits throughout the day? Modeling your behavior after nurses who display professionalism will help get your career off to a good start.

Education Goals

Are some of the nurses on staff also going back to school to get advanced degrees? If they are and you know that is something you might do in the future, ask one of them for an informational interview. This is a great opportunity to ask about how they got into the school, what suggestions they have for you, how they figured out financial aid, and how they balance their work lives, home lives, and school.

See also
Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Techniques with Patients

Some nurses just seem to have a soothing power. Others are able to deal with especially difficult patients. Still others have a knack for motivating patients who are in pain or who feel too sick to do much of anything. How do they do what they do so well? Watch their movements and listen to how they talk to patients. Take note of how they develop a rapport or possibly distract patients so they are comfortable. Always work to improve your own nursing techniques.

Efficient Methods

Having success as a nurse depends on more than just proper medical training. It’s also about the overall habits you develop along the way. Notice how nurses’ daily work habits make them more efficient, help the entire unit, or make families or colleagues feel comfortable.

Your clinical experience is a time when you can see (and copy) the good judgment nurses use and the mannerisms and habits they develop to make their work better, faster, or more efficient.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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