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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While all nurses face high levels of stress on the job, student nurses shoulder a particularly challenging load. Student-nurse stress contributes to substantial upset and career questioning.
Student nurses must cope with an incredibly rigorous course load of school work, often while juggling time-consuming clinicals as well. They have one foot in the door of academia and one foot in the door of the working world, but student nurses haven’t yet mastered either one.
Because they are students, they are still learning and studying to earn a degree. They are faced with the pressure to attend every class and keep top grades. Any kind of sickness or illness can lead to a setback big enough to push back a graduation date, so they keep plowing forward at any cost. If they are lucky, they have attentive, understanding, compassionate, and inspiring professors. If they are not, the process can be a grind.
While student nurses are putting all their efforts into school, they are simultaneously acclimating to real-life nursing situations and working relationships in their mandatory clinicals. They are faced with the newbie syndrome where they have to learn complex medical information and delicate patient interactions on their feet while trying to adjust to the fast pace of a unit.
How can you cope with student-nurse stress?
Take Time Off
Yes, it sounds pretty ridiculous to take time for you when you have a million things to do. But part of a professional nurse’s skill set includes self care. If you cannot take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take the best care of your patients either. Learn now what works for you and keep at it. Maybe it’s just one small thing that makes you feel good and doesn’t really take time. Listening to books or your favorite music on your drive is a big stress buster and easy to do. Care for yourself so you have enough left to balance everything else successfully.
Professional nurses also know this important fact – nurses know nurses. When you’re struggling with a tough patient, a demanding supervisor, or just the sheer workload you’ve got, another nursing student will get it. Join a group of fellow nursing students or even check out online forums for nursing success. Knowing you aren’t alone helps when things get tough.
You might want to plow through a brutally tough semester just to get some hard classes out of the way, but can you keep it up? If you can’t give it your best, you risk some real professional, academic, and emotional ramifications. You want to set the bar high, but you want to know what you can handle at your optimal level and work with that. Learning to set goals and limits can actually help you succeed because you are reaching high but not beyond what is realistic.
Professors, supervisors, patients – they are all people, too (even if they don’t always seem like it!). Get to know the people you work with and for. Chat with your professors about classwork and any area where you are struggling or where you are excelling. Ask your clinical advisor about working methods, improving your skills, or professional development. Talk to your patients so you can hear their stories and remember why you are getting into this profession. Feeling those connections will ground you and give you confidence.
Student nurses have a lot to juggle, but with a few tweaks here and there, they can manage student-nurse stress during this hectic and pressure-filled time successfully.
Nursing students anticipate going into a nursing clinical where they can finally begin to take all their book knowledge and apply it in real situations. Sounds exciting and empowering, right?
Sure, but the thought of starting a first nursing clinical also terrifies a lot of nursing students.
So, what spikes anxiety about clinicals? Lots of students are afraid they don’t know enough to go into a nursing clinical and are afraid they will make a mistake. Truthfully, this is a wholly valid concern. You will now be treating people and that is vastly different from anything else you have ever done.
Acknowledge that fear, but work with it as well. Don’t let your fear and your anxiety fluster you, let it focus you. Prepare as best you can for your clinicals and identify your own weaknesses and your own strengths. Try to find ways (and ask for them as well) to make use of your strong points and to stabilize and improve any areas where you don’t feel as competent as you’d like to be.
When you start your clinicals, ask more experienced nurses for advice. You will likely hear them say constant reassessment and reflection is a big part of any nurse’s job. After each day, think about what went right and what went wrong. Figure out ways you can make anything you did a little better.
Get the lay of the land early and memorize it. Know who is in charge, where different patients go, what the general routine is, where the supplies are, and who to go to with questions.
Be the student who asks thoughtful questions. If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment or you don’t know what to record, ask. And then listen to the answers and take notes so you don’t become the student who asks the same questions over and over. Ask and learn from it.
When you are in such a new situation, you are going to have to work harder to become better. Do some learning on the side – away from clinical and away from the classroom. Spend a few nights familiarizing yourself with the conditions you might see the most, the patient population that is prevalent in your clinical, or even medications and procedures you have seen. The more knowledge you have, the better you will be in your clinicals.
Develop a thick skin when you are in clinicals. Nursing is a fast-moving, stressful profession and if a nurse seems rude to you, she might not mean it personally, so don’t take it personally. Throughout your career, you’ll find not everyone is going to be helpful or nice. That just means you have to find a different way of getting your questions answered so your patient receives the best care possible. Don’t dwell on abruptness.
Remember the end goal is that you want to learn, but also remember it’s your patient who needs to be treated with the best care possible. With that focus in mind, you can stay on the right track to making the most of this first experience.
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