Make Your Nursing Clinical Rotations Easy!
Here are the top 10 expert tips on how to succeed in your nursing clinicals. Make sure you check out the bonus tip at the bottom, it’s very important!
1. Know Your Stuff
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. The same can be said with studying. Hopefully you’ve paid attention all of your previous classes that many people deem as “unimportant” because they will be the basis for the rest of your coursework. If you didn’t pay attention in your health assessment class, you may look silly when you don’t know how to correctly auscultate a patient’s lung sounds. Brush up on anything you feel do not feel completely confident in.
2. Establish a Morning Routine
This enables you to sleep in as long as possible. Your morning routine actually begins before you go to sleep. Set out your scrubs, stethoscope, badge, and anything else you might need before you go to bed. I would even set out a bowl and my box of oatmeal before I went to bed. It sounds weird, but it saves a lot of time. Have a set schedule for the morning. Do whatever it takes to get you awake, no matter what. I am an awfully heavy sleeper, so I would set at least 5 alarms on my phone. Then I would get up and do ten sets of five push-ups while my oatmeal was cooking. I did it because it really helped get my blood flowing. Then I would eat while I watched TV, listened to music, or read. Next, I brushed my teeth, showered, and then cleaned myself up some. Everything I needed was already laid out for me and off I went to clinical.
3. Get Off On The Right Foot
Your first day of clinical is probably your most important day. It sets the stage for how the rest of your rotation will go. Make sure to set a good first impression. Arrive early and be prepared. If you are supposed to print out worksheets to bring, make sure you do it. If you have never met your clinical instructor, introduce yourself and start a casual conversation with them. They are going to be your most important ally for the next few weeks.
4. Introduce Yourself to Everyone
Almost every person who works in a hospital is thrilled when they see nursing students. Take the time to introduce yourself to everyone you can, whether it be the nurses, doctors, custodial staff, techs, secretaries, etc. These are all people that will be able to teach you endless amounts of knowledge. If they know you, they will be much more likely to share cool stories with you or invite you to help them with interesting jobs. Also, networking has been shown to be the best way to land a job after you graduate!
5. Orient Yourself
Become oriented with the unit you will be working on. Find out what equipment is used most often, and take some time to figure out how things work. If you have any free time I also suggest talking to a nurse and asking what medications are commonly administered on the unit. Make a list and do a little bit of research so that you can impress your instructor and patient’s when you are allowed to pass medications. Learn where the medication room, kitchen, bathrooms, supply room, dirty utility room, and meeting rooms are. Also make note of where fire hydrants are, in case of emergency.
6. Ask Questions
Do not be afraid to ask questions. All nurses were once at the same level of knowledge as you. One of the nurses I worked with told me “Ask as many questions as you want. The most dangerous nursing student is the one who thinks they know everything.” If the nurse you are with brushes you off or isn’t helpful, then just talk to your instructor about it.
7. Use the Nursing Process
Take notes of your assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing, and evaluating. When you first start out your notes will probably not be very good. As you learn more of the terms involved in nursing and get a better understanding of what is going on, your notes will be awesome. This is a great way of really understanding nursing as a profession. We have a cheat sheet that contains the complete list of NANDA nursing diagnoses along with 6 steps to writing a nursing diagnosis statement coming soon! Join our newsletter and get it for free!
8. Fake It Until You Make It
You’re going to be nervous. I promise. Just know that everyone is just as nervous as you. What you have to do is fake it until you make it. By this I mean be confident. How would you feel if a young nurse came in to start your IV and give you medications, but he/she was shaking and would barely talk to you? That would probably make you a little bit nervous. You need to act like you have been a nurse for 20 years. Model yourself after your favorite nurse that you work with. Convince yourself that you are just as good as them. Now, I am not saying to do everything on your own. Keep asking questions, and make sure you follow the policies and procedures of the facility you’re working in and the nursing school you attend.
9. Have Resources Handy
There are countless apps you can download to assist you throughout your day. Many of these are free. Check out Lexi-comp for nurses and Epocrates. Another great resource is subscribing to our newsletter where we give out free cheat sheets each week. You will get a free copy of the Nursing Necessities Cheat Sheet as soon as you subscribe. This contains information on assessment, labs, and much more and can be printed out or you can download it on your phone. I guarantee it contains information that you will need every single day of nursing school.
10. Reflect On Your Day
After you get home from clinical the last thing you want to do is more work. However, I suggest you find some time that night to research the illnesses the patient’s you worked with that day had. Throughout the day, write a list of questions you have and look them up on the internet. Try to understand the pathophysiology and treatment of these illnesses. It is much easier to learn them when you can connect the illness to a patient, rather than just reading about it in a book.
*Bonus Tip* Learn By Doing
This may be the most important tip of all. Learn by doing. I am disappointed to say that I once worked with a nurse who had never started an IV. He said he only had one chance in nursing school. I think he was just scared. He would ask us students to start all of his IVs. This was three years ago, and I would be willing to bet that he isn’t a nurse any longer. You will never get any better at nursing skills unless you do it yourself. Show the nurses that you are excited to be there, and ask them if you can do any nursing procedures. Oftentimes they’ll gladly guide you through the process of starting an IV, inserting a Foley catheter, etc. If you don’t take initiative, then you will graduate nursing school and feel lost when you get a job. If you take initiative, you will enjoy clinical so much more and you will get more out of it.
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