Making the most of Clinicals Part 1: Turn negative experiences into positive learning

by NF_eyenurse 8,296 Views | 8 Comments Guide

This article will discuss the challenges of nursing school and the negative experiences one might have while going through clinical rotations and how you can turn those negative experiences into positive learning examples that will benefit you in your future nursing career.

  1. 16

    Making the most of Clinicals Part 1: Turn negative experiences into positive learning

    Every nurse remembers their first day of nursing clinicals. I would like to share my first day with you.

    We were a group of ten brand new nursing students. Dressed in all white, some had excited expressions of anticipation on their faces. Others had the "deer in the headlights" look. I was blessed to have a wise seasoned nurse as a clinical instructor and she could see that some were leery of this first day of being on a real hospital unit. Much different then our cozy little lab.

    She decided to pair us up, two students to one patient. We were assigned to a med-surg unit. My friend, we will call her Ann, and I were assigned to a patient who was aphasic after a stroke. Prior to her admit, she had fallen and had a full leg brace on one leg. We went to her room to meet her, do vitals, get ready for bed baths. The usual first quarter tasks one would do. We found our patient covered in her own vomit, the previous nights beef stew. It was obvious it had been there for at least an hour or two. She was cold, uncomfortable and looked upset.

    As we cleaned her up, she was trying to tell us something she wanted. She was aphasic so she would say "I want....." and then get stuck. We tried to have her write it, again she wrote "I want" and was stuck. We couldn't turn her easily because of the full leg brace she had on.

    It was a very long morning. And one that Ann and I never forgot. I learned from that expererience to always check on the patient at shift change and make sure they are ok when receiving report. I also researched communicating with aphasic patients and learned different techniques in body mechanics and how to turn a patient more easily.

    During nursing school clinicals, there are many challenges a nursing student will encounter. You are dealing with patients. Each patient has their health problems, they don't feel well. They each have ways they want to be communicated with, ways they learn and retain better. Some patients are more friendly and patient, others are impatient and demanding. Some patients won't even let a student in the room to perform any nursing care on them. If this occurs, you must respect the patient's wishes and ask to be assigned to another patient. There are also the challenges of dealing with or working with the family of patients. This could be a different article in itself.

    Then there is the challenge of working with hospital staff. Some will treat you well. They will teach you and utilize you in positive ways. Others will not be so nice and will think you are in the way and give you meaningless things to do. I knew a male nurse who would ocassionally send a new student on a wild goose chase. He would ask the student to go to the attic or the seventh floor to retrieve a certain supply. We did not have an attic or a seventh floor in our hospital.

    Just remember that you, as a student, are a guest on their unit. They may be having a bad day, they might be very behind or have a heavy load and don't have time to teach a student.

    When I was a student there was a nurse who did not seem to like students. We were in the way. I was already in my mid 30's when entering nursing school so I had developed good social skills. I would say good morning to this nurse and keep walking by. She would have a look on her face that said, "what's so good about it?" I did not take this personally. And you shouldn't either. I learned from this experience. I learned that this was how I did NOT want to be when I was a nurse. I took her negativity and turned it around. I learned from it.

    As a nurse, you will never stop learning. There will always be something to learn every day. Remember this. If you encounter something negative, ask yourself how can I learn from this? What could I do differently next time to make this easier? What could I have said differently to make this better?

    Don't knock yourself down and think you don't know anything while you are in a school. I see threads like this all the time. There is so much to learn while you are in school. You will NOT know everything when you are done.

    When I was in my last quarter of nursing school, our professor asked us what we were concerned with as we were completing school. I raised my hand and said "I have been here three years and I am about to go out into the real nursing world and feel like I don't know anything." Almost everyone in the class nodded their heads and concurred with my statement. The professor said that this is how we should feel, we knew just enough to be dangerous. We all got a laugh out of this. He encouraged us to keep learning and growing.

    In conclusion, I want to remind you all that you are entering a challenging, fulfilling field. There will be times during clinicals where you will have experiences that are tough or difficult. You might make mistakes or not know the right answer. This is why you are in school, to learn. Utilize your instructors and the nurses that are there with you. If you are not sure of something, research it or ask someone. If you make a mistake, learn from it and go on. The key is to learn from it. Make it something valuable that you can carry with you through your nursing career. You will be better nurse for it.

    Making the most of Clinicals Part 2: You're on stage-Make a good first impression
    Making the most of Clinicals Part 3: Building a good rapport with patients
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 30, '13
    Lossea, Roadscholar, tracyclay, and 13 others like this.
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    OR circulator in an ambulatory surgery center. Previously worked as an RN for 3 1/2 years on a telemetry unit. I enjoy mentoring nursing students and new grad RNs. Prior experience as a certified opthalmic assistant and LASIK technician/assistant for 13 years.

    NF_eyenurse joined Dec '08 - from 'USA'. Age: 41 NF_eyenurse has '5' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Ambulatory Surgery, Ophthalmology, Tele'. Posts: 3,605 Likes: 5,485; Learn more about NF_eyenurse by visiting their allnursesPage


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    8 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    Thank you so much for this! I begin my very first nursing clinical this week and I am terrified. I don't have any health care experience so I'm afraid I may do something wrong or be in a lower learning bracket than others. I'm sure I will not be the only one like this in my clinical, but my nerves are just going and this helped to ease them a bit. THANKS AGAIN!!!
    NF_eyenurse likes this.
  5. 1
    Sometimes I need to read posts like this. It's a new semester which means rotating at a new hospital. The new hospital I'm at is known for their unfriendly nurses who hate students. My classmates and I already got a taste of it last week during our brief orientation on the unit. I struggle with trying to not take things personally but sometimes I need a reminder. I also need a reality check when I feel like I don't know anything ... I mean, I KNOW I don't know anything but I need to be ok with that as a student and just keep on learning. I've hear it over and over again - not only from you - that this is a profession where you are always learning. Thanks for remembering us student nurses and how it feels!
    NF_eyenurse likes this.
  6. 3
    I learned early on as a nursing student that to survive clinicals I would have to learn that being abused by the nursing staff was part of my learning experience. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it made me tougher and I did learn how to deal with difficult people from it. Now, as a nurse, it takes a lot to get under my skin. I will, however, not disrespect the students like I was disrespected. It really is unnecessary and nurses should stop it.

    Quote from nursefrances
    Every nurse remembers their first day of nursing clinicals. I would like to share my first day with you.

    We were a group of ten brand new nursing students. Dressed in all white, some had excited expressions of anticipation on their faces. Others had the "deer in the headlights" look. I was blessed to have a wise seasoned nurse as a clinical instructor and she could see that some were leery of this first day of being on a real hospital unit. Much different then our cozy little lab.

    She decided to pair us up, two students to one patient. We were assigned to a med-surg unit. My friend, we will call her Ann, and I were assigned to a patient who was aphasic after a stroke. Prior to her admit, she had fallen and had a full leg brace on one leg. We went to her room to meet her, do vitals, get ready for bed baths. The usual first quarter tasks one would do. We found our patient covered in her own vomit, the previous nights beef stew. It was obvious it had been there for at least an hour or two. She was cold, uncomfortable and looked upset.

    As we cleaned her up, she was trying to tell us something she wanted. She was aphasic so she would say "I want....." and then get stuck. We tried to have her write it, again she wrote "I want" and was stuck. We couldn't turn her easily because of the full leg brace she had on.

    It was a very long morning. And one that Ann and I never forgot. I learned from that expererience to always check on the patient at shift change and make sure they are ok when receiving report. I also researched communicating with aphasic patients and learned different techniques in body mechanics and how to turn a patient more easily.

    During nursing school clinicals, there are many challenges a nursing student will encounter. You are dealing with patients. Each patient has their health problems, they don't feel well. They each have ways they want to be communicated with, ways they learn and retain better. Some patients are more friendly and patient, others are impatient and demanding. Some patients won't even let a student in the room to perform any nursing care on them. If this occurs, you must respect the patient's wishes and ask to be assigned to another patient. There are also the challenges of dealing with or working with the family of patients. This could be a different article in itself.

    Then there is the challenge of working with hospital staff. Some will treat you well. They will teach you and utilize you in positive ways. Others will not be so nice and will think you are in the way and give you meaningless things to do. I knew a male nurse who would ocassionally send a new student on a wild goose chase. He would ask the student to go to the attic or the seventh floor to retrieve a certain supply. We did not have an attic or a seventh floor in our hospital.

    Just remember that you, as a student, are a guest on their unit. They may be having a bad day, they might be very behind or have a heavy load and don't have time to teach a student.

    When I was a student there was a nurse who did not seem to like students. We were in the way. I was already in my mid 30's when entering nursing school so I had developed good social skills. I would say good morning to this nurse and keep walking by. She would have a look on her face that said, "what's so good about it?" I did not take this personally. And you shouldn't either. I learned from this experience. I learned that this was how I did NOT want to be when I was a nurse. I took her negativity and turned it around. I learned from it.

    As a nurse, you will never stop learning. There will always be something to learn every day. Remember this. If you encounter something negative, ask yourself how can I learn from this? What could I do differently next time to make this easier? What could I have said differently to make this better?

    Don't knock yourself down and think you don't know anything while you are in a school. I see threads like this all the time. There is so much to learn while you are in school. You will NOT know everything when you are done.

    When I was in my last quarter of nursing school, our professor asked us what we were concerned with as we were completing school. I raised my hand and said "I have been here three years and I am about to go out into the real nursing world and feel like I don't know anything." Almost everyone in the class nodded their heads and concurred with my statement. The professor said that this is how we should feel, we knew just enough to be dangerous. We all got a laugh out of this. He encouraged us to keep learning and growing.

    In conclusion, I want to remind you all that you are entering a challenging, fulfilling field. There will be times during clinicals where you will have experiences that are tough or difficult. You might make mistakes or not know the right answer. This is why you are in school, to learn. Utilize your instructors and the nurses that are there with you. If you are not sure of something, research it or ask someone. If you make a mistake, learn from it and go on. The key is to learn from it. Make it something valuable that you can carry with you through your nursing career. You will be better nurse for it.
    Lossea, NF_eyenurse, and neverbethesame like this.
  7. 0
    Quote from sjustice3
    I learned early on as a nursing student that to survive clinicals I would have to learn that being abused by the nursing staff was part of my learning experience. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it made me tougher and I did learn how to deal with difficult people from it. Now, as a nurse, it takes a lot to get under my skin. I will, however, not disrespect the students like I was disrespected. It really is unnecessary and nurses should stop it.
    sjustice3 makes a valid and sad point about the abuse part. I can't think of one other "profession" where abuse is expected and accepted by everyone.

    The male nurse who sent students on wild goose chases is awful. How sad that he knew he could get away with it as it was simply part of the sick, hazing culture of nursing.
  8. 1
    AMEN to SJustice3 for saying " I will, however, not disrespect the students like I was disrespected. It really is unnecessary and nurses should stop it." and to neverbethesame for saying "I can't think of one other 'profession' where abuse is expected and accepted by everyone."

    I'm coming from another profession into nursing as a student and was literally hit with the above fact. You both nailed it!

    In my experience, I sought out help, all of my concerns were validated as being factual, but then was told "to just deal with it" per the treatment I'm receiving from this specific instructor. Wow!

    So now I have to just pray and hold my breath that I don't do anything on any particular day that will make this instructor *angry* or *retaliatory*! God help me with this class...

    You're right, I am hard pressed to find another profession whereby abuse is expected and accepted by everyone! It's shocking and most concerning.
    neverbethesame likes this.
  9. 0
    @creativemom,

    I feel your pain. I too came to nursing late after being in another profession and was shocked at the way instructors, staff nurses and fellow students treat others. In my other field, it wasn't all love and light all the time but abuse and hazing wasn't considered to be normal and accepted by anyone. I have seen several students like us who are older and have other work experiences- myself included- not be looked upon favorably by clinical instructors or even the school. I don't know if they feel they have to keep us in our lowly student place and let us know who is boss or what their deal is.

    Good luck to you!!
  10. 1
    Very good attitude, my dear. I did a second bachelors when I was in my fifties, so I understand being a bit older in nursing school. But I am also grateful for what you said about "not knowing everything" upon graduation. You think somehow that it's "you", that you didn't study hard enough, that you're inherently stupid, but it's not the case at all. We are all in the same spot at graduation; they've prepared us, but we don't know it all. But knowing it all seems important on day one.

    It's not. With a kind, helpful preceptor, you learn this quickly. And quickly you will learn. I honestly can't believe how much more confident I am at just over two years as a nurse. But I have been told that it takes five years to truly know your stuff; I believe it!

    My advice to a new nurse is: Don't put up with abuse, because there are some who enjoy abusing you just because you are new. If you don't like your hospital, then, dammit to hell find another one. I have changed jobs four times and have finally found the right place for me.

    Trust yourself.
    Lossea likes this.
  11. 1
    nursefrances, thank you for taking the time to write this supportive article. I am far away from beginning to work on the clinicals, but I can relate to how difficult it is to feel confident and keep up the strength when I know much less than those I work with. Especially if they are belittling me, a vulnerable and a dependent newbie. Your article addresses a very important point - that medicine is a vast field and, as a health care professional, you never stop learning; that we learn from our mistakes, and everyone makes them. I will sure try to not take the negativity of others personally, or better yet - I will try to think of the positives. Thanks.
    NF_eyenurse likes this.


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