A Day In The Life Of A Nursing Student

Wrote this article to implore people to think more about their choice of nursing/ nursing field, and a day of my clinical experience is described in summary. "if you haven't placed yourself in the position to observe or experience nursing, find an opportunity to do so."


Indeed, it is hard, and you wouldn't hear otherwise from someone who has been through the journey. Nevertheless, if your love for nursing is primarily for the love of maintaining, restoring, and improving health, despite the unpleasantness which is evident on the job, the struggles will be worth the effort. It is just as hard when you get into the program as it is trying to get in, and also when you're on the job.

Do yourself a favour; if you haven't placed yourself in the position to observe or experience nursing, find an opportunity to do so.

If you're going into nursing due to the fact that it's a good choice in this current economy and it garners a handsome pay, I applaud your good reasoning. Nevertheless, one also has to put the other job components into consideration.

~~A preview of a day as a nursing student- (Medical surgical nursing clinical rotation):

4.00am: I'm awake

5.00am: Out the door

7.00am: At the clinical site, lateness cannot be afforded. two lateness equals an absence, two absence is a failure of the class, and a bad thing about some nursing schools is as long as they provide you a clinical site, they don't care how you get there... which is true for my current school unfortunately, but now that you know, its best you become aware of the clinical sites that your school has.

7.30am: Assigned two patients and patient care begins- Cleaning , moving, positioning, transferring, and feeding are all components of care for most of the med-surg patients I have, this requires grit and patience to do it appropriately. While doing your job appropriately, you also have to consider your own posture. The rates of back pain among nurses are to be considered. I am suffering back pains myself from how I care for my patients (holding myself in uncomfortable positions) in order not to hurt my patients or dislocate their bones). This is the hardest part of the job, I believe. The other critical part is medication administration which, 99.9% of the time, you will be right if you follow proper protocols of administering medication (the 5Rs) and practice calculating medical dosages.

On this fateful day, I donned my glove ready to dive in and begin accruing nursing experience. I have been assigned to diapered client who needed to be changed. I advanced on my first patient with a smile, greetings, marvel at the beauty of the morning sun and a comment about helping them to get cleaned. Starting from the face, I mopped down to the abdomen, then went from the toes up to the thigh (full of smiles, I thought to myself, "this was easy"). I took off the diaper, opening the front flap, then I knew I was in for one hell of a cleaning. I cleaned the upper pubic region-the feces had migrated to this region due to the voluminous amount produced. I paused as this cleaning now seemed as though it's a dilemma-and my patient cannot aid me by spreading his/her legs wider (it would have made it so much easier ). Leaving a towel to cover my patient's body, my brain rattled on how best to clean my client without making a mess of it as I headed to grab more towel. Luckily for me, a glimpse of a nursing assistant at work in some other room squeezing a water soaked towel onto the patient saved the day. So I grabbed the towels I came for and tried the same with my client. Lo and behold, it seemed quite easy, I felt like smacking myself for not having thought of it. After cleaning her anteriorly, I removed the soiled materials and turned her over (trying not to break a bone) to clean her

9.00am: When I was done, I felt as though I have achieved a feat, and as I got back to the hallway, my professor asked why I was still on one patient and hadn't gotten to looking up my drugs at all. I felt slightly bad that I wasn't on schedule, but I was absolutely satisfied that I took my time taking care of my patient and she was grateful for it. For if I were in the same position, I would appreciate someone taking good care of me rather than doing a finicky job and just jumbling things together. I revel in bringing the littlest smile to the cheeks of my patients.

10.00am: Medication administration

11.00am: All day long, there will continually be some sort of cleaning to do, or dressing, feeding, assessment, in addition to medication administration.

12.00: A break of about an hour is given

1.00pm: Back on the floor and afternoon medications are given, along with other patient care.

4.00pm: By the time I leave at 4pm and arrive home at 6pm, I can only rush to lie on my bed considering the back breaking pain and weariness I'm overwhelmed with.

As a nursing student, I've learned that direct patient care is not my forte even though I currently provide the best care to my patients and will continue to do so .

If the money that comes with nursing attracts you, but you find the direct contact aspect of nursing distasteful and you're planning to work in a hospital, please, please, take your time to find something else with more pay, because you'll be quite miserable and the money received will never suffice. Another good thing is, nursing is not limited to direct patient contact, but direct care is mostly what is available. Starting out with direct patient care is never a bad idea though.

If your heart of compassion is all there is that drew you to nursing, and you have the strength to care for people, you are what the patients want, and you will feel fulfilled helping them.

Helpful 'A Day in the Life: Nursing Student' video...

Writing this was at a moment when a was contemplating my future decisions and want to try to make the best of it. I intend to share this with others as I think it could be helpful.

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This is every day as a tech for me. I am a PCT looking to finish my BSN next summer and let me tell you that if you have not experienced direct patient care before you graduate nursing school, that you ABSOLUTELY should find something, even if just to shadow for awhile if nothing else, to provide you with that direct patient care experience. My entire life I knew I was meant for the medical field. I wanted to be a vet when I was barely able to walk because of my undying love for animals. Now that I wised up and realized I don't want to be 40 getting out of school (I'm 25 and married so I am definitely on a time table here!) that I needed a different type of job that would fulfill my love of medicine and helping heal the sick. I took this PCT job thinking that nurses were the people in complete charge of their patients (which they are) and that I would be doing very minimal hands on care for them. Boy was I wrong. Your RN is in charge of that patient, but they are also in charge of assessing them, administering meds, and also making sure they are properly medicated and in close contact with the doctors if there are any changes to their vital signs or other problems related to their illness. Nursing is a very broad field with so many specialties but at the end of the day, if you do not like providing direct patient care to patients (yes this includes cleaning them or toileting them when they need to use the restroom!) then nursing is not for you. Honestly, toileting patients isn't my ideal job in life, but medicine is. I have reevaluated what nursing means to me and where I want to go as far as direct patient care goes. So for all you nursing students, try and find some experience!


339 Posts

If they really want to make clinicals more like working as a nurse have students quickly have lunch in about a half hour (if that). An hour for lunch. how nice. I love clinicals.


16 Posts

Do you regret choosing nursing?nif not how far do you want to go with it?


1,024 Posts

Specializes in Peds Medical Floor. Has 12 years experience.

Just a few things.....in many parts of the country, nursing jobs are scarce in this economy. Job security isn't a good reason to go into nursing at this time. Your physical health is of utmost importance and your back is...well sacred lol. If you are having back pain (especially when caring for only 2 pts for a few hours a couple times a week) you are doing something wrong. If you hurt your back you will not be able to do bedside nursing in a hospital. I have 7-8 pts 3 12.5 hour shifts a week and my back never hurts. And yes I do a lot of physical care on my pts. Make sure you ask for help if someone can't hold themselves over. You only have one back! Remember bend at the knees and broad base of support!! (Have feet shoulder width apart!). Hold the object you are lifting close to your body.

One last thing. Realize you will not have the luxury of spending nearly as much 1:1 time with your pts as you do in clinicals, especially when you first start out. This does not make you a bad nurse. But your other 6 pts will be mad they haven't gotten their meds or will also have been incontinent or want something for pain, etc.

Just some friendly suggestions!! Good luck in school!!!


5,978 Posts

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

I don't remember ever coming home bone tired from clinical, and we had more than 2 patients for clinical.

If it's this bad for you now as a student then maybe you should reconsider your career choice before you spend too much $$, esp. since jobs are hard to come by lately.

Specializes in ICU.

I see others have brought it up already, but nursing is a pretty poor investment if you're looking for a solid job that pays good money. Jobs are hard to come by, and the money where jobs are available is really bad. I just landed a job with a base pay of $20/hr, and maybe that sounds better than minimum wage but I have two bachelor's degrees at this point that took seven years of college to accomplish. $20/hr just makes me a little mad.

Also, you're right that there are jobs that do not require direct patient care, but they usually won't hire a person with no nursing experience. Almost everyone has to go the direct patient care route first.

blondy2061h, MSN, RN

1 Article; 4,094 Posts

Specializes in Oncology. Has 15 years experience.

This clinical site sounds like they're using you as free tech labor rather than teaching you nursing. A 2 hour commute to clinical would stink.


61 Posts

I have to believe...no i want to believe there has to be more to nursing than changing diapers, and washing up patients. This sounds like an individual who is doing clinicals at an ALF. My ultimate goal is to work in the hospital in the ER OR OR. I keep hearing jobs are scarce, but I know hospitals that are in high demand for nurses. Maybe not new grads, but of course this is a hospital so they obviously want people with experience. I got tons of emails from career builder about nursing jobs in the Florida market.


158 Posts

I have worked in all Nursing Fields and can tell you the best thing is to start out doing direct patient care first. If you only learn by books you will miss so much of the human touch that is required to be a good nurse. I worked with so many young people who quickly made horrible comments about their patients and having to clean them up and change linens. I started out in a Hospital as a Nurse giving medication, bathing, changing people when needed and assisting my assistance with task if needed. I worked in the ER for 10 years and loved the learning aspect of that area, but you also quickly get burnt out. I am now a nurse in a clinic. I can say every area was a good learning experience for me. You have to be a chance taker and build on your skills to find the area you want to stay in. I plan to stay and retire from the place I am at now. Good luck to everyone considering a Nursing Career. It is not about the money. It is about caring for people and wanting to make their life as comfortable as possible during bleak times in their life. No one wants to be a patient and have a stranger touch and look at their most intimate places.

kbrn2002, ADN, RN

3,729 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis. Has 21 years experience.

I am sure the patients you have in clinicals greatly appreciate the wonderful care you are giving them, and I don't want to sound like a "negative Nancy" but... if you are bone tired and sore with 2 pts and a one hour lunch you are in for a really rude awakening when you begin your first nursing job! Don't get me wrong, I know clinicals are tough, I was there once upon a time myself. In the real world [the employed world] your pt load will be much higher, and lunch... I forget what that is!

Has 36 years experience.

Reading this, what struck me was that your back hurts with 2 patients but I think I can see why if you are trying to do a total bath on a pt who can't help you who is covered in feces or have to put yourself in strange positions to keep from hurting your patients. Get help when you need it! There's no prize for trying to do it all by yourself.