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ok so i just got accepted into nursing school, and well i have a basic idea of clinicals..but i wanted to know more about exactly what you do in them because every talks about how grueling they are! so if anyone could give me the 411 on clinicals...it would be awesome haha

Clinicals is where you practice what you learn, and where you start putting everything together. In the classroom you learn about disease processes, etc. In clinical you actually work with live patients.

It's much much more than that, but this is a good starter explanation.

Daytonite, BSN, RN

Specializes in med/surg, telemetry, IV therapy, mgmt.

i was scared to death. there was no one i really knew that was a nurse and i had heard that we had to learn to sharpen needles, sterilize stuff to reuse it again and make the food the patients ate. well, i was hearing this from some really old nurses who had been out of the business for a while. but, the point is this, does it matter? i was ready to roll my sleeves up and dig in and learn. your attitude is what is most important. we all were scared of our first clinicals. we all went through what you're worried about and feeling. but, we faced our fears. millions of others before you did that and you are about to join them. everyone's experience is unique. everyone's definition of grueling is also unique. what you will feel emotionally will be unique to you. there's no way to predict how your relationship is going to be with your instructors and fellow students just as there is no way to predict how a relationship with a new guy you meet is going to end up. my career has been laced with blood and all sorts of goo that got on my hands. i've held patient's hands as tears rolled down their faces as they told me, a total stranger, about the regrets in their lives. i saw a patient with 3rd degree burns of the face and neck that gave the term "crispy critter" a unforgettable memory in my mind and a lot of sleepless nights just thinking about him. i can also tell you what it feels like to be calling my clinical instructor a really nasty name only to find out she was standing behind me. or, to nearly fall asleep while watching a lady delivering a baby because i had to work the night before and hadn't had any sleep for almost 24 hours.

http://nursing.about.com/od/becomeanurse/a/notforeveryone.htm - "nursing is not for everyone". this is a very down to earth and honest article that broadly discusses what a nurse does and what you can expect on the job as a nurse.

http://www.collegeboard.com/student/csearch/majors_careers/45263.html - "ten questions to ask yourself" about any career and if it might be right for you

al7139, ASN, RN

Specializes in Emergency.

I just graduated from an ADN/RN school. My first clinical was terrifying, but after I got into it, I looked forward to clinicals. I really enjoyed applying what I learned in class to "live" patients. It was much more gratifying for me to interact with my patients that to sit in class listening to a lecture (not that that wasn't important).


Specializes in LTC.

I just had my first round of clinicals this weekend (I'm in an evening/weekend program, in case anyone is wondering why I have clincals on Sat./Sun.). It actually went quite well. We each were assigned to a patient and were responible for doing an assessment, taking VS, monitoring I&O, administering medications, and assisting with ADLs as needed. (This was all done under the supervision of our clinical instructor and/or a staff nurse) The part that's hard is all the prep work and making a care plan for the patient. The night before clinicals, we got our patient assignment and then had to research their chart, look up all the meds they had and their diganosis, and come up with a time line for the day. That took until about 1 am and we had to be at the hospital at 6:45 the next morning! Right now, I'm working on the care plan for my patient, which is due at 6 pm tonight. Obviously, I'm not doing a very good job, as I am posting on the message board instead!


Specializes in RN in LTC.

I love clinical. It is alot of work the prior night just as kmarie said. You do have to be prepaired. I always take my drug book with me to clinical. Even if you are there the night before and research all your meds, when you get there the next day your patient could have a new med. I have really great clinical instructors and they are there for any question you may have. The nurses on staff are really good at answering questions too. You just have to try to keep them brief because they have many patients. Aways ask questions when you are not sure. The instructors have more respect for a student that can admit they don't know something rather then one who tries to fake it. You will be fine.

About how many hours a week do you spend in clinical? Or does it depend on the semester?

Mommy TeleRN, RN

Specializes in Float.

For me it depended on semester. The first semester was 1/2 day a week. By the final semester it was 1 and 1/2 days a week.

As the others said the grueling part was the paperwork. And being scared to mess up! And having 10 students to one teacher so that in clinical everything is "hurry up and wait" and spending half your time finding your teacher because your pt needs a PRN tylenol, etc.

You also do TOTAL patient care in clinical. You do the I&O's, the VS, cleaning up diapers, bedpans, bedbaths, linen changes, all of it. In clinical we had two patients. I am now a graduate nurse and this past week I had two patients at work. it was a BREEZE compared to clinicals. For one I had more autonomy. Two, I only had to look for my preceptor who was in my same area caring for her other 4 patients when I needed help. Third, I had a CNA doing her work. Fourth, I had a whole 12 hr shift to do everything I use to do in 6 hrs at clinical (ie two assessments, looking at monitoring strips, checking the chart, etc) Fifth, I work nights and it's WAY calmer when your pt doesn't keep getting wheeled off the floor and you can plan your time better and your chart isn't constantly disappearing lol.

I always wondered how in the WORLD I could handle 6 patients when the 2 kept me running constantly. While Im in NO way ready for 6 I can see how I can build up to it now. I would say I could handle 4 in the real world about as easily as 2 in clinical.

My last year of school I worked part time as an intern and that did at least get my over the uncomfortable factor of working with patients that I had my first year and I felt more "at home" in the hospital.

Natkat, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in dialysis.

Clinicals can be intimidating at first, but you'll be fine. You will start out doing basic things then gradually do more complicated things. The important thing is to get in there and do what you can. You only have so many hours of clinical so you want to get as much practice as you can. When you have finished doing what you have been assigned to do, find a CNA to work with and help her do some things like taking vital signs, checking glucose, changing linens, turning patients and so on. You'll be glad you did.

Good luck!

I just finished my first semester of nursing school and we did clinicals 1 day a week from 6am to 11am, and today I start my med surge semester and we have to do two 10 hour days a week. I remember my first clinical because it wasn't that long ago, lol, I was terrified to go into the room but I made myself go in, they gave me a patient that was needy and was there because she was a hypochondriac, all she did was talk on the phone all day. Since then I have had pts on isolation and ones that were deaf and ones that were blind. I love doing my clinicals, I think the hardest part is going into your very first patients room for the very first time. Good Luck!


Specializes in ortho(med surg) and OB, mostly L&D.

i would describe clinicals as your hands on experience of what you learn in class. its days set aside by your university or college so that you spend real time in a hospital practicing with staff and your colleagues. I really enjoyed clinicals during nursing school, it made me believe that this was the right field for me...the best advice i think i learned was to suck up to mean clinical instructors and volunteer for every skill possible. lol i hope you have fun!!!:welcome:

We have always had clinicals two days per week for 8 hours each day. I am always terrified the first day of clinicals but I always end up loving them. It is so much fun and you really have a lot more time to spend with patients and, to look out for them as well, than the actual nurses do. You usually are assigned one or two patients in your first year, depending on which class you are in, and when you are done doing what you need to do for your assigned patients you can help or spend time with others. Good luck and don't be too worried because it really is lots of fun and it will make you that much more excited about your career choice. TIP: I have always carried a folder with me with examples of assessments or wordbanks or whatever it is that you are worried about forgetting or messing up on. It just makes me feel better knowing that I have the info there whether I end up using it or not. Definitely bring your med sheets or drug handbook.

Remember that whereas you can successfully appeal test and paper grades (objective; you can point to information in the book or information in handouts or lectures), you can't do squat about clinical grades (subjective, based on instructors' impressions). So if you aren't OCD, at least act like it. If you have an opportunity to read a pt's chart, take it. If it's OK for you to show up on the floor an hour early to do that, do it, and maybe you'll find a doctor working on the chart and maybe you can hear what he has to say about the pt's new orders. Maybe you'll have chances to ask nurses how things work on their unit. Bring all your references to every clinical. Buy an IV drug book and a lab book. If you got to review the charts the day before going up to the floor, read up on the pathophys online and get your care plans in order. Research the patient's meds. As much as possible, write down your projected schedule of events (meds, treatments, fingersticks) for the clinical. You might want to work labor pool as a nursing assistant as soon as you're qualified by dint of being a student with so many clinical hours, just to get to know how the hospital works and to get to know people. The end result will be that you will ask your instructor fewer stupid questions. There ARE such things as stupid questions and if you ask them you will scare your instructor and she will have a BAD subjective impression of how safe you are. If you can wait on a question and get the answer from a book, online, or from a trusted non-instructor nurse, then wait. Also remember that first impressions are lasting ones. If your first tasks to get signed off on, like hand-washing, seem trivial, you need to get your attitude fixed. Do you know how many seconds to scrub? When you have to use soap and water and not alcohol-based gel (circumstances as well as diseases)? Be ready with the answers to all snap questions so they can't catch you unaware. A little effort spent at the beginning will pay off because the "halo effect" will work for you. Project an image of being serious, sober and dedicated--don't be the class clown. Don't argue. Don't ever show that anything upset you, even if inside you freak over everything. Take your time and be safe. Practice things on your spouse and kids and friends before you do them in front of an instructor in clinicals. Remember the object is to survive. Prioritize. Making 100% on a test is far less important than passing everything. The temptation is to put more time into studying for tests than studying for clinicals because you are rewarded with a hard numeric grade with tests. If you did all the reading and made all the lectures, trust that you have the knowledge back in your head somewhere. Don't worry about NCLEX until just before you graduate. You can't take the NCLEX unless you graduate. Survival is your goal. Our first lecture included the famous words "Look to your left. Look to your right. One of the three of you will not make it." It was true. With school under your belt, you will hopefully take the Kaplan Complete and pass the NCLEX. Will the test care if you were an honor grad? Then you will have your license. Will the state care if you passed with a 99 or a 86? Then you will have your first job as a RN. Will anyone in the world care if you were inducted into the school honor society at that point? No. And if you flunk clinicals, you'll never see these milestones. So study for clinicals. And if you had spare time, if you spent it helping your fellow students study both for exams and clinicals, if you bought them lunch when they were broke or helped them move or watched their kids, they will never ever forget you. The instructors? You'll never see most of 'em again. Prioritize accordingly.

Great advice, I'm going to print it and put in the front of my clinical notebook. Thanks

WDWpixieRN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg <1; Epic Certified <1.

The most grueling part about clinicals for me are the hours....I am NOT a morning person, so 0600 mornings do not = a happy student nurse -- and sometimes not a very awake one. I really have to struggle sometimes, particularly if I couldn't sleep the night before. I can't wait to get out of school and work nights!!

We had two 1/2 days every other week for 1st semester; we have one full day every week for 2nd semester. 3rd semester consists of 2 almost full days. I haven't even thought ahead to 4th semester yet, lol.

The other "hard" part of clinicals for me was the fear of the unknown -- not knowing for sure what I would be doing that next day. How really ill my pt was or what skills I might be required to do. There was a lot of feeling overwhelmed between drugs, skills, and learning to care for a human being on a very personal level.

The paperwork is also nasty. That sometimes contributes to that lack-of -sleep the night before clinicals -- ugh!!

My clinical sites were usually geared toward what we were studying at the time. For instance...1st semester (fundamentals) we went to a LTC facility an were able to ONLY do those skills that we had already passed such as injections etc... and basic care ofcourse. We usually had to be at the facility by 6 or 7 am and were assigned a single pt to care for all day (until 5). This clinical lasted 4 weeks (once a week), so we went 4 times. As our semesters went on we were given a little more responsability and autonomy.

Ex: 2nd semester we had 2 pt's and were able to do all the skills that we already knew. Once the instructor is more comfortable with your abilities they will give you a little independance and you can do a lot of things on your own such as pass meds, injections, etc... This clinical lasted 7 weeks, so we had 7 clinical days.

3rd semester we were given 3 pt's by the end of clinical and we had A LOT more independance. We had to get our assignments the night before, on our own. We were on the med-surg unit for 7 weeks (10 hours a day) and the second part of 3rd semester we were at the psych facility for 4 weeks.

4th semester (my upcoming semester :w00t: ) We have the first half of our semester clinical in OB and Peds and the second half with a preceptor on a unit provided instead of with our instructor.

During all of our clinicals we were responsible for charting, keeping the nurse informed, working with others, helping others and LEARNING, LEARNING, LEARNING. Every semester we also got to go to one "specialty unit" to observe only. 1st semester we went to The wound care clinical or rotated with a wound care nurse. 2nd semester we got to go into surgery...super cool. 3rd semester we got to go to ICU and CCU.

So there ya go...I hope this helps some.


For an ASN degree, is 450 clinical hours average, or even sufficient?

I think clinicals are just one MAJOR learning experience. You learn all about the sights, sounds, smells of a unit. You learn about the staff, the layout, the pace. You learn about charts, equipment, the flow of everything, etc. If you have a good instructor, he/she will really lead you everyday, make assignments in the a.m., and will be there on the floor to assist you throughout the day. Sometimes they assign students as "team" leaders, or whatever.

Ours always started with a report of some kind, then patient assignements, then you get your vital signs by a certain time, then baths, a.m. care, and anything else the patient needed AS WELL AS your assessment of the patient. This is all a lot of stuff, and the assessment is your most important thing. It takes time to learn to do it right, and you may or may not chart it right off.

Once you were done there, you got into the chart and started learning about the disease or condition -- everything you could so you could go back to the instructor and explain all of those assessment findings. Then it's back to round on your patient, help the nurse, do more care, etc.

Ours was very thorough and trained me to look for things and to be able to understand the patho behind it. If you haven't had patho first, I think it's harder. I was lucky to have had it before I started clinicals.

I actually loved clinicals in the long run. We got to go to specialty experiences, different units. Got to see a lot and learn a lot. I can now say after 2 years I'm ready to start work ... and I sort of know now what to do when I walk on a floor, but I"m always learning more all the time!

Oh, and don't forget post-clinicals, where you get to present all sort of lovely papers and assignments, concept maps, etc. FUN, FUN, FUN!!

Sometimes you get luck and get with a good group of colleagues as well . .. we all ended up having a lot of fun with it ...

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