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First clinical competency was a disaster


I had my first clinical competency today, October 14, and I had to pass meds and take a blood pressure on my clinical instructor. He's basically in charge of the college's nursing program so I was very nervous. I know how to do blood pressures but I couldn't hear the systolic and I instantly started to tear up. I don't even know why it happened. I just was so nervous and got mad that I messed up something so simple. My two instructors both noticed and said it was okay and to try again. I did and was fine with it. Should I go and apologize to my professor for crying? I just got really overwhelmed and I got so flustered. I realize that was highly unprofessional and I made a complete fool of myself and I'm beating myself up over it. Please help. Thank you!

First, stop beating yourself up. It's no good. Now, you could apologize if you feel it necessary or you can just speak to your instructors and relay your feelings. From the reaction you received from your two other clinical instructors it seems that they saw what was happening and were understanding. In the future, try to relax and take some deep breaths. You will make mistakes...from novice to expert...we all do.

quiltynurse56, LPN, LVN

Specializes in LTC and Pediatrics. Has 3 years experience.

Being tested on skills is stressful. It was for me anyway. We are told we have to do it just so. When we make a mistake, we are harder on ourselves than others are on us. I have been doing BP's for many many years and I have times I don't hear the systolic right away. It happens. Your instructors know that and they want an accurate BP in addition to technique.

The best part about working through skills is no one expects you to be 100% correct right off the bat you've gotta just take a step back and realize that in the grand scheme of things a bp on your clinical instructor isn't what makes or breaks you its all only as stressful as you make it! So cheer up and do it better next time! :)

Our instructors know we are nervous during check offs, and they know we will make mistakes sometimes because we are still learning. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Trust me, you are not the first nor the last to get teary eyed with a slip up. If I had to count on my fingers the number of people I have seen cry so far in nursing school, I'd need like 3 more pairs of hands!;)


Specializes in Neuro, Telemetry. Has 6 years experience.

Through 4 semesters I have seen nursing students cry after check off, cry after exams, cry after hard clinicals, and cry during all 3. I myself have cried twice. Once in front of an instructor and once by myself. It happens. We get stressed. Sometimes we don't know what to do about the stress and tears just come. Don't beat yourself up. The instructors see this all the time. As long as you don't cry at every check off or with every stressful thing you do in front of them, they won't even bat an eye. I wouldn't even apologize unless it was like an ugly cry and you had to step out or something.

Ooh yeah I have even had the ugly cry. As have some if my classmates. In fact I am pretty sure I have seen most of my fellow students cry at least once. Pre test, post test, clinicals, skills test. You name it nursing school seems to even make non cryers cry once in a while. You are fine. Prettying sure your instructors have seen it before.

direw0lf, BSN

Has 3 years experience.

I told my instructor that I'm nervous when I was getting a check off. She talked to me for a minute and I don't know what she said I just know her tone was calm and reassuring! But that was enough to give me some confidence. Maybe before you begin you can say you're nervous too. Just getting it out by saying it might help! I think just move fwd from here.


Specializes in CVICU.

Crying happens... My first semester we had competencies for wound dressing and some girl in my group literally made herself pass out because she was so nervous that she hadn't been practicing and when she came to she had our clinical instructor and another taking her pulse and discussing whether or not they should call an ambulance... Talk about embarrassing.... LOL... She was wheeled in a wheelchair to the administration building for monitoring but she passed by everyone in the whole school.. To me that's far more nerve wracking than just doing the skill and not passing it because we can do it again!!!

For future reference if you have to do another skill on an instructor for competency.. Ask if you can practice on them so you won't be as nervous when you do it for real.

Crying happens...but be sure to find ways to cope with your nerves so it doesnt happen repeatedly. I went to school with a female who cried frequently. It got very annoying.


Specializes in Ortho.

Good comments and advice from the previous posters.

I'm a crier myself. I get so upset and stressed out with school stuff. Sometimes that makes me even more nervous. It's a viscious cycle. I've always made it through. I only have 10 more clinical days this semester. My freak outs haven't held me back so far.

I do try extremely hard not to cry in front of people. I've only got teary-eyed in front of other people twice (once was a check off with an instructor). In reality, I've had to go to the bathroom many times to cry and get calmed down. So that's my advice. If you feel yourself losing it, get somewhere private.

Nursing school is a lot of pressure. It's very stressful. Some days are better than others. I think everyone has meltdowns at one point or another. You're not alone.

I don't think you should apologize. Your teachers seemed to understand you were nervous. Just let it go. Work hard to show them you are capable. Hold your head up and do the best you can. That's all any of us can do.

Good luck!


Specializes in ER/Tele, Med-Surg, Faculty, Urgent Care. Has 39 years experience.

As a former instructor, we know that skills checks are nerve wrecking, it's ok to say it, then take a breath and go. I have to tell you that as an 18 y/o LPN student I flunked enemas & Bedmaking! Yeah, I did not make the bed with the flat sheet the hem, I had the sheet upside down, silly in my opinion but that was the late 1970s. I was so upset, I drove home crying so hard I could not even see the road!

So walked in the house still crying, my dad asked me what are you going to do? Quit? Oh NO, they will have to kick me out, worked too hard to get in. After I calmed down, had lunch and hugs from my dad, I went back to spend the day practicing and passed the skills the following day.

Mavrick, BSN, RN

Specializes in 15 years in ICU, 22 years in PACU. Has 30 years experience.

This is from a new grad on another thread: "So yesterday was my first day and the first time that I met (my preceptor) and one of the first things he said to me was that if I am going to cry I shouldn't do it in front of him and I should go somewhere else and do it."

So, I guess crying happens but you have to get a handle on it when you start working as an RN.

Edited by Mavrick

Don't beat yourself up!!! It is very stressful and it is new. Be kind to yourself, the whole thing is stressful. Hey I had an ugly cry in front of my BOSS!!!

I've had students cry from anxiety. Nobody cares you cried, many students do. Just don't cry publicly when you start working because composure is a big part of being a nurse. Good luck with school, you will be fine.