Suck at Clinicals...Should I just Quit Now?

  1. Hey guys,
    I’m in my 1st semester of a RN diploma program. I just can’t seem to do well in clinicals. I can do the 8.5hr lectures, I can study 4-6hrs a day, I can do all the skills in lab, I’ve even learned to survive on 4hrs of sleep a night, but I suck at clinicals. I get on the floor and I’m so nervous I think I could almost puke. I was so confident of myself before I went into this but then I met my clinical instructor. She has this thing w/ my age. She goes on these 5-10min lectures to my whole clinical group about how “19 and 20yr olds aren’t mature enough or responsible enough to be nurses” and about how my generation “has everything handed to them and they still are a bunch of screw-ups.” She is constantly singling me out in my group. It doesn’t help that the other students in my group are a good 7-10+ years older than me and I’m one of the younger ones in the entire program. I thought she might leave me alone after I could answer her questions and prove myself. But I can’t seem to prove myself on the floor. I can answer all the theory questions, but I can’t interact w/ patients. I get in the room w/ them and I feel like I’m ready to throw-up everywhere. I get so nervous and anxious w/ them. I have no previous health care experiences at all, but I’ve been working in food service since I was 16 so I know how to talk w/ strangers. I’m used to meeting people and talking w/ them, but patients are different. I’m on the oncology floor and something happens when I walk in there. The patients look like they’re in so much pain and anguish and I stand there and feel so helpless. I can’t answer any of their questions…not even the simple ones. I can’t make them hurt less and I can’t find a way to relate to them. I am so nervous with them and I don’t know why. I’ve tried to calm myself down, all the deep breathing exercises and count to ten things, but it doesn’t work. I fumble around w/ my stethoscope and try to hear their blood pressures, but I just end up messing it up because I’m so nervous. It doesn’t make any sense because I’m usually bubbly and upbeat w/ strangers. My clinical instructor doesn’t help me at all. She just yells at me for everything I do. Yesterday I asked her for help because I couldn’t hear a BP and she told me “You’re not a competent student nurse, therefore, I’ll have to fail you because you can’t perform simple tasks.” I just learned how to do BPs on Thursday. I feel like I’m sinking horribly in clinicals. I’ve worked so hard to get into this program and I’ve already sacrificed more than I thought I ever would to be here. But I honestly don’t see how I’ll make it the rest of the semester in clinical. I got into nursing because I’ve wanted to work in the NICU since I can remember, but now I’m wondering if I’ve made another huge mistake. Maybe she was right…maybe I am too young to be a good nurse…maybe I can’t handle it. But now I need some help figuring out if I can ever be a good RN or if I should let go of this before I get even deeper over my head…
    Last edit by Melcia060 on Sep 23, '06
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    About Melcia060

    Joined: Feb '06; Posts: 58

    30 Comments

  3. by   mom2cka
    In your first semester, you often need to build the interaction skills and work on your comfort level - having a caring instructor to help you with that is very important. Talk to other instructors, find a mentor in an older student or instructor, but please don't give up... if necessary, you could even talk to the director of the program (dean, etc) and file a formal complaint - this is not professional behavior from an instructor, and it should not be allowed to continue. Not every instructor is like that - and if they are, I'd really question the quality of the program. To be honest with you - I'm one of the 'older' students in my program, and often feel out of place with all the younger students... but I get through the clinicals and feel more comfortable with each one... good luck!
  4. by   Jules A
    In my LPN class there were a couple of 20 year olds who were already working as CNAs and they were mighty impressive. It is a shame your clinical instructor is not supportive because that could be the entire reason you get so flustered. I'd also try to find another instructor to mentor you through this first experience. I believe the instructor can make or break our clinical experiences. If you feel that nursing just isn't for you that is fine but please don't let one unsupportive person make up your mind for you. Let us know how you are making out. Jules
  5. by   locolorenzo22
    I second the group. We haven't started clinicals yet, but mine has a rep for being hard on young AND male students (2 strikes already). We had to do Vitals and transfers in front of her to get approved to go to clinical and she failed everyone in the class, except me. Mainly because the instructor in lecture said to do a 2step and she said "I taught the 1 step." A couple contradictions.
    Standard answer when a patient asks you something you don't know? "I'm not sure, but let me check into that for you. I'll try to get an answer as soon as I can..."
    Sometimes it can be intimidating going into a new setting where you have to interact with SO many different people in a caregiver role. I know my major problem is that when A)they're elderly or B)I'm not sure of an answer, I tend to talk softer, I hate feeling like I'm yelling at someone. But, knowing your limitations helps you learn how to deal with them.
    Just kick butt and wow the other students.....don't badmouth the instructor as she will find out about it.
    BTW, my personal opinion about the 19/20 year old nurses comment? "How do you know I haven't been on my own since 15? How do you know I haven't worked my butt off to get here? Don't let your personal opinions pass judgement on me, you wouldn't let that slide with patients..." completely unprofessional, I'd go to the head, or talk to the instructor outside of the clinical setting.
    If you're being harassed, there's no good reason why you can't transfer. Unless every other section is full of students...
    Good luck and hang in there!!
  6. by   RebeccaJeanRN
    Quote from Melcia060
    Hey guys,
    I'm in my 1st semester of a RN diploma program. I just can't seem to do well in clinicals. I can do the 8.5hr lectures, I can study 4-6hrs a day, I can do all the skills in lab, I've even learned to survive on 4hrs of sleep a night, but I suck at clinicals. I get on the floor and I'm so nervous I think I could almost puke. I was so confident of myself before I went into this but then I met my clinical instructor. She has this thing w/ my age. She goes on these 5-10min lectures to my whole clinical group about how "19 and 20yr olds aren't mature enough or responsible enough to be nurses" and about how my generation "has everything handed to them and they still are a bunch of screw-ups." She is constantly singling me out in my group. It doesn't help that the other students in my group are a good 7-10+ years older than me and I'm one of the younger ones in the entire program. I thought she might leave me alone after I could answer her questions and prove myself. But I can't seem to prove myself on the floor. I can answer all the theory questions, but I can't interact w/ patients. I get in the room w/ them and I feel like I'm ready to throw-up everywhere. I get so nervous and anxious w/ them. I have no previous health care experiences at all, but I've been working in food service since I was 16 so I know how to talk w/ strangers. I'm used to meeting people and talking w/ them, but patients are different. I'm on the oncology floor and something happens when I walk in there. The patients look like they're in so much pain and anguish and I stand there and feel so helpless. I can't answer any of their questions...not even the simple ones. I can't make them hurt less and I can't find a way to relate to them. I am so nervous with them and I don't know why. I've tried to calm myself down, all the deep breathing exercises and count to ten things, but it doesn't work. I fumble around w/ my stethoscope and try to hear their blood pressures, but I just end up messing it up because I'm so nervous. It doesn't make any sense because I'm usually bubbly and upbeat w/ strangers. My clinical instructor doesn't help me at all. She just yells at me for everything I do. Yesterday I asked her for help because I couldn't hear a BP and she told me "You're not a competent student nurse, therefore, I'll have to fail you because you can't perform simple tasks." I just learned how to do BPs on Thursday. I feel like I'm sinking horribly in clinicals. I've worked so hard to get into this program and I've already sacrificed more than I thought I ever would to be here. But I honestly don't see how I'll make it the rest of the semester in clinical. I got into nursing because I've wanted to work in the NICU since I can remember, but now I'm wondering if I've made another huge mistake. Maybe she was right...maybe I am too young to be a good nurse...maybe I can't handle it. But now I need some help figuring out if I can ever be a good RN or if I should let go of this before I get even deeper over my head...
    OK...I'd like to help. Take a deep breath and know that at least in here, we love you!

    Here's some advice:
    1) find a friend in the group or school- FAST. Ask to practice BP's & any other skills that intimidate you!
    2) Don't think that you are going to cure anyone, or particularly bother anyone in oncology unit. Use your people skills (yes, you have them from the food service-trust in that!). If they seem depressed and prefer to be alone, respect it. If you smile and get some chatter in return, maybe they appreciate the distraction! Simply tell them that you are new, and that its a pleasure to help care for them, and ask them perhaps something simple and soft, such as if today is a better day for them. Keep voice soft (not too soft to hear) and kind. With reserved professionalism, you can't go wrong. Its OK to be quiet, its OK to talk about non-nursing things as long as the patient seems to benefit and enjoy the distraction and you aren't long-winded or inappropriate (doesn't sound like chatting too much will be a problem for you!). Some other general conversation openers: Is this a picture of your children? Did someone you know make this blanket for you? Can I help you put some lotion on your feet (if allowed)?
    3) You ARE young, but so were tons of my peers and I learned from THEM all the time. I wish we knew it all as we get older, but we don't- and you do too have something to contribute (fresh eyes, the desire to learn, the fact that you are wanting to do this!). Your kindness and youthful energy are pluses- don't believe all the stuff your clinical instructor says.
    4) Lastly, speak to your advisor. Ask for suggestions. Speak to your peers, ask for suggestions.

    And finally, at this immediate time- you need a hug and reassurance, so go talk to someone who loves you (your mother? best friend? boyfriend/girlfriend?) and tell them that you are in real need to hear about the things about you that they love. Maybe being reminded that you are valuable and have talents will help balance that unkind clinical instructor's feedback. Don't get mad, get even- rise to this challenge!

    My best to you!!!
  7. by   BeccaznRN
    How horrible! I'm sorry that you are having to go through this (and everyone wonders why we can't attract more people to major in nursing). I urge you to speak with someone at your school regarding your instructor's behavior. How dare she single you out for being a 19-year-old.... blatant age discrimination if you ask me.

    I agree with Jules when she says that this instructor's behavior may be a major reason why you are so flustered. Hang in there, and don't give up your dream of becoming a RN! The other posters have given great advice to help you remain calm during clinical, and just know that not all instructors are as bad as this woman. Please speak with someone at your school - she should not be allowed to act this way toward her students, who are doing their best to learn. You are in clinicals to LEARN, not to be made to feel ashamed because you're not perfect at a BP in your first semester.

    Keep us posted, please.
  8. by   Deliasgone
    Hang in there! I had a real hard time getting started, too. I think that pretty much every one of my classmates (who aren't NAs or LPNs) had a hard time. As far as your clinical instructor goes you can either suffer through it, you can confront her, or you can go to your dept head. As far as my own experience goes, I suffered through my nightmare instructor...I figured that it was only three weeks until I got a new instructor.
  9. by   CHATSDALE
    you can practice v/s, lung, heart, bowel on friends and family..if you feel sure of yoursself that will help you feel better about yourself and you will have less to ask the instructor..be ready to demonstrate a skill at any time
    this clinical will not last forever..you will move on to be a good nurse
  10. by   AtlantaRN
    DO NOT let this clinical instructor inhibit you from achieving your goal!!!!!

    DO NOT give her THAT satisfaction!!!!

    I had NEVER worked in the healthcare field EVER until I went to nursing school at age 32...

    SHE is the one with the problem. She is DISCRIMINATING against you BECAUSE of your age.

    YOU are there to LEARN.

    After your lectures, go to your skills lab and work with the nurses there that are there to HELP YOU!!! NO ONE can do blood pressures when they first start. and YES you will work with folks that are already TECHS in the hospital setting and YES, they WILL blow your doors off (because they have been doing it for a long long time).

    I personally LOVE nursing students!!! You are so EAGER to learn. and I am eager to teach. Frankly, i've been a nurse for 10 yrs and the only THANK YOUS I get are from grateful patients and student nurses.

    YOU HANG IN THERE (sorry to yell). HANG IN THERE and YOU CAN DO THIS. Don't let her intimidate you...

    AtlantaRN
    Linda
  11. by   mvanz9999
    No, don't quit. I agree with everyone else that it's likely the way your instructor is treating you, combined with the "older age" of the other students, and the intimidation from a floor full of oncology patients to which you have never been exposed.

    As for the age comment, that is total nonsense. I would trust a trained nurse if they were 19 or 90. Age certainly isn't a problem.

    For dealing with the instructor, how long have you got? If it's only a couple weeks, tough it out. If it's a lot longer, I would confront her. If that doesn't work, go to the department head. I suspect that the dept head will send you to talk to her if you haven't done so first.

    She's probably taking some anger out on you, and since you are young, figures that you'll listen rather than fight back. I would definitely take a stance, as there is no reason for you to put up with this. I think if everyone refused to put up with bad treatment by those very people that are supposed to nuture you, they'd quickly be forced to leave teaching.

    Why put up with such negative attitudes?

    Those are my thoughts anyway.
  12. by   Daytonite
    hi, melcia060!

    this, unfortunately, is one of the problems of being young. it's very sad that your clinical instructor would be so discriminatory toward you. all i can offer is that some nurses just don't remember every thing they were taught about how to interact with people when they were in nursing school.

    what i can tell you is that either consciously or subconsciously your clinical instructor is intimidating you--deliberately making you feel afraid and unworthy. she may or may not be totally aware that she is doing this. you have to understand, and i think you already do, that nursing is a profession where you interact with all kinds of people. so, you have to learn how to put up with all kinds of characters and their behavior. here's your first test. just keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing your very best to make your way through your clinicals. until someone from the nursing program says you are out, you just keep on working away at your assignments.

    time and experience, unfortunately, are something that you cannot fast forward. it's kind of like waiting for the easter bunny or santa claus to arrive. you just can't rush it. as time goes on you will learn to interact and feel more comfortable doing so with many different kinds of patients. one of the things about nursing is that seeing people who are very ill with diseases like cancer forces us to examine our own feelings about what it is like. so, our emotions play a big part in how we react to our patients. if you don't know what to say to a patient, it's ok not to say anything. as you learn how to do assessments, you will learn what information you need to be asking patients and then you will have something to say to them!

    i went into nursing having no experience working with patients either. believe me, it is not something that is a hindrance in any way. so, please don't let that eat away at you. if you did an informal poll you would probably find that at least half the nurses went into nursing school having no previous healthcare experience either.

    when i went back for my bsn, i was required to take a class in basic communication skills which was taught by the communications department. we learned assertiveness and all kinds of helpful things about interacting with other people. the class had a weekly lab we had to attend where we pretty much play-acted situations where we confronted people who were yelling at us, treating us badly, or we had to confront people who were doing something we wanted them to stop doing. it was a very informative class. just so you know, people like barbara walters and others you see on the tv and hear on the radio don't come by their interviewing skills naturally. they learn from formal classes that they took and study. for the future, you might look for something like that as a help to you in your own personal growth. most nursing programs also touch on therapeutic communication with patients as well. this is the theoretical foundation of what clinical psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists learn in order to converse with patients in a meaningful way. these techniques will also help you learn what to say back in response to statements that patients will make to you.

    something i learned when i attended some meditation classes years ago might help you release some of your frustration with this clinical instructor. after sitting comfortably and doing a head to toe muscle relaxation, our meditation leader directed us to visualize, in our minds, a boxing ring. standing in the ring was a person who had wronged us in some way, someone who we were really mad at for something(s) they had done to us. we were to get in that ring and proceed to beat the crap out of that person any way we wanted. yelling and screaming (in our mind only) was allowed. well, some people in the group just had tears rolling down their faces. but, a lot of them reported that they felt a lot better. it's also a safer way to get your aggression out against another person beside actually assaulting them or putting your fist through the wall.

    just to prove, however, that i am a realist and my head isn't always in the clouds, here is a link to a website where you can access a virtual blood pressure cuff and practice taking blood pressures. remember that it took time and practice for you to learn to ride a bike, blow bubbles with bubble gum, and tie your shoes. it also takes many attempts at taking b/ps, talking to patients, and other nursing procedures before you master them. but, don't give up. nurses have strong, stout hearts. we don't give up that easily! let me point out that by the time you reach the age of 40 , you'll have 21 years of nursing experience under your belt, a very enviable record! and, you'll still be considered young! :uhoh21: at 60, you will be unique and the mountains of knowledge and experience in nursing that you will have will be something to be really proud of. by then, your clinical instructor will probably have gone to the big hospital in the sky and be but a faint memory. just remember to be kind to those newbies coming up behind you in the way that you should have been treated. anyway, there's always the next school term and, hopefully, a different clinical instructor. remember to keep one foot in front of the other and just keep moving toward the finish line.

    http://medicine.osu.edu/exam/ - from ohio state university college of medicine, an interactive guide to physical examination for 8 body systems and includes sounds. has an interactive blood pressure cuff (the link is toward the bottom of the page, "take a blood pressure") where you click on a blood pressure bulb to start the inflation of the cuff. you will then hear and watch the manometer and tell the program what the final blood pressure is by typing in the systolic and diastolic numbers. it re-cycles to give you lots of practice!
  13. by   BeccaznRN
    Well said, Daytonite.
  14. by   moongirl
    dont quit. Your nervousness is getting in the way of your skills and this instructor is the cause, pure and simple.
    go to the director of the program and file a complaint and ask for a new CI. YOU are PAYING to be taught how to become a nurse, you are not paying to be humiliated and put down. If you already knew the skills, you wouldnt be there, you are there to learn! You are in a hostile environment, waiting for the next barb, of course you feel like you cant do anything! STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! DO NOT LET THIS WOMAN TAKE AWAY YOUR DREAM. DO NOT

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