I am a BSN clinical instructor at a busy teaching hospital, but I am also an FNP student. I have a unique perspective on how to manage clinicals during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to guide students! My students are so inspiring through their compassion, initiative, and desire to learn. Nursing students are helping care for patients in the middle of this pandemic alongside the healthcare workers. I would like to share some tips on how to be successful during clinicals during COVID-19, as inspired by myself and my wonderful students.
How To Be Successful During Clinicals During COVID-19
STEP 1. Protect yourself and your patients
Notice how this is worded, protecting yourself comes first. As nurses and students, we are terrible at this! We think of everyone else before we think of our needs, but this must change if we are to practice healthy sustainable nursing. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and encourage others to do the same. Policies are constantly changing so keep up to date with the latest guidelines and lead by example by practicing strict handwashing and mask-wearing. Avoid touching your face during the day and if you do, immediately wash your hands! Imagine the virus is directly on your fingertips as you go about your day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has begun to develop into a mental health crisis. Between the social distancing measures, canceling of events, and fear of infecting loved ones, nursing students are just as much at risk of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression as frontline workers. Check in on yourself, friends, and fellow nursing students. With all the fear and uncertainty in the world, I have found that practicing daily gratitude helps me reframe my thinking to focus on positive things happening in my life. At the end of the day try to come up with 10 things you are grateful for. This is hard! It took practice to be able to reach ten. Practice this before you go to bed to help you process the day and relax your racing mind by focusing on all the good that happened in the past day.
STEP 2. Practice these behaviors
Not only will these behaviors help you be successful in clinical, but it will also help you succeed as a nurse! Hint: These are great attributes to report as strengths in a job interview.
This is the name of the game when it comes to being a nursing student during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the constantly changing policies to the last-minute simulations instead of clinicals, being adaptable is so important. As a nurse, you are constantly adapting and shifting priorities in your shift, so practicing this now as a student will make you even more prepared as a nurse. Try to let go of all the things you cannot control: your clinical assignment, the closing of hospitals to students, the simulation lab, etc. Your goal is to become a nurse, focus on what you have to do to get there.
I constantly hear that students feel they do not get to do enough in clinical. Seek out opportunities, ask to help, and do what you can on your own. Some students think they are above bed baths and helping patients to the bathroom and answer call lights. Volunteer to help and the nurses will be more likely to take you along when a cool procedure is about to occur or ask you to help put in an NG tube, foley, or IV. You are free to do assessments on your own. You do not have to wait for the nurse’s permission! Ask the patient if you can do an assessment on them. The more hearts and lungs you listen to the more likely you are to pick up on small abnormalities.
Adopt a learning mentality:
Being a nursing student and a new nurse is NOT EASY. Accept that you will not always have the answers and take the opportunity of being a student to ask tons of questions. Look up medications, labs, and diagnoses you are unsure of. Reflect on what you would do differently than your patient’s nurse or what you did during the day but be kind to yourself. Your main job right now is to learn. So, for every area of improvement you identify in yourself try to come up with two strengths.
Are you sick of hearing about therapeutic communication yet? But it is that important! During the COVID-19 pandemic, your patients are scared and lonely. Ask them questions about what they like to do, their spiritual and religious beliefs, and how you might make their care better. Always keep the patient at the center of everything you do. You may not have all the answers or solutions to their concerns, but actively listening makes them feel heard and seen.
It works in the real world!
Offering help where and when you can and then asking questions shows the staff you are engaged. I have had a student offered a job for his outstanding performance in clinical and these were some of the traits he showed every day.