Tips for Making the Most of Your Clinical Rotation:
Ask questions - lots of questions!
You may feel a bit unsure or out of your element in the clinical setting. No question is a bad question. There are so many aspects of the clinical environment that you cannot learn in a book. So, don't restrict your questions to just your clinical instructor. If staff are not busy, ask them as well.
Think of your clinical rotation as a job interview.
I always remind my students that the facility they work at can be their future employer. This helps remind students to continue to conduct themselves in a professional manner, even when I am not right beside them. You would be surprised how quickly other nurses pick up on work ethic and eagerness to learn. They can easily see students who are willing to jump in and help at anytime versus those that are counting down the minutes until they are done.
Clinical is not just about getting your skills in. It is about making connections.
I am forever surprised when students feel they did not "do" much in clinical during the day. I spend a lot of time helping students draw connections between pre-existing conditions, medications, and a patient's current hospitalization. That is much of what nurses do every day. Yes, getting experience with skills is important. However, with new stipulations that hospitals are under, you may not have as many opportunities to do those skills in the clinical setting. Just remember, making those connections with real patients and seeing those disease processes first hand is what clinical is all about.
Don't forget to practice your most important skill: Assessment.
One skill you can never get enough practice on is assessment. Unfortunately, I find it is often the skill least frequently performed by my students. Also, ask your fellow students. Maybe they have a patient with different lung sounds or a murmur. Many times patients are willing to let students perform assessments. Sometimes just asking, "Would you mind if I listened to your lung sounds?" Is all it takes. The more experience you can gain working with patients, the better.
Remember to eat breakfast!
It sounds like a silly tip but it is surprising how many students I have had faint during a clinical experience due to low blood sugar. One of the most important parts of succeeding in clinical is what you do before you get there - your prep work, get a good nights sleep and eat breakfast before you arrive. I try and make time for lunch for my students but many times things get busy during clinical and making time for food is just not a priority. Bringing a small snack bar is also a good idea.
Take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. Your hard work has prepared you for this moment. So, don't be too nervous. If you have worked on a clinical floor before and are more comfortable, be willing to take your fellow classmates under your wing. The age where nurses eat their young and we watch others drown in uncertainty has long been over. Mentoring one another will earn you points with your clinical instructor as well.
Clinical is a wonderful opportunity for nursing students to see and experience what nursing is actually like. Remembering these tips will help you do well in the clinical setting and make the most out of every opportunity. Working with staff and your fellow students cooperatively and being open for learning experiences is a great way to start. If you can walk away having learned at least one thing each day, your clinical experience has been well worth it.