RN's, what would you like to see from Student Nurses?

Nurses General Nursing


I just read a thread from the students board that scared the crap out of me. It seems there is not a love between RN's and SN's. I'm going to start school in the fall so just give it to me straight...how can I not be a pain in your butt and how can I be helpful?


61 Posts

Specializes in ER, ICU, Med-Surg.

I remember feeling the same way when I was a student nurse. "Why are all the nurses so mean to us students?" "I'm never going to act that way when I become a nurse.", etc

Then, once I graduated and had students following me.....and once I became a charge nurse and had 10 students crawling all over the place, I realized how those nurses felt. When you are already busy/stressed and you have a student who is a less than helpful/cooperative, the sharp teeth can come out :)

Here are my tips to get on the nurse's good side:

1. Be assertive. Can I empty that foley bag for you? Don't wait till the end of the shift and the nurse asks you about the patient's urine and you have no idea what color it is or how many cc's were put out on your shift.

Offer to help with menial tasks the nurse has to do, like bringing a patient a box of kleenex, even if they are not a great learning opportunity.

2. Don't sit in the nurse's station looking bored. (Or act bored in anyway). Chances are the nurses that are running around busy will be very annoyed by this.

3. Act interested in what your nurse is saying, even if you are not. If you are acting distracted when she is trying to show you something, it will come off as you being rude.

Specializes in Gerontology.
Don't sit in the nurse's station looking bored. (Or act bored in anyway). Chances are the nurses that are running around busy will be very annoyed by this.

3. Act interested in what your nurse is saying, even if you are not. If you are acting distracted when she is trying to show you something, it will come off as you being rude.

This plus:

1. Remember you are a guest on the unit. Don't drink the coffee, eat the donuts etc unless invited to do so. We once had a family drop off a dozen donuts for the nurses. The students ate them - all of them.

2. Let it be known that you are looking for learning opportunities. If you hear that a nurse is going to take out staples, do a drsg, ask if you can do it. Chances are pretty good that the nurse will let you.

3. If asked -"would you like to do this" Don't respond that you've already done it once so you don't need to do it again.

4. Yes - ask questions but choose your time wisely. When someone is pouring meds while talking on the phone to the lab that is NOT to time to ask a question.

5. Don't hog the computers, the blood pressure machines, the thermeters, etc.

6. Finally, trust me - you don't make my job easier. You make it harder. I love students, I enjoy teaching students, but you do not make my job easier.

vashtee, RN

1,065 Posts

Specializes in DOU.

Offer to bathe/shave my patient(s) when you are done doing whatever the instructor expected of you. If they are able to do this independently, offer to bring them a basin of warm, soapy water, clean washcloths and towels, a toothbrush, a clean gown...

I would be sooo grateful, and I am sure they would be even more so!

BTW - I love students!

Specializes in MICU, neuro, orthotrauma.

All of these replies are on the mark. I also love teaching. We have students come through the ICU on a fairly regular basis, and out of all of them in the past year, I would say one was polite, interested, volunteered to do stuff, asked questions, sympathized with me when I looked stressed, and paid attention to detail. When we went over patient assessment, she asked honest questions about stuff she didn't know, which gives me confidence that she will be a thorough and caring nurse.

This added up to me being super impressed with her. She still took up lots of my time, but I was glad to be there that day. Teaching gives me real joy, as much as learning, and am glad to go out of my way if I feel like it matters to the student.

The "menial" tasks we may ask you to do free us up to concentrate on not just our patients, but on you, and how we can help you. It really is easier to work a shift without a student, so never think that I should be thankful for you performing menial tasks. I prefer to perform my own tasks, because every single detail about my patient tells me more about what they need to heal.

Specializes in Emergency, Trauma, Critical Care.

I remember when I was a student, I did not just focus on "my patient." Once I was done with the tasks for "my patient" and knew I had plenty of time for my charting, I would go around the unit offering myself. I often ended up doing all the accuchecks, wound care (sometimes), inserted IV's, just the extra stuff that frees of the nurses for the more important things they get taken away from.

Team players are always appreciated.


1,975 Posts

You shouldn't be afraid. There are many great students and many awesome nurses out there. Be respectful and try to help when you can. Bathing, toileting, etc. can be such a help to nurses.

Know that if the nurse is running around or is dealing with an emergency not to take it personally and keep your questions until after the patient situation is handled. So many times students can be offended if the nurse is zipping past but know it isn't about you. It's about them trying to get the patient stable, etc.

When I ran into some extra time and knew the nurse was busy I went into the patients so see if they needed anything. I tried to do anything that would help others and better my skill set. If the situation allowed for it I also asked if they like to soak their feet or have some lotion put on their hands, etc. I tried to get myself more comfortable dealing with patients and the nurses always appreciated my taking the initiative in this area.


328 Posts

Specializes in ICU, School Nurse, Med/Surg, Psych.

Here are some suggestions for when you do home health rotations-

1. don't touch my car radio/AC/heat/windows... without asking

2. When I ask you to stand by the door for your safety...do it!

3. Use your best manners and if momma didn't teach you get a book from the library and read up on the subject prior to going into my client's homes

4. you are a guest, don't argue with me. if you don't believe that my client should be taking a multivitamin every day tell me later and don't tell my client, it undermines my credibility with them

5. When we are in the car driving for 29 minutes, talk about the weather or SOMETHING don't just answer yes/no. (and I know that you have been asked the same questions a million times- so have I by students, please just answer it again as a jumping off place to converse)

I love students.


89 Posts

Specializes in oncology, med/surg (all kinds).

i am a huge fan of nursing students. smackdown makes some excellent suggestions. it isn't that RN's don't like students (well, some really don't) but nursing students do not yet have the ability to see the whole picture of what is happening on the unit. as a student, you spend a lot of time learning tasks. and there is so much more going on--that you can't really see--other than deciding what task to do next. and sometimes a student asks a question that, at the time, might seem like the least important thing on the RNs plate, that the RN might be like "are you kidding me?!?!" but the student can't be expected to know these things. unfortunately, RNs don't always have a choice in whether or not to have a student with them. that is unfortunate for the student and the nurse. the RN might like students and be a good teacher, but THAT DAY might be not a good day to be slowed down by a student. even those of us who love having students will admit students slow us down. here are some more suggestions:

if you sense your nurse isn't in to having a student, jot down your questions that require more than a quick or yes/no answer --ask them a little later. if she is running around, just keep up. jump in wherever you can--if it is something you already know. if you want to do something you don't already know, ask if she has time to show you how. i don't want to advocate being a suck-up but if you try very hard to make the nurse's day a little easier she might be more inclined (and able) to help you with stuff. see smackdown's great suggestions. ask as often as you can "can i do that?" whether it is a cool new skill or boring task.

if you luck out and get a nurse who is psyched to have you (and there are lots of us) it is still a good idea to ask "can i do that?" as often as possible. i find nursing students tend to be a little passive--they are probably afraid of being annoying. or maybe just afraid! or waiting to be offered a chance to do something or requested to do something by the nurse. don't wait to be asked--offer! you might consider asking the nurse you are with when it is best to ask questions (other than the quick ones). i don't mind answering questions as we go along, but if the answer is going to take time, it might be better to ask when you both catch your breath. or, if the nurse is agreeable--many of us would be--ask if you can e mail her with some questions directly related to the experience you had together.

it is perfectly acceptable to be scared to try new skills. especially when they involve needles or tubes or orifices. or all of the above. do it anyway. and if you miss--so what. the nurse misses sometimes too. some nurses like the student to act very confident in front of the patient and will not want you to come right out and ask what to do in front of the patient. some are okay with the student being very open in front of the patient that they don't have a clue. it depends on the patient and the relationship the nurse has with them. find out before you do something new which way she wants you to go.

talk to the patient! don't be a passive shadow. the nurse may introduce you, but please ask the patient if you can do anything for them--make sure they know your name--maybe even check on them while the nurse is doing something you don't need to watch. ask for their permission to perform those new skills. they know you are a student. they know you are nervous. they know you don't know what you are doing. most of them are okay with that. get the tissues, the blanket, find out what the family member wants. whatever you can do--DO.

finally. don't take it personally. nurses can be a tough bunch. some of them still scare me. if you get one who is especially unpleasant, tell your instructor you would rather not have to be assigned to her again. if they are annoyed or not warm and fuzzy, it might be more what is on her mind than you. if they are rude or disrespectful, that is absolutely uncalled for. tell your teacher. the amount you will know will change drastically from your first semester to your 4th to your first 3 months as a new grad--it's hard to keep up. i wish we could all remember what it was like to be a student. and i wish we were all nice to each other. make your teacher and your patient happy and the nurse will be fine!

since you even thought to ask the question, i have a feeling you are going to do just fine! good luck!!!!


36 Posts

Thank y'all VERY much for your responses. I'm printing this thread out and stapling it to my head on my first day of clinicals!:p

Specializes in M/S, MICU, CVICU, SICU, ER, Trauma, NICU.

I love students, but they don't often come to our PACU because we are too busy and learning is very difficult.

I have to say, though, that if they are willing to "hang" with us, and don't mind our craziness, it's great for them.


224 Posts

Specializes in LTC, geriatric, psych, rehab.

I argued hard and long to get nursing students to come to my nursing home. Corporate didn't want them there...liability issues they said. But I love the students. I also hire them when I have an available spot.

From a nursing home perspective, I want the students to be kind and attentive to my residents. If they reach out to touch you, don't pull back as if you think they have poop all over their hands. Now on rare occasion they might have dirty hands, but you wash. It hurts their feelings when you pull away. They are old, not stupid.

Smile genuinely.

Make good eye contact when I am talking to you. And make good eye contact with my residents.

Above all, be gentle with my people. They are fragile. Talk to them. Even if they are confused. Ask them about life a long time ago. They love to tell about it.

Don't call everyone of them grandma or grandpa. They have a name.

Do not look down your nose at my aides just b/c you are going to be a nurse.

And then basically just what everyone else said. Be interested, don't sit around, don't talk about what you did last nite with your boyfriend, ask how you can help.

We have had such good students, and are so grateful to have them. I don't think I have had one yet that I had to go to the instructor about.

Good luck!

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