student in clinical (help?)


So I'm having trouble finding out what I can and can not do as a nursing student in clinicals, especially when nothing is structured very well. This is my first semester of clincals and just wondering what everyone has been able to do. So far I've been able to do vital signs, showers, make beds and observe. And as a student, what should I prioritize?

Side note, no one in my family or my close friends are nurses, so that's why I'm asking.

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 12 years experience. 1 Article; 13,949 Posts

It depends on school and facility policy. There is no absolute answer

dah doh, BSN, RN

496 Posts

It depends on school and facility policy. There is no absolute answer

Yup! And the nurse of the day! Depends on what the nurse and/instructor will let you do. Some schools & facility only let you do stuff with a designated person; others will let you do stuff with either. First semester is usually vitals, hygiene, communication, and the occasional med or procedure. You should get to do more as you progress through each semester.

It is helpful to me as your nurse of the day to hear, "hi I'm nursing student Karen. I'm with you until 2pm. I have a conference at 10 am with my instructor. I can do xyz with you or my instructor. I'd like to learn xyz today if there is an opportunity. Let me know how I can help you."

Some nurses do NOT like to teach or let you do, so if you get one of those, just smile and suck it up for the day...try to be helpful and observe. Some nurses will take you under their wing and you'll have a great day. Some will be in between those two. Just try to learn from everyone...doctors, nurses, CNA, RT,,PT, etc...including the patients

and families.


Specializes in critical care. 5 Articles; 4,547 Posts

I'll add to what others say - because you are first semester, whenever something important is going on, you are more likely to be in the way than be helpful. That is obviously not your fault, but be sure to remember it.

That said - always ask if you can observe, especially for procedures - off-unit ones included -, if there is a nurse eager to teach, be eager to learn, and ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask the CNAs if they would like your help. What they do, you can do from day one, but you should do it with them, a nurse, or instructor around until you're sure you can do it right without feeling nervous. Phrase your offer to help as, "I'd love to help, if you would like an extra pair of hands," not, "do you need help," because no, they don't need your help. They might resent you a little because they often get to clean up student messes. But they may LOVE to teach you as well, and what they do, you need to learn as well.

Be aware the nurses and CNAs may have "bad" habits that make their job easier. Often times these habits are totally okay, but might not be NCLEX-okay.

Anyway, the CNAs may love to teach you because they see nurses who make their jobs harder, and if they can influence the next generations of nurses to be better and more helpful to them, they'll feel they've done well for themselves (and should - a happy tech is a happy nurse, and a nurse should always be good to his/her tech).

When you're in your last half hour, make yourself available to your nurse and your tech, asking if they would like help with anything. Don't be surprised if the answer is typically no, because that's not typically a busy time of day, but they will love you for it and will likely give great feedback to your instructor.

I'm a nurse who loves students, if you couldn't tell. :) If you get a nurse like me, be prepared to get pulled in on really cool and interesting stuff. When I know something is about to happen that I totally would have geeked out on as a student, I make sure I get students in the room for it. This kind of welcoming is actually the reason why I applied to work on the unit I am on. I work with other nurses who are the same way, and I totally love to pay that forward. :)

Best wishes to you in your nursing school career!


14,633 Posts

Your school should be informing you clearly and specifically about what you are and aren't expected and/or allowed to do in clinical. Often that info is in the syllabus for the clinical course, or there is some kind of handout. If you're not getting that info from your instructor, ask. Do not assume you can do stuff. Do not assume that you can do something because a staff nurse offered to let you do it. Do not do anything that you haven't been told by your instructor (not the staff nurses) you are allowed to do.


6 Posts

Your clinical instructor should clearly lay out what is and isn't within your scope of practice as a student nurse. If they haven't, then ask. If your nurse asks you to do something that you can't, then you need to tell them that. No point risking your education over it. And you're always free to watch, if the patient is comfortable having a student watching it done.


Specializes in Urgent Care, Oncology. Has 8 years experience. 983 Posts

I wasn't allowed to do IV pushes, give blood, or access ports during school. However, every semester we were given a sheet to sign saying what we could not do. Those are the only things I can recall from the list. Usually once you are signed off on something such as caths, IV insertion, NG tube insertion, head to toe exams, etc you're allowed to do them in clinical, or so that's how it worked at MY school.


527 Posts

Heres my advice, ask your CLINICAL INSTRUCTOR , about the tasks your allowed and not allowed to do. As a student , you're representing the school and must follow their policy. If in doubt , ask instructor before carrying out tasks, and read the hospital student policy about what they permit and do not permit.

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU. 3,663 Posts

First semester I attached myself to the CNAs hips and asked them what needed to be done. First semester is all about the basics. But I agree your clinical instructor should be laying this out for you. The most exciting thing I did first semester was a couple of injections and that was it. I also had to ask my instructor for permission to do it and she had to watch.

I can tell you this, on my last day the CNAs pulled me aside at this facility to tell me I was by far the best student in there and they appreciated me. I was always willing to jump in and help. They also pulled my clinical instructor aside and told her.


44 Posts

I just graduated Nursing school....I remeber my first semester like it was yesterday....clinicals consisted of beds and baths, vitals, helping people to the bathroom and documenting output...about halfway through the semester we were able to give PO meds with the instructor breathing down our neck lol. We were pulled into rooms to watch but that was about it. That first semester was about building up the confidence to walk into a patients room.... well for those that did not already work in a hospital. but ask your instructor because all schools are different. Good luck with school!