What Instructors Expect of Nursing Students During Clinical Placements

If you’re looking to become a nurse, understanding what is expected of you during your clinical placements will be critical to your success. Every clinical instructor is different, as each may hold slightly different expectations for nursing students. When the time comes for you to begin clinical rotations, knowing how your success is measured will make a world of difference in your experience.

In Utica College’s Accelerated BSN program, we make the academic and clinical expectations clear to our nursing students, especially since our ABSN students begin clinical rotations within the first semester of nursing. As early as six weeks into the ABSN program, students observe other nurses and the clinical instructor as they perform medical procedures or assist patients. Our students aren’t expected to execute any medical practices at the start of the program, but they are expected to learn how to interact with real patients – so it’s very important to know the criteria early on for performing well.

Communicating with each of your clinical instructors is the best way to find out what’s required of you. However, Katherine Davis, a clinical coordinator at Utica College, shared a few of the general expectations clinical instructors might have for their nursing students.

Ask Questions on Day One of Clinicals

Many clinical instructors will spell out their expectations on the first day, or during orientation. This is the perfect time to ask all the questions you have. Be it related to the curriculum or the physical location of your class, find out exactly what’s expected in order for you to pass with flying colors. Your instructor wants to see you succeed.

Katherine Davis, Clinical Coordinator for Utica College

“Having the compassion, empathy and understanding that I was once a student reduces the students’ anxiety level tremendously,” Katherine says. She encourages students set daily goals for themselves, such as setting up an IV on a real person, and then she works alongside them to make it happen.

Asking questions is a smart precaution because knowing the risks of your actions will help hold you accountable, and keep you informed should you find yourself in an unfortunate situation. As an instructor, Katherine believes it is “great to see the passion of the student.”

In fact, Katherine uses her students’ questions to both her and the students’ advantage.

“I make it a point to learn my students and see what triggers them, so that I could use it to motivate them,” she says. “For example, I had a student who was having a difficult time understanding how the circulatory system works. My first question to her was, ‘what did you do before you came to this program?’ She shared with me that she was a highway engineer.”

Katherine then used the metaphor of how each of the highways, avenues, and roads interconnect, to explain how the circulatory system works. It’s a tactic Katherine says her team uses often to help the students learn various concepts.

Prepare to Take It All In

Unlike the online coursework you complete as a nursing student, clinical rotations are hands on. Fortunately, learning how to fulfill the simultaneous duties of your profession is a skill Katherine teaches our ABSN students early on. From day one, your clinical instructor will expect you to interact with patients, fellow nurses, staff, and families (difficult or not)… all while providing exceptional care as a nurse.

“The clinical process is integral to being a successful nurse because we could all grab a book – we could even use Dr. Google,” she says. “But to be able to apply it in real life scenario, that is what makes you a nurse.”

The clinical setting allows instructors to evaluate students and “make sure the performance is there, that they are capable and have what it takes to perform,” Katherine adds.

It’s not enough to complete one task well, especially if you’re ignoring the needs or concerns of your patient. Students are expected to do medication passes, explain and understand how the medicine is affecting the patient, and debrief at the end (the whys and rationale behind what you did). While doing all of this can be overwhelming at first, with time, practice and guidance from your instructor you will learn how to find balance.

“We prepare students in a way that not only shows them how to be autonomous and independent, but also how to find the resources when they need it,” Katherine says. “They have support here onsite and online – we even have offline [resources] such as the success coach.”

Be Willing to Adapt to Change

During your clinical placement, you will be exposed to a host of patient situations, medical procedures, and general nursing responsibilities.

“As faculty, we evaluate the students’ performance on every level,” Katherine says. “We identify their areas of weakness and we use that information to enhance their ability for learning.”

Sure, you may have a direction or specialty you’re excited to go in as a nurse, but you should remain open to learning about various types of nursing.

For example, your clinical assignments might consists of:

  • Visiting ancillary departments in a hospital
  • Shadowing a respiratory therapist to learn about breathing treatments, EKGS, or abnormal lung sounds
  • Observing a pediatrician or family practice physician

Go into clinicals with a mind to learn all there is to know about nursing, and in doing that you will develop the skills to be a well-rounded nurse.

The Utica College Difference

Utica College is a nonprofit organization that offers students a quality nursing education. Through the accelerated nursing programs located in New York and the Tampa Bay Area in Florida, you can earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in as little as 16 months. We blend online coursework with hands-on lab simulations and clinical rotations to prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. If you’re ready to start your nursing journey with Utica College’s ABSN program, contact our admissions team today.

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