Clinical rotations are a critical component of your nursing education. Your nursing clinical experience presents the opportunity to work with real patients, experience work environments you may want to pursue once you have earned your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and learn how you will work with fellow nurses, physicians, and other members of the health care team.
It may sound intimidating, and maybe even frightening, but your clinical experience offers you a learning opportunity to build the foundation of your nursing education. Today’s guest blogger shares her clinical experience as a nursing student and how it prepared her for her life as a registered nurse and how it helped her serve as a preceptor to future generations of registered nurses.
My Nursing Clinical Experience
The clinical experience is often times the cornerstone of the nursing student’s career.
I had a year of coursework before I began my clinical experiences. And I could. Not. Wait. I was overly enthusiastic—I had my (overly priced) starch white uniform pressed, my brand new pair of white sneakers ready to go, my trusty, never-been-used plastic mannequin named “Bob” in the nursing lab, and my stethoscope. I was ready to go.
My Very First Clinical Experience
My first clinical experience was at an extended care facility for my Adult/Geriatric Nursing class. I was there at 6:30 sharp—a feat for me even then, as I’m chronically on “Becky Time,” which is a beautiful experience of always being five to ten minutes late everywhere I go. I didn’t know anyone, as I had recently transferred into the program from a different city, and to say that I was nervous would be an understatement.
The first few days at clinicals were, in my mind, fun. Taking blood pressures, charting on my paper care plan maps; it was great.
However, a lot of my classmates did not share in my excitement. Was it 12 hours of mundane learning? Well, truthfully, yes. The nurses didn’t exactly treat us as “nurses in the making” so much as “nurses’ helpers.” We gave a lot of baths, took a lot of blood pressures, and did a lot of patient turns. I enjoyed my time, but years later, this single experience has taught me how to treat my nursing students.
I tried to go into each clinical experiences with an open mind, despite any reservations I had on the branch of nursing I was studying. The coolest, scariest, most exciting part was absolutely my psychiatric nursing clinicals.
Overall it was fascinating. I loved every minute of it.
I went to a state psychiatric hospital, where I did clinicals on a floor where people were criminally declared insane, and most had been convicted of heinous crimes. However, this clinical experience, although scary (please note, I was incredibly safe), I learned so much. I learned how you can have compassion for someone who has done some things you only read about because they were in a deep state of psychosis. I was able to interview patients who had different life factors that contributed to their mental health. Overall it was fascinating. I loved every minute of it.
Using My Clinical Experience to Get a Job
My very first job as a registered nurse stemmed from a nursing clinical experience, actually.
I was in my final clinical—critical care. It was in a busy ICU, very fast passed. The nurses were kind, thoughtful, and wanted us to be there so they can teach us.
On my first day, a patient coded. Watching the staff come together in an effort to save the patient was truly a pivotal moment in my nursing career. On our lunch break that very afternoon, I went to human resources. I was interviewed for a student nursing position a few days later, and a week after that, I was offered a job on the critical care unit that I had witnessed the first code.
It was the blessing of a lifetime; I learned so much that year, and it helped me be a better student. To this day I tell student nurses to try and get a job, doing anything, in a setting that interests you. My experience also led to my first job: As soon as I graduated and passed my boards, I segued into my first job in that exact same unit.
Today I Work as a Preceptor
I am now in a position where I have student nurses. Several times a week you see the crisp white uniforms, all matching, smiling, eager faces, and always, always a clipboard.
I mostly try to teach the students critical thinking skills. I ask a lot of questions—sorry students, yes, I am that preceptor. But what I am really trying to teach my student nurses is the why of how we understood, or figured out, a specific problem. It’s the foundation of critical skill set. And it’s the role of a preceptor.
Please note: I don’t like to call you a nursing student. You are practicing and learning the art of nursing. A degree and license isn’t what makes a good nurse, it just makes a legal nurse. A real nurse is someone who cares for the sick with compassion and kindness, and knowledge behind all of that.
Clinicals are an exciting time in nursing school. It gives one the ability to experience lots of different branches of nursing. I suggest you be open and excited to be there and learn. Let your preceptor know that you’re there to learn and you’re excited to be there.
Nurses are teachers by nature; we love to teach! Be excited, and ask a lot of questions. Above all, treat your patients as you would if you were already their nurse…because a good nurse starts with kindness and goodness.
Your nursing clinical experiences are a rewarding aspect of your nursing education that teaches you so much more than the details of being a nurse. At Utica College, you will complete clinicals at top health care facilities, allowing you to build your knowledge-base and create your professional network in highly recognized facilities.
If you are ready to learn more about completing your clinicals or the online learning and simulation lab components of the Accelerated BSN program at Utica College, speak to an advisor today.