tips for surving nursing school

Top 10 Tips for Surviving Nursing School Clinical

If you’ve started clinical, Congrats! Getting your clinical start means you’re progressing through your labs and courses successfully. This is an exciting time begin exploring the different facets and specialties in nursing and apply some real hands-on skills. Additionally, clinical also allows a better feel for what area of nursing best resonates with you and where you might be interested in working in the near future. But make no mistake, getting to this point is just the beginning. 

Check out these proven tips below on how to get a guaranteed “pass” at clinical.

1.  Eat a Good Breakfast & Bring Snacks

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it twice. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and proper nutrition will play a major role in your clinical success. Research shows that your brain uses about 20% of your body’s energy or about 320 calories for thinking alone! That said store up on energy with a well rounded breakfast that will fuel you adequately into your next meal. Unfortunately,  clinical don’t lend themselves to frequent breaks and require a ton of standing on your feet.

2. Be On Time

First impressions really are everything and consistency is key. This is not the time to forget to set the alarm or be tardy. The aforementioned behaviors can leave a negative impression on your clinical instructor, disrupts the flow of the group and can cause you to get a clinical failure. That said, you  want your first and ongoing encounters to be positive ones. Arrive promptly at your clinical site each and every time.

3. Get Adequate Rest

Long shifts are hard but they can be brutal for new comers who aren’t used to typical healthcare hours. Clinical can often last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours but generally last around the latter. Getting to bed early the night before clinical is a great way to get a head start on your big day and will help ensure you show up alert, well rested and energized for the day.

4. Come Prepared & Be Pop Quiz Ready

If you’ve not yet started clinical you’ve probably heard that your instructor may likely put you on the spot with what seems like random questions about your patients, medications and anything else they think you should know. If your lucky you’ll be allowed to visit the unit prior to clinical to gather all pertinent patient info ahead of time. If not, be sure to bring your assessment book, pocket sized drug guides, resources and apps for quick references when you have down time.

nursing school study tips

5. Phone & Social Media Etiquette

Although mobile phones have become a huge part of our lives, it goes without saying that clinical is not the place to be on it and could be the cause of a clinical failure. Be sure to turn your phone on silent or consider leaving it in your car or assigned area with your belongings. If you have to be on standby for a potential emergency call, discuss this with your instructor up front. If a call must be taken, leave from direct patient settings to do so. HIPAA is real. Think twice before sharing content from the hospital setting. Also remember, geotagging your images and using hospital hashtags will make it easy for the hospital’s marketing team to identify you.

6. All Clinical Sites Aren’t Created Equal- Be Open Minded 

Every clinical setting will be different. Location, patient population, resources and access to care amongst other things can play a role in your clinical experience. Some facilities may lack amenities while others appear cush and pristine. Additionally, the type of facility your clinical is at may drive the things you’re able to see and do. For example, teaching and academic institutions are geared towards educating health professionals and tend to have more observation and learning opportunities. Regardless of the site, remember to show kindness, cultural competence and professionalism at all times.

7. Advocate for Your Own learning

The hard truth is that you may not see half of what you’ve learned in class or lab while at clinical. However, when opportunities present themselves for additional learning or observation jump at the chance. Depending on the facility and unit size, chances such as this may be far and few in between. Don’t be shy- reversely if there are things you’d like to see, don’t hesitate to mention it to your instructor or nurse as they are aware of the patients on the floor and can help facilitate your request if possible.

8. Be Ethical

If for some reason you find yourself in a situation where you feel there may possibly be a chance you’ve done something that could harm a patient, be sure to speak up. No one is perfect and there is no shame in admitting a mistake. Further, don’t let fear or embarrassment stop you from doing the right thing. Keep in mind the patient’s safety is the top priority. Reversely, If you see a fellow classmate doing something wrong that could harm a patient don’t hesitate to speak up and advocate for the patient’s safety.

9. Treat Each Day of Clinical as a Potential Job Interview

If you fall in love with a unit during clinical be sure to do everything in your power to stand out to the leadership team. Introduce yourself to the supervisors and build report with the nurses. Go a step further and put yourself out there by asking questions, going the extra mile for your patients and showing your genuine interest in the unit. This can most definitely lead to you landing your preferred senior practicum placement and even more, can help you land your dream job.

10. Don’t Take it Personal 

Clinical can come with an array of ups and downs. Some patients will refuse students while others welcome them with open arms. Some nurses will take you under their wing and others might not. You may get your clinical site preference or your luck of the draw may land you at your last choice. If for some reason don’t mesh well with your clinical instructor try setting up a time to meet with them one on one. If there’s no resolve after that, its probably a good idea to speak with your counselor or instructor at school so that they are aware sooner than later. Above all, don’t take it personal and focus on what you can control. Do your best and approach each day with a new perspective.

Looking for more ways to be prepared? Here’s some additional helpful resources to help you succeed in your nursing career: