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How to get the most out of clinicals in nursing school

While clinicals are part of every nursing student’s curriculum to provide real-life experience working with medical staff and patients, they can be challenging, especially with all of your other school responsibilities weighing on your shoulders. However, learning all that you can from your clinicals is essential to being fully prepared for a successful nursing career or continuing on to receive your Master of Science in Nursing. Follow these tips to get the most out of your clinicals.

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1. Learn from your support
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone during your clinicals. You’ll have plenty of instructors, fellow nursing students and clinical preceptors there who you can reach out to for assistance when needed. Ask those with experience for any tips to guide you as you learn the ins and outs of what it takes to work with patients.

You may have a 4.0 grade point average, but academic knowledge and skills don’t always prepare you for the situations you’ll encounter during your hands-on experience at clinicals. If you aren’t used to asking for help, get used to swallowing your pride and relying on the wisdom of others when necessary.

2. Get ready to work hard
Try not to think of clinicals as a break from your school work and studying. Be prepared to work just as hard as you do in the classroom. You’re probably used to coming prepared to your classes, and clinicals should be no different. It can help to look over your patient charts and plan for the day ahead of time to ensure you aren’t wasting time on the floor. For example, if you know you’ll be rotating through pediatrics, do some research on common pediatric conditions and treatments. This thorough preparation will ensure that you’re asking important questions and soaking in everything that’s happening around you to make the most of your limited time in a clinical setting before graduating.

3. Offer a helping hand
You’re at your clinicals primarily to learn, but some of the best learning is done when volunteering to take on tasks. If you’re always lending a helping hand to staff and classmates, chances are they will return the favor when you’re in need of assistance. This also leaves a good impression on the staff you’re working with, showing them that you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn from new experiences. If you find that the care setting is somewhere you would want to begin your career after graduating, this is particularly important, as it can put you in good standing to be hired.

4. Have the necessary tools for guidance
It’s helpful to have a drug guide on hand. Consider subscribing to an electronic version, which are often updated more regularly than books. Many of these can be accessed through smartphones. Another handy resource is a clinical procedure review guide. This is essential to have whenever you have to perform an intervention that you haven’t done before. Tools like these make sure you’re prepared for anything that may come your way.

5. Keep an open mind
Don’t go into a rotation assuming you’re going to hate it. Being closed minded will prevent you from learning to your full ability and gaining all that you can from your experiences. Approach each rotation with the idea that you don’t know enough about it to know whether you’ll like it. Expect to be responsible for tackling a wide range of tasks as well, some that you may not be crazy about. Remember that complaining is never going to make things better and that focusing on the positive is the best motivator, which is essential during days you feel particularly burnt out.

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