Five Tips to Survive Nursing School Clinicals

Tips for nursing school

You get your assignment for the day and go out to find you patients. Your stress level and anxiety is through the roof. What if the nurse assigned to my patients does not like me? What will my instructor think of me? And what if my patient yells at me?? Or worse, doesn’t like me? Ahhh… the joys of a nursing student!

As a clinical instructor, I am always trying to find ways to calm down my students, motivate and engage my students. Here’s a list of my Top 5 tips I always give my students. Hope it helps make the best of your time!

Five Tips to Survive Nursing School Clinicals

  1. Set goals for the day – each week my students have to have three goals. This not only allows the student to self reflect on how they are doing and what they still need to accomplish, but it gives the student and the nurse a starting point. Most days the student is greeted with, “What can you do?” After letting the nurse know, the student can also let the nurse know what the goals for the day the student hopes to accomplish. Some examples of daily goals would be to hang more IV medications. One student told her nurse this goal and the student hung almost all the IV medications for the whole assignment and then some. One of my all time favorite student goals… to see a code. Only a nursing student would wish such ill-will on another human – but, hey, they gotta learn! Goal setting is my favourite thing to be honest, which is why I’m really pleased to see that IU recommend OKR software to students as this is a great software that can help with achieving people’s goals!
  2. Get some sleep – often this is easier said than done. The night before clinicals is NOT the time to go out on the town. Be well rested so you can be engaged. Remember, peoples lives (and your future) depends on it.
  3. Seek out opportunities – when you find that RARE moment you might be idle, find something to learn. There is so much to see, do, hear, learn – you just have to be willing to find it! Most students are skill hunters – always looking for practicing those elusive skills. But really, the one skill most lack is interviewing and the art of conversation. It is not easy to ask total strangers personal questions, but the only way to get better is to practice. Also, this goes back to setting goals – ask around to the other staff, maybe they can help you meet your goals. They can’t help if they don’t know!
  4. Play the “student card” – this has been a controversial tip with some students. I am always preaching to them that they need to own what they know, but then, I tell them to “play it dumb” when the time comes. Essentially, if someone is willing to teach you something – let them! This works especially well with the physicians. When they come in to talk with your patient, introduce yourself as the student – you will be amazed at how much they might want to share – and the patient will benefit too! I had worked at a large teaching hospital for many years and knew who most of the friendlier doctors were. I was surprised one day when one of my students got a whole mini-lecture about cardiac cath interventions from one of the less friendly cardiologist. I made him point out the physician to me in the nurses station because I had never heard this particular physician speak so much! “Student card” well played!
  5. Be confident, but don’t be afraid to ask reasonable questions – Even when playing the “student card”, you can still be confident in what you know. In fact, you probably have a better recall of more information than most of the staff because it is still fresh for you. But know your limitations and ask questions when appropriate. Make an effort to seek out information instead of just expecting to be spoon-fed. Your resourcefulness will be refreshing. Plus, most of the world’s information is on your phone!

Well, I hope this helps you out a bit as your continue your journey through nursing school – it definitely is an adventure! Do you have some other tips for clinicals – something that works well for you – I would love to hear it! Please leave a comment.

Also, don’t be afraid to share/like this post on Facebook, Pinterest or Instragram because sharing is caring!

Be safe, study hard and wash your hands!


16 thoughts on “Five Tips to Survive Nursing School Clinicals

  1. Ma’m, I was thinking that it would be more intresting clinicals i have, if you are my clinical supervisor. Yeah i know, it won’t happen! I am student nurse of 2nd Year Bsc. Nursing (INDIA). I like your all blogposts

    • Thank you for your kind words! I wish my students always felt that way! 🙂 Glad you are enjoying my blog! Please sign up for email subscription so you never miss a post! Good luck with school and let me know if you have any suggestions for topics! Take care!

  2. My mom just sent this to me (I just started clinicals at the hospital- student PN) what great advice! It’s nice to know instructors feel this way- sometimes it’s hard to know because they can be so intimidating. So refreshing to see this blog! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Congrats on starting clinicals – such an exciting time!! I am so glad you found the tips helpful!! Please feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss anything! And always looking for topics!! Take care & don’t hesitate if I can ever be of assistance!!

  3. Hey Joan RN,
    LOVE the suggestions and while I had not clarified this in my head, it has been my ‘goals’ for my students. Thanks for the clarity!! I love students and watching them blossom into nurses!! We are truly blessed to share our knowledge with them!! =D

    • Ahhhh Debbie, we are kindred spirits!! Thanks for the kind words! Every once in awhile I hit it on the head, got luck with that list – was actually inspired by one of my students who told me I should write my tips down! I love the students also- they keep me fresh & thinking all the time! I especially LOVE to run into them when they are working and thriving – best reward ever!! Thanks again for the kind words & for stopping by!!

  4. Hello! I hated every semester of my clinical rotations except for one. I had those know it all clinical instructors that wanted to try to make you look stupid or feel stupid if you didn t know one tiny but of information. I really feel like clinical was all about survival and I didn t get a lot of real experience from it, other than how to survive bitchy mean nurses haha That skill had came in handy years later! By the way the best paper writing service that I saw:

    • Sorry you had a lack luster clinical experience…. mine wasn’t too great either, which is why I am so passionate to do differently with my students now. Unfortunately, until we start paying educators what they are worth, not going to attract high quality people. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I am incredibly intimidated by one of my instructors. She could ask me what day it is and I’d have to go look at a calender. Any tips? I’m in RN school but have been a LPN ALOT of years, so nursing isn’t new to me.

    • This is tough….but my initial advice would be to talk to her and try to find some common ground. Maybe ask her for advice on how you can feel more at ease around her? I try very hard to have my students respect me, but not fear me – no one learns in an anxious state of fear and my job is to facilitate their learning. Sometimes I find instructors behave this way to garner respect or maybe hide their own insecurities? Hope it helps and let us know how it goes! Good luck & hand in there!!

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