How to Succeed in Clinical

A big part of your success in nursing school will be tied to your performance in clinical.  Your clinical experiences give you the opportunity to get a true look at what nursing really entails.  Your clinical experiences also provide you with chances to practice working with a team, build relationships with patients, and perform the skills you've practiced countless times in lab. 

Read on to find out what it takes to succeed in clinical!

Is the thought of starting your#nursingschool clinicals stressing you out? No worries! Check out these 7 tips for clinical success that will make you shine this semester! PLUS FREE CLINICAL CHECKLIST


Be on time

Seriously, a great way to get your clinical experience off to a good start is to be there on time.  Arriving on time (or better, 10 minutes early) is a sign of professionalism.  It shows that you are ready to work.  Arriving late is a sure way to draw negative attention to yourself.

Be prepared

There is nothing worse than arriving for your clinical and realizing that you left something you needed at home.  Make a habit of writing down everything you need the night before and gathering your supplies well in advance.  I used to iron my uniform before bed and pack my bag the night before clinical.  Not only did this save a lot of time in the morning, but it also ensured I was fully prepared for the day. 

Be willing to learn and ask questions

During clinical, you have a chance to see things you've never seen before and you'll have opportunities to perform skills you've learned in lab.  While you are at clinical, be a sponge.  Observe how the nurses work and be willing to let them teach you.   If a nurse gives you an opportunity to perform a skill or watch a procedure, take advantage of it.  And don't be afraid to ask questions if you are unfamiliar with something or want to know why a certain lab or test was ordered for your patient.  The more engaged you are in clinical, the more your instructor and nurse will be willing to help you.

Being willing to learn also means you may make mistakes.  You can always learn from your mistakes, so don't prevent yourself from performing a skill or procedure for fear of making a mistake.  

Clarify your clinical instructor's expectations

This is something you should do every semester.  Clarifying how you are expected to demonstrate proficiency in clinical will save you from a major headache later on.  Now ideally, your clinical instructor should give you all the information you need at the beginning of the semester, but sometimes things are forgotten.

Your clinical instructor should tell you how paperwork should be completed, where to meet, how long your lunch break is, if you can follow your nurse for procedures on other units, if you are expected to chart on the computer, etc. 

If you find yourself performing poorly on paperwork, or if your instructor notifies you that you are performing below the standard, schedule a meeting and write down exactly what you need to do to meet their expectations.

Be a team player

Your clinical instructor and the nurses you work with will be observing your work ethic.  Do you offer assistance to your peers when you have free time?  Are you willing to assist when a patient needs to be turned?  Do you help the PCT obtain vital signs? Do you help the nurses deliver food trays at meal times?  These tasks may seem insignificant, but by offering to do small tasks as a nursing student, you appear to be a valuable team member who is more likely to assist with complicated tasks when you become a nurse.  Strive to be a team player and you will shine as a student.

Represent yourself as a professional

One of the best things you can do to succeed is to be professional when you report to clinical.  Your nursing program may be stressing the importance of professionalism enough to make your head spin, but there is a reason why professionalism is such an important topic in nursing.  When you strive to put your best foot forward as a nurse, you work better as a team member and as a caregiver for your patient.  Here are some simple things you can do to ensure you put your best foot forward in clinical:

    * Always be on time
    * Don't gossip or complain
    * Don't swear
    * Don't be lazy
    * Treat people with respect
    * Wear your uniform with pride! (Clean and ironed!)
The bottom line is that if you hold yourself to a high standard, people will notice.

Take advantage of your role as a student nurse

As a student nurse, you are going to be busy, but you will also have some down time.  I liked to use the free time I had to get to know my patients.  I liked learning about their stories and being an active listener.  Usually my patients responded well to my genuine interest in learning more about them.  Taking the extra time to establish trust and to develop a relationship with your patient will make them remember you as a genuine, caring nurse.  My patients have never called me a good nurse for getting the IV stick on the first try, but I was frequently called a good nurse for taking the time to listen to their concerns and showing them that I cared. 

Clinicals are a source of anxiety for many nursing students, although they don't have to be!  Remember when you show up for clinical that you have a mission to represent your school in a positive light and treat everyone with respect.  Being organized, prepared, and on time for clinical can put you on the path to success.  Each time you go to clinical, challenge yourself to learn something new! Try to learn as much as you can and don't worry if you make a mistake.  As a student nurse you will have so many opportunities to grow! 

We want to hear from you! :)  Tell us if these tips helped you shine in your clinical! How else do you ensure your success? We would love to know what has worked for you!