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10 Nursing School Clinical Exposure Tips for Student Nurses

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By Iris Dawn Tabangcora, RN

After people know that someone is taking up Nursing, the most frequent follow-up question is definitely about experiencing hospital duties. Now this would have been an excellent conversation starter only if the one asked experienced it. For first year students, this might be kind of uncomfortable seeing as how the curriculum is all about the basics and general sciences.

Of course, the excitement for the much-awaited clinical exposure is palpable because it is practically the climax of the whole nursing school experience. How it goes will always be vital for every nursing student as it will pretty much set an impression for the rest of their nursing school days. To put some weight on it, it is already a glimpse of the actual nursing profession. On the light of things, it is important to remember that what nursing students make out of their first hospital duty also accounts for the total impression of the experience.

Here are 10 tips to maximize every nursing student’s first clinical exposure.

1. Develop love for lists.

People may judge you for being too hard on details, but lists are actually like loud mothers, only in paper form. They may not literally scream at you, but their permanency on paper makes things done and on time. Always make a habit out of jotting down the things you need to bring like textbooks and duty paraphernalia (e.g., stethoscope, thermometers, and Micropore tapes, etc.) as well as deadlines of paper works. For first timers in special areas (e.g., operating room, delivery room, and intensive care units, etc.), make a checklist of personal protective equipment you have to bring. Doing so saves you from unnecessary worry while traveling and of course, most importantly, prevents you from gaining extension duties. Lastly, don’t forget to include meal time on your list and take care of yourself always.

Love apps? Try these: Wunderlist, Todoist, Trello.

2. Familiarize the place.

Hospital hallways are enough to induce a headache with all the maze-like architecture inside. A tour of the hospital is usually included in the program. This is the time to take note of important offices that you are going to collaborate with frequently.

“This is the time to take note of important offices that you are going to collaborate with frequently.”

You might be asked by staff nurses to deliver specimens to the laboratory. Folks may ask you where social welfare office is. Sometimes, you might accompany patients to the radiology department for their x-ray and ultrasound. Also, you may be tasked to look for a particular doctor in their lounge. You may also want to discover some shortcuts in case you will be running late. Getting to know these places might be a small step but the moment a hospital visitor asks you where a particular office is, and you were able to guide him, it means everything. It’s not all the time that your instructor will be available to cater to your needs.

3. Invest in practical knowledge.

Expect that not all the theories taught to you will be applied immediately during your clinicals. Some things you will be able to learn in the actual setting. You may want to take note of different intravenous solutions, needle sizes, infection control protocols, medical abbreviations, and laboratory values. Knowledge of usual side effects and contraindications of medications is a plus!

4. Review simple nursing procedures.

Never believe when others tell you that you will run out of things to do in the ward and that it is practically the most boring area. The truth is, it is where discipline and responsibility will be inculcated in you initially. You will be trained here like toddlers in their formative years and expected to absorb everything by exposing you in as many patients as possible with varying health conditions in various degrees of recovery. It is also stressed not to allow yourself to do nothing and to practice the habit of regularly checking on your patients. Make time to review basic procedures like bed making, removing and changing patient’s clothes, vital signs taking and regulating IV flow.

5. Apply abbreviations and write fast.

This is also the first time that you will listen and copy endorsements during the change of shifts. Rather than copying your own patients’ data alone, most clinical instructors would instruct students to copy all patients belonging to the current census to practice the skill of receiving endorsements. Advance your game by writing fast and accurately using standard abbreviations or your shortcuts. That being said, keep a small notebook that you are comfortable writing on.

6. Learn as much as possible about your patient.

The instructor will usually introduce you to your patients. Always be ready with a calm and gentle smile. Present your name and explain why you are there with them. Tell them about your responsibilities and what is expected of them as they work with you. This is to establish rapport and to gain their cooperation. Understand what is written in the chart when possible, but practice conducting your assessment. Ask them about the history of the patient’s chief complaint and go deeper from there.

7. Study your patient’s’ health condition.

Correlating the assessment that you’ve done with textbook facts will help you realize why the patient shows certain manifestations. The more you understand about the pathophysiology of it, the more that you will be able to incorporate the rationale of your patient’s treatment and health management. Learn how the case is handled and the next day, you can perform these nursing interventions with your instructor’s permission and guidance as needed. You may also prepare appropriate health teachings for your patient and the family members. Just don’t go to bed without reading anything.

“instructors, nurses, and even doctors might engage you in an impromptu question and answer…”

Lastly, instructors, nurses, and even doctors might engage you in an impromptu question and answer so wow them with your heavily-prepared answers and explanations.

8. Keep a journal and write about your experience.

There’s nothing more than can immortalize the experience than having it scribbled. Pictures of the group may show you laughing and having a fun time, but the journal allows you to pour everything that has transpired during that day. You may feel inadequate and inexperienced and may be hesitant to share it with other people for fear of being judged. Put this in writing and feel yourself being validated for feeling that way. Years from now, you can open and re-read your entries and realize how much you’ve grown and improve as a nurse.

9. Don’t be late.

In everything that we do, especially in the nursing profession, every second is vital to preserve lives. It is important that in as early as this stage in your career in nursing, you realize the weight of it and practice this in every activity in which your presence is required. Always make it a point to arrive at least 30 minutes before the meeting time. Respect other people’s time. Usually, instructions and a rundown of that day’s activity will be entailed at this period so never miss those important things.

10. Show courtesy.

“Never fail to show courtesy to everyone you meet.”

Three important aspects of nursing include knowledge, skills, and attitude. The first two receives more focus at school while attitude is largely personal. Never fail to show courtesy to everyone you meet. A simple greeting and a thank you can go a long way in making someone’s day.

The first hospital duty is a memorable nursing experience for every student. Ask nurses that you know and they will begin their story with a smile on their faces. Follow these simple steps and some recommended habits and you will find yourself maximizing the learnings that you can squeeze out of an eight-hour shift. Always aim to be the nurse who is knowledgeable, skilled, and has the right set of attitude and the best time to start is on the very first day of your first hospital shift.

Iris Dawn is a nurse writer in her 20s who is on the constant lookout for latest stories about Science. Her interests include Research and Medical-Surgical Nursing. She is currently furthering her studies and is seriously considering being a student as her profession. Life is spoiling her with spaghetti, acoustic playlists, libraries, and the beach.

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