For every nursing student, the start of your first clinical rotation – or the return to clinical – is a new and exciting time but may spark some worries.
Here are seven common concerns you might have, and some ways to address them:
1. I am SO nervous!
Of course you are! The good news is a little bit of nervousness will keep you on your toes. Too much might lead to not performing as well, though. Try shifting your perspective a bit. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. Remember that what might seem like a simple illness or procedure in your mind is a big deal to them. They’re stressed too. Concentrate on putting your patients at ease. Be compassionate, genuine and really listen to them. Once a connection is made, both of you will feel more relaxed. Keep in mind that both the instructor and the facility nurses are there to help you get acclimated.
2. The patient might not want to have a student nurse.
This is unusual. After all, the instructor would have already asked the patients if they mind having students. Also, think about it: patients get to have an eager beaver’s undivided attention for an entire shift, along with the oversight of the primary nurse and the clinical instructor. It’s a win-win! Patients generally are happy to help students learn as it makes them feel that they are contributing at a time when they feel quite helpless. If a patient declines a student, your instructor will simply find you another patient.
3. What if I don’t get to do a catheterization, injection, dressing, etc.?
Nursing students often focus on what specific procedures they will get to do. The reality is that sometimes these opportunities to practice technical skills come up and sometimes they don’t. You will have a chance to do them in lab regardless. Performing skills competently is important, but this is a very small part of what makes up nursing. Instead, focus on overall learning. What questions should you ask of the patient? What physical assessment should you do? Look up the labs and medications and see how everything ties together. A robot could do a technical skill; you want to be a nurse who can think about the total picture by using problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
4. If I ask a question, I might look like I don’t know anything.
No question is stupid and you are asking questions because you are thinking critically. It’s scary when a student doesn’t ask questions! Look things up and if something is still unclear, get clarification from your clinical instructor or the primary nurse. Of course be mindful that it’s not at a time when they’re running in multiple directions! Better to ask questions now so you are better prepared when working as an RN.
5. I’m going to be bored during “down time” in clinical.
There is no such thing as “down time” in clinical! You are a sponge; every minute should be spent absorbing information. Read charts. Ask your patients about their lives and listen more than you talk. Be creative and develop teaching plans—from medication charts to health promotion guides. Talk to people in other disciplines to learn what they do. Observe how the staff interacts with each other and their patients to help you figure out what behaviors and attitudes are worthy of emulating so you can be the most professional nurse possible.
6. What if I could have said or done something in a better way?
Guess what? It will happen, and that’s okay. You’re here to learn and you are not expected to know everything right away. Learning is a process and involves reflection, even for experienced nurses. The key is to have insight into how you might have done something differently so you can adjust your approach accordingly.
7. It’s going to be difficult to get up so early!
This one is going to have to be chalked up to character building and getting used to the shifts nurses work. Oh, and the opportunity to see beautiful sunrises!
Perhaps these tips have helped assuage your concerns. Remember, be kind, inquisitive, and take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Take a deep breath and approach your patient warmly and with a smile, and both of you will be more relaxed. Being able to help your patients warrants more excitement than nervousness!
This post was written by Dr. Stacey Carroll, Assistant Professor of Nursing. Learn more about Dr. Carroll, here.