Clinical placements are one of a nursing degree’s most exciting but challenging parts. In a clinical order, you will work with qualified professionals, experiencing the real-life shifts of a nurse. Under their supervision, you can put into practice the knowledge you have learned in your course, honing your skills as a nurse. A successful clinical placement is a huge step in your journey toward becoming a nurse. As these placements are so important, student nurses are keen to make the most of them. If you are a student nurse or considering embarking on a nursing degree, some key tips can help you maximize the opportunities of clinical placements.
Securing a placement
Making the most of clinical placements begins before you start the post or even enroll in the course. Securing an order can be hard work, with students sometimes approaching over 400 sites before finding a preceptor. This is time-consuming and will leave you less time to concentrate on your studies. Therefore, considering this aspect before applying for a course is a good idea. Look to see what assistance a system will provide in securing clinical placements. For example, the university may link strongly with clinical settings in their city and surrounding area.
If you intend to enroll in an online nursing degree, do not assume that this means you will work independently to secure placements, as many will offer assistance. A good example of this can be found at Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing. They will collaborate with their online ABSN students to identify appropriate clinical sites and preceptors, freeing them to concentrate on their coursework, core competencies, and other personal and professional obligations.
Make a good impression in advance.
Complete any forms and undertake any drug tests, background checks, or vaccinations required immediately. Find out as much as possible about the clinical placement before you start, particularly any rules or guidelines they follow, such as whether jewelry is allowed and other aspects around appearance or uniform. Try to introduce yourself to your preceptor and other staff in advance. If possible, visit in person so you can understand the layout of the building and put names to faces before you start. But if that is not possible, an introductory email can make a good impression and allow your placement to start well.
Asking questions is the best way to develop your knowledge but be aware of how and when to ask them. Asking questions is the best way to build your understanding but be mindful of how and when to ask them. Asking questions is the best way to develop your knowledge but be aware of how and when to ask them. On a clinical placement, you will be working alongside experienced professionals. These are the perfect people to ask about any aspects of the job ranging from general questions to ones about the specific situations you experience. It may not be appropriate to ask them on the spot while attending to patients. Instead, ask your preceptor about the best time to ask questions. Perhaps they or another staff member will be happy to debrief at the end of a shift.
You should ask questions on the spot if you do not fully understand an instruction. Do not hesitate to ask your preceptor or another staff member to repeat instructions. Trying to follow an education you have not understood will make a very poor impression.
Go above and beyond
Hospitals and other clinical settings employ many professionals who must work together to get the best patient results. Hospitals and different clinical settings use many professionals who need to work together to get the best results for their patients. If there are opportunities beyond those offered by your clinical placement, take them. Find out if you can visit other wards to see how they operate or ask to shadow those working there. Don’t just learn from the nursing staff. Take the chance to learn more about the roles of other professionals in the setting, such as radiographers, physiotherapists, or surgeons. Understanding their functions will help you in your work once you are qualified.
Take on feedback
Your preceptor and the other nurses working with you are optimally placed to provide feedback on your progress. It’s certainly nice when they praise your abilities and offer tips for you to develop even further. But understand it is also their job to provide criticism when your standards fall short. While hearing criticism is never pleasant, try not to take it badly. Instead, see it as guidance on improving your skills and ask questions about the methods you can use. Ultimately you should develop as a nurse throughout your clinical placement, and that means taking on the feedback of others.
Clinical placements are exciting and challenging but also daunting and stressful, so make plans in advance for how you will take care of yourself. It is worth building up support networks among other nursing students. When times are difficult, it can be heartening to hear how others have also experienced those difficult times but come through them. And it might not be too far in the future that you can support and reassure other students sharing the same.
In a hectic schedule, you should also take the time for self-care. You cannot maximize the opportunities of your clinical placement if you are burnt out and exhausted. Making sure you have nutritious meals to eat and sufficient sleep can go a long way to helping you be in the best possible shape to take advantage of the opportunities. Finding ways to relax at the end of your shift, from a warm bath to watching your favorite TV show, can all help relieve the mental load.
Making the most of placements
Clinical placements allow you to experience the real-life working environment of a nurse. Although often exhausting, stressful, and fast-paced, they provide many opportunities to grow as a nurse. They may also offer employment opportunities after you qualify as you impress those who work there – just one more reason to make the most of them.