How to be a rockstar in clinicals

Either you love clinical or you hate it…I loved it, though I wouldn’t say I didn’t dread it each and every time. Maybe it had something to do with my scary-as-heck first semester clinical professor, or maybe it was just that it was always difficult adjusting to a new unit, new people, new routines and new personalities.

Let’s face it, nurses aren’t always super friendly when the students show up on the unit…especially if they don’t have a choice in the matter. Yes, it is more work (usually) to supervise a student, but it can even out overall if you are a clinical rockstar! Here’s my best advice on how to make a fabulous impression on nurses and patients alike.

1) Show up prepared. This goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how often someone is missing a pen, or a stethoscope, or whatever. Whenever I need that one little thing, I always love it when a nearby student whips it out…be it a pair of scissors, an alcohol swab, an end cap or a hemostat.

2) Communicate with your RN at the beginning of the shift and let him/her know what you can do unsupervised vs. supervised. If it’s first semester and you’re all about the ADLs, introduce yourself to the nurses aids and let them know you’d like them to leave your patient’s baths and whatnot to you (they’ll love the extra help!)

3) Speaking of nurses aids, these angels are seriously your best friends on the floor. Help them out whenever you can and say “thank-you” whenever they do something for you. When you are juggling four to five patients, you will want to hug them at the end of each and every shift…I promise.

4) Make yourself useful. If you’ve been signed off on a certain skill such as wet-to-dry dressing changes…let your RN know you’d be happy to do her dressing changes for her, even if it’s not your patient. Or, do her blood sugars…something…anything to show her (or him!) you appreciate the extra time and effort.

5) Go the extra mile with your patients. Often you’ll have just a couple of patients, and while it can seem like you are juggling a lot in the beginning, you may find yourself with some extra time to do those little extras that nurses wish they had time for (but rarely do). I remember one time I gave my patient a foot massage and she about died of happiness…honestly, it was first semester and I wasn’t doing much yet at that point…so it was nice to feel useful! I call this the TLC aspect of nursing…do it while you can!

6) Get in there and practice your skills. Sadly, you may only get to do one Foley insertion the whole time you’re in school (most are put in in the ED or the OR it seems). If your charge nurse isn’t a total crankasaurus, let him/her know what skills you’d like to practice. I guarantee you that any RN will jump at the chance to have a student take care of something on their “to-do” list…and to ensure the nurse doesn’t have to take time out to supervise, ask your professor to come to the floor…chances are you need to be signed off anyway!

7) In regards to your assessments and documentation, it can seem overwhelming but really it boils down to two things that have stuck with me ever since scary-professor advised me in first semester: “Be accurate and be thorough.” Was your head-to-toe accurate? Did you really listen to all four quadrants? If not, go back and do it again…you may find that initially you go back several times to assess “those little things” you forgot the first time around. Don’t worry…it gets easier!

8) And this goes without saying…be professional (no texting!), say “thank you” and have fun!

Be safe out there!

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