Nursing school is said to be the hardest time in a nurse's life. Just looking back, I think going through my nursing program was the biggest accomplishment of my life so far. Not only because I became a nurse, but also because I made it through the hardship and challenges in the end. Anyone will tell you how difficult nursing school can be. With my platform and blog, I love to give advice on what to expect in both perspectives (nursing school and reality).
In this blog post, I am covering what is expected during your clinical rotation in school and what happens in the nursing world.
During nursing school, you have a set schedule to where you show up to clinical, get your assignment, is told what time to leave for lunch, and when it is time to debrief before the shift is over. This gives the students the opportunity to reflect on their time on the floor and ask as many questions as needed. In clinical rotations, the ideal thing is to get 1 on 1 exposure with the patients. You are to put your knowledge to work. Timing is limited because of the set hours per clinical rotation, i.e. 8 -12 hours per shift. Sometimes you will not get you much exposure with your patient unless you are with the patient from start to the end of the shift.
Timing as a nurse overall is based around your patient. If you come into a shift with an unstable patient, you will be with that said patient until they are stable or until the shift is over (12-13 hours later). There will be shifts where you are on the go from beginning to end. Late on charting and behind on medication administrations. For the breaks, what exactly is a break? In most states, other than California, breaks are sometimes limited. I know in critical care we have very sick patients and are unable to leave the area to eat. *Word from the wise, always bring water and quick snacks to stuff your mouth if you do not get a lunch break.*
With being assigned a patient during nursing school, your instructor basically asks the charge nurse about the patients. You will have the experience of working with complex patients, but in the beginning you will have patients that are less complex. Complex patients overall are patients that are critically ill, are in need for transferring to a higher level of care, has had a adverse reaction to a medication, or even is combative and confused. In the thought of this, you will not truly know how to treat these patients until you become a licensed nurse.
In reality, assignments may not be based on acuity, i.e. the balance of the sickness of the patients. You may have multiple patients that are unstable. Sometimes, nurses come to work and may have to change their assignments 2-3 times a shift due to admissions and discharges. There will also be times where nurses leave early or come in late making your assignments change as well.
The whole goal in nursing school is to get your degree and work towards getting your license as a nurse. With this being said, you will not have a license during clinical. This results to you being under your clinical instructor’s license. They will tell you there are certain things you cannot do, such as give insulin, because it may put the patient at risk. Ideally, you will be with a nurse during clinical and they will take advantage of that. They will let you do as much as you can, but you have to remember that this is a learning experience and you should not put yourself or the patients at risk for harm. If anything happens, you will at fault and your instructor’s license will be at stake.
As a licensed nurse, you are in it alone. Always remember to CYA! If you did it, document it. If the patient does or says something, document it. When a vital sign is abnormal, document it and recheck for clarity. Always call the primary physician when something is going on and document the conversation. Because at the end of the day, you will be at fault. YOUR license is what makes you a nurse!!
XOXO Nurse B