5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Clinical Experience
I have worked in the medical field for more than 20 years as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) and a care specialist at a mental health facility. Throughout my career, I have had many life-changing experiences that have shaped my professional goals. One of the most valuable experiences was my recent clinical rotation in the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program at Herzing University.
Many nursing students do not understand the importance of their clinical experiences. Not only do you have the opportunity to make a strong first impression with a potential employer, but you also have a chance to put your classroom knowledge into "real life" practice.
Here’s how students can make the most of their clinical experiences:
The reviews you earn from your clinical supervisors and colleagues will follow you wherever you go, so it’s important to conduct yourself professionally at all times. Make sure your uniform is clean and ironed and that you maintain a positive attitude when working with patients and other members of the staff.
Displaying professionalism during your clinical rotations can definitely pay off in the long run. It can even help you land a job before graduation. Several students in my nursing cohort have already received and accepted job offers at their prior clinical site.
Don’t show up for your first day empty-handed. Bring a notebook and pen with you, and be prepared to take notes. You’ll also want to remember your watch and a calculator since you should not be using your phone at any point while you’re on shift – whether it’s to check the time or perform a quick calculation.
It's also important to be punctual every day. If you’re nervous about getting to your clinical site, try taking a test trip the day before. Make sure that you do it at the same time you would be commuting to work so that you can account for traffic delays.
You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you need to ask for clarification or more information. Asking questions is the only way you can learn. In fact, if you are shadowing a nurse, it’s best to come prepared with a list of questions or topics you would like to learn more about. If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, that’s OK too. Just make sure to do your research and remember the answer the next time.
You can still make a difference as a nursing student. If you see an opportunity to improve a patient outcome or help out in another way, go for it! Just make sure to ask your supervisor beforehand. Taking the initiative to do some creative problem-solving can help you position yourself as a standout student and as a good future employee.
For example, during my recent clinical rotation, I saw a need for us to have more white towels, socks and undershirts for our patients to use. I started an online fundraiser with my cohort and we delivered two cases of towels to the facility. I’m still collecting and expect to make several more deliveries. Helping the facility and its clients showed that great nurses do more than just delegate. We act!
Update your resume
You will learn so many valuable skills during your clinical rotation, and it’s a good idea to keep track of them. Start a log of what you are learning each day, as well as any accomplishments or positive outcomes you contributed to. You can draw on these experiences in your resume, cover letters and future interviews.
Nurture your connections
It is also a wonderful touch to leave behind thank-you notes for all those who helped you during your clinical and to include a business card with your note. This is one way that you can continue to nurture the professional connections after your rotation has ended. I also recommend joining LinkedIn and the National Student Nursing Association (NSNA) to continue building your professional network.
I wish you all success in achieving your nursing degrees and career goals! I’m looking forward to continuing my education and beginning my LPN career. My goal is to raise the profile of LPNs and ensure that everyone on the medical team feels appreciated by each other so we can continue to provide great quality care to all clients.