Your nursing school education includes critically important, strategically placed clinical rotations. Clinical rotations, or “clinicals”, are part of your core nursing courses, where you will gain hands-on experience caring for patients. You will be supervised by your Faculty, or by a designated preceptor who is a Registered Nurse. Clinicals also provide you with an opportunity to work alongside an interdisciplinary team. It is through your clinical experience that you make the connection between nursing knowledge and nursing practice.
Regardless of the clinical rotation, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, interact with, and directly support the staff, increasing your capacity to deliver top-quality patient care. With so many paths to take, you might be wondering—what can I expect to experience when my clinical rotations kick-off?
Let’s jump into the common clinical rotations:
Your first clinical rotation is where your nursing practice foundation is established. You will perform physical assessments, and assist with daily needs in oxygenation, hygiene, and mobility. You may administer medication, tube feedings, and change wound dressings during this rotation as well. The Fundamentals clinical rotation often takes place in a long-term care facility or skilled nursing facility. This setting is the perfect place for nursing students to polish their skills in multiple areas. You will likely see complex wound care in a long-term care setting, as well as provide care for patients with multiple, chronic disease processes. You will not only be caring for patients but their families, as well. Families are adjusting and coping with change – nurses are instrumental in facilitating this process. While some students may go into this clinical under the assumption they won’t learn as much, nursing students gain hands-on patient experience in an environment where they have an immense impact.
The medical-surgical unit, or “Med-Surg,” is typically what students imagine when they think about clinicals. The Med Surg rotations follow Fundamentals, where you build upon your nursing practice foundation. In this setting, you will provide care to patients with acute and chronic health issues.
Your responsibilities will gradually increase to offer increased hands-on learning with more patients. Due to the intense nature of the Med-Surg clinicals, you will often be tasked with time-sensitive scenarios — it is important to remain calm, work with your assigned team, and remember that you are never alone, and have support on-site to guide you at all times. The Med Surg clinicals are where you will see a great deal of interdisciplinary collaboration. You may have the opportunity to attend “rounds” on your assigned unit, or an observation experience in the emergency department.
Labor and Delivery
Having the ability to help bring new lives into the world and care for expecting mothers is an incredible opportunity. As a nursing student in a labor and delivery clinical, you can expect to perform a physical assessment, assess the fetal heart rate, observe the labor and delivery stages, assist the mother during birth, and help the nursing staff with the newborn’s initial assessments.
During a labor and delivery clinical rotation, your assistance is influential to one of the most emotional and important days a person will go through. By providing a smile, kind words, tenderness and strength, you and the rest of the labor and delivery team can ensure all parties involved are comfortable, safe, and healthy.
Often one of the most eye-opening and difficult—yet rewarding—clinical rotations is psychiatric nursing. Remember that mental health needs are often unmet, and these needs can occur in any setting. You may attend your mental health clinic in a psychiatric unit, or hospital, however, you may attend this rotation in a variety of settings. As a nursing student, you will be exposed to patients of all ages and backgrounds, who have often faced lifelong challenges as a result of their illnesses. You may be responsible for charting, observing diverse methods of therapy and treatment, and may administer medication, as well.
Nursing care is provided holistically – assessing each patient encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual health needs. You will learn about our vulnerable populations such as homeless individuals, and veterans returning from deployment. During your mental health clinical rotation, you will work alongside providers from the interdisciplinary team, and collaborate on the patient’s plan of care.
Upon completion of each clinical rotation, your confidence to provide safe and effective care will increase, and you will begin to develop your “nursing identity”. Your nursing identity is your unique transition from layperson to professional. You will feel this transition, and you will cherish it because you earned it through the completion of a rigorous education, with many hours of clinical experience. Upon graduation from this program, on the day that you are pinned - you WILL FEEL DIFFERENT – and deservedly so!
- Be Prepared: From day one, it’s important to be actively prepared for anything and everything. While you’re not expected to know it all, being focused, ready to learn on your feet and willing to try is crucial in the learning process.
- Be Positive and Ready: Put your best foot forward and make a positive impression on the staff at your clinicals. Having a “can-do” attitude and willingness to step in, or back off, where needed, furthers your education. This can ensure that you are a beneficial asset to those around you. When opportunities arise for you to help, be engaged, do the best you can, and never be afraid to ask for clarity or assistance.
Herzing’s School of Nursing is made up of a variety of programs and flexible career pathways to provide you and your peers with the necessary resources to succeed in class, during clinicals, and into your next rewarding career.