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Raonna Armstrong

What to Expect on Your First Day of Clinicals

Clinicals are an important part of every nursing students’ journey, but there are a few things that I wish someone had shared with me things before my first day.

My name is Raonna Armstrong and I am currently a senior in the nursing program at Herzing University in Minneapolis. I was inspired to become a nurse because I enjoy helping people at the frontlines of healthcare, which I learned during my six-year military career.

My first day of clinicals is something that I will never forget! Right now, COVID-19 has temporarily affected clinicals since we now use virtual simulations to meet our clinical hours. There are pros and cons to being virtual right now, but it is a great experience for nursing students like me to learn how to adapt to change!

Clinicals are an important part of every nursing students’ journey, but there are a few things that I wish someone had shared with me things before my first day. Here are 5 things you might encounter on your first day of clinical:

1. Some Running Around

When I went to my first day of clinical, I thought I was going to be on the floor getting vitals, passing meds, completing my head to toe assessments right away. Not so fast! We were assigned to a floor and a nurse. It can be hard being followed around by a nursing student, especially if the day is busy, but your nurse will work with you throughout the day to help teach you and answer your questions.

Once you’ve met and introduced yourself to the nurse, you will be assigned a patient, and then you will really start your day!

2. You can look but don’t touch!

Remember when I said I thought I was going to be taking vitals, passing meds, and completing my head to toe assessment on my first day? Well on your first day of clinical, you’ll more than likely do a lot of watching. You might wonder when you will get to do everything, but don’t worry, you will, but just not on your first day of clinicals!

Your instructors believe that observing for the first day will allow you to feel more comfortable when that second day comes. After observing, then it is your time to shine! Personally, I really enjoyed observing as it was a great way to see how I was supposed to do things on my own. Although you might be frustrated watching on your first day, I promise you, observation day is going to be extremely beneficial to you in the long run!

3. Geriatrics galore!

Your first clinical experience might be in a long-term care (LTC) facility or assisted living facility. When I first started my clinical, I wanted to get right involved in all the action by working in a hospital room but, to my surprise, I truly enjoyed working in the LTC facility with the older population.

I got to interact with my patients so much, and we were able to do a lot with them over the course of my clinical. I checked blood sugars, administered insulin, I helped change a wound VAC and helped change PICC dressings, IV dressings and so much more!

Along with that, the patients were so sweet and kind. They love talking with nursing students because they may not be able to interact with new people. They really love the attention that we provide them because they are our number one priority when we are there! It is truly life-changing.

4. Feet pain!

My start time for my first day of clinical was 6:30 a.m., ending at 3 p.m. That is 8 1/2 hours of being on my feet! I came from a desk job, so standing for 8.5 hours was a huge change for me. My feet hurt when I was finished, especially since we were very busy during my shift. We had some chance to sit down at the beginning and then for lunch, but a lot of time is spent standing that I didn’t expect!

You’ll want to invest in some top of the line shoes to wear during your shift. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end!

Right now, virtual clinicals have been good to my feet. During these virtual clinicals, you’ll typically meet for 30 minutes to an hour in the beginning, come back after lunch for a little discussion, and then again, an hour before your clinical shift ends to catch up again. It is nice having the chance to sit down a bit more!

5. The early bird gets the worm!

Clinicals are notorious for starting super early, so getting a good night's rest is very important. To be successful and not stress yourself out, you should prep your meals, your uniform and your clinical resources the day before. Believe me, if you do this, it will start your clinical day off right and put you in a mood to thrive and shine!

For myself, I graduate in August 2021 and I plan on going straight into the ICU because I know that is where my heart lies. Then I plan on going back to school to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) after a few years as a nurse. I cannot wait for the journey that lies ahead of me!

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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