The heart of nursing is in clinical practice. The knowledge you gain in class is important, of course, but most important will be your nursing competency and skill. The competencies needed to provide care to patients will be learned in your skills lab and then perfected during your required clinical practice. While in nursing school, you’ll typically undergo clinical practice in three different modules: the skills lab, simulation, and actual practice with real patients. We’ll discuss the first area here.
The skills lab offers nursing students opportunities to become competent in a variety of essential skills, including basic hygiene care of patients, making a bed (including when the patient is in it), bathing bedridden patients, feeding patients and getting them out of bed, providing oral care, and more. Complex competencies to be practiced may range from putting on sterile gloves, maintaining sterile fields and drawing blood, to mixing and administering insulin, starting IVs and using infusion pumps, and preparing EKGs. The skills list varies according to the type of nursing study you enter.
Your skills lab will have DVDs on all major procedures so you can refer to a visual demonstration of most skills that you’ll practice. You’ll also find simulated arms for practice in starting IVs and mannequins for inserting medical tubes, catheters and other devices. The skills lab also will have wheelchairs, hospital beds and linen for practicing how to properly make a patient’s bed, crutches and canes, and various oxygen administration and suction devices.
It will be in the skills lab that you’ll learn how to integrate the nursing process into management of patients, based upon the skills lab check-off list required for your particular program. Nursing skills generally are graded on a pass/fail basis. It is important to master everything on your skills lab check-off list because that’s how your ability to safely perform the assigned activities will be assessed. The goal is for you to become as competent as possible so you can perform these tasks on real patients.
If you’d like to learn more about nursing and its required competencies, you can start your research at www.fortis.edu.
Dr. Anders is a funded researcher by the National Institute of Health in minority health disparities.