As we’ve discussed, nursing schools typically guide students through three different modules of clinical practice – the skills lab, simulation, and practice with actual patients. The move to working with real people can be a bit daunting, but for nursing students who have done procedures several times with high-fidelity mannequins it’s generally less frightening.
Depending on the course and protocol at the clinical agency or your school, students may visit the site the night prior to clinicals to identify a patient he/she will care for the following day. For beginning students, a faculty member usually selects the patient. As a student, you’ll be required to take basic information from the patient chart and secure permission from the patient(s) to provide care the following day. You’ll also need to be prepared to address patient nursing needs, medications, laboratory values, and treatments with the instructor the next day.
Generally you will NOT be allowed to administer medications unless a faculty member is physically present. The same protocol is observed regarding treatments or clinical procedures. Your faculty member will orally quiz you about your assigned patient, focusing on the patient’s medical diagnosis, pathophysiology of diseases present, nursing process, and medications. Medication question often are subject to special focus to ensure you understand the rationale for their use, typical dosage, and side effects.
Of particular importance will be documentation of the assessments and care provided to your patients. With electronic health records becoming the standard, it’s likely this will be done electronically; however, instructors may require that you write down the entries prior to them being entered into the permanent electronic record
Some capstone courses (the last course in your degree plan) may use a preceptor model in which you work one-on-one with a nursing staff member. This model enables you to gain increasing independence in caring for more complex groups of patients, as would be expected of an entry level nurse. Whichever model your school follows, your instructor will monitor your performance, assess your ability to meet the specific clinical objectives identified for the course, and provide both a mid-term evaluation and your final assessment. The grade in most cases is pass/fail.
At the clinical stage of your training, patient safely is the ultimate guideline. There can be no short-cuts when providing nursing care to real patients.
An expert in nursing education, Dr. Anders focuses on program and learning excellence.