Nursing school clinicals require students to get hands-on experience with patient care. But what kind of experiences do schools expect students to have?
Clinicals are pretty standard across nursing programs because specialized fields of study can only be learned after a student has nailed the basics. So, nursing schools cover the basics with an increasing level of complexity.
In the Beginning...
The start of your hands-on experience in nursing will likely be in a long-term care facility. Students practice the fundamentals of nursing like ambulating patients, changing linens, bed baths and therapeutic communication. You will get an opportunity to map the disease process, study the medications and consider what interventions would best help the patient.
Adult Health (Medical/Surgical Nursing)
The bread and butter of nursing is med-surg. You will learn how patients should recover from surgery and what complications to look out for. You may be able to spend a day or two in the OR and follow your patient into the PACU. Primarily though, you will be caring for patients who are sick, but not sick enough to be in the ICU, and you will be expected to begin the process of multitasking for multiple patients.
What you learn in your psych clinicals you will take with you throughout your life, both personally and as a nurse. Patients you take care of will have a physical illness in addition to a psychiatric problem. In this part of your nursing program, you will learn about psych medications, suicide prevention, alcohol withdrawals and more therapeutic communication.
Mamas, Babies and Kids
Nursing students will get the amazing opportunity to care for laboring mothers and newborn babies. You will learn about potential complications of labor, the importance of prenatal care, fetal heart monitoring, postpartum care of the woman and newborn and much more.
Pediatric clinicals will introduce you to the specific concerns of a sick child. They are not simply tiny adults; they have health concerns and developmental milestones that need to be taken into account. Involving the parents in the care of the child is another skill that is addressed.
If you choose to attend a BSN program, you will be able to study the community as a client. Public health, from vaccines to homelessness to disaster management, will be studied and practiced in schools, clinics and shelters.
Your nursing knowledge will converge as you enter your critical care clinical. Multitasking, the basics, complex illnesses, heart monitoring, etc., will all be practiced as you work in intensive care and, if your program allows it, one or two days in the ER.
The final leg of your nursing school race is the immersion experience. You will be able to select one area from the above that you would like to practice in-depth, and you will be placed in a local hospital. Sometimes a spot isn't available, so an alternate must be chosen. It is a chance to live the life of a real nurse and take the reins in managing your own patients.
You don't get to choose all of your nursing clinicals, but they will all give you skills to be a great nurse and help you explore what really speaks to you.
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