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What are Nursing School Clinicals?

Staff Writer
Apr 19, 2022

Nursing school goes far beyond the classroom. Sure, you’ll spend plenty of time listening to lectures and reading up on anatomy, but eventually you’re going to have to put your knowledge to use. Clinicals get you out of the classroom and into the real world where you can do just that. They’re known for being challenging, but clinicals offer students invaluable instruction that can only be experienced through hands-on work in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions About Clinicals

Clinicals allow future nurses to experience the daily work of a professional healthcare provider, across various types of nursing specialties. Here are six frequently asked questions about nursing clinical routines and practices so you’re prepared when your rotation comes around.

1. What are clinicals?

Nursing clinicals are supervised periods where students practice nursing skills under the direction of a registered nurse, clinical instructor, or nursing educator. Students are introduced to general bedside and specialized care skills and interact with patients to gain first-hand experience in the field.

Clinicals are the hands-on application of the skills that nursing students have learned in lab settings and classroom dynamics. Practicing nursing as a student means shadowing working nurses, asking questions, helping where needed, and observing daily processes that may not be possible to convey in the classroom.

During your clinical rotation, you’ll take the didactic theory and information you learned in the classroom and apply it in a real-world setting. Since many students come from a background without any previous healthcare experience, this is their first introduction to what nursing is really like.

2. When do you start clinicals in nursing school?

Nursing students at Joyce spend their first semester in the classroom, but once the second semester starts, they spend at least one day a week in an actual nursing environment. Nursing students in their first clinical rotations are eased into the experience under the direct guidance of an instructor or registered nurse, but by the fifth and final semester, you will be completing more tasks autonomously.

Clinicals end with a semester of students working mostly independently. This part of clinicals is referred to as the capstone. It’s more of an independent role to transition them into getting their RN, as they take over the nurse’s workload as if they were the nurse. During your capstone clinicals, you may have options to practice your clinical rotations in other field environments such as volunteering with the MRC or through humanitarian aid projects.

3. How long are nursing clinicals?

Clinical nursing student’s daily shifts usually last from eight to 12 hours, much like what a nurse working full-time in a medical facility would experience. However, the overall duration of your specific nursing clinicals can last for several semesters, or even years depending on the nursing program you choose.

4. Why is clinical experience important?

Clinicals are where the rubber hits the road in your nursing school journey. By experiencing the world of nursing first-hand, students gain real-world experience and learn how to apply their classroom knowledge in a clinical environment.

Clinical placements present situations and experiences within various real-world settings that give students a more well-rounded education than just learning from case studies in the classroom. From outpatient clinics and community health centers to hospitals and mental health facilities, students see the same environments they will likely be working in after graduation. During this time, you not only get to see how nurses interact and care for patients, but you also gain valuable nursing experience to better prepare you for your first nursing job.

Gaining quality clinical experience is essential to a successful future as a nurse. Good performances in clinicals don’t just lead to esteem and respect, clinical experiences can often turn into solid networking opportunities for potential careers.15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs

5. How are students evaluated during clinicals?

Every school has its own system of grading the clinical portion of the program. At Ameritech, an evaluation form is used. Before their clinical shift, students make goals for what they want to accomplish during that shift.

At the end of clinicals, students are evaluated on the way they provided care, managed care, and how they acted as a member of the profession. However, the evaluation is not one-sided. Students get to evaluate the nurse they’re working with as well.

6. Do students get paid for clinicals?

No, students do not get paid for clinicals in nursing school. They are an extension of your comprehensive nursing education. While clinicals require students to work in real clinical settings, clinicals are an experiential learning opportunity that provides students with hands-on skill development.


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