First of all: congrats on making it into nursing school! You should feel incredibly proud of your accomplishment. Nursing school is hard, so anything I can do to make it easier for you, I will. These are few things that I would’ve liked to know before my first clinical, so I hope they help you! Let’s get into it…
Easy to say, hard to do. But seriously, take a deep breath. Every single nurse on the floor has been in your shoes before. All of your classmates are in the same boat. Your clinical instructor has likely lead so many group of newbies. So, you’re not alone. Find a way to relax the night before. Watch your favorite show, do some yoga, or deep condition your hair
If you find yourself cycling through all the things that could go wrong, re-frame your “what if”s. Instead of thinking of all the negative possibilities, think “what if I learn a lot?” or “what if I get the opportunity to prove a skill I practiced a lot?” What if your nurse is really kind and helpful? What if you impact a patient’s life?
Prepare the night before.
My clinicals always started at 0615, which meant I had to leave my house at 0530. I would be prepared down to a T. This helps me prevent stress and makes the morning routine go that much more smoothly.
I literally hang my scrubs up ready to go, with my stethoscope, pen lights, clamp, pens, etc. in the pockets. I sit my shoes out with my socks in them. I pack the bag that I take with my lunch already made and my water bottle filled up.
Know where you’re going.
Directions? Parking? Meeting spot?
Know your expectations and limits.
These are parameters that are set by your hospital and your school. Normally, your first clinical will be part orientation/part shadowing. But you will know some things going into this clinical, and you should be prepared to do them if the opportunity presents!
Can you do assessments? Access the charting system? Are you allowed to give meds? Are not allowed to give IV pushes? Your instructor should provide this information you. Note it!
Set a goal.
You can use the expectations your instructor has for you to set a goal. Your goal should be specific enough that you can accomplish it, but also broad enough that it will fit with whatever patient situation you get.
Eat well and hydrate.
Breakfast, lunch, and snacks! I always eat overnight oats made with soy milk and strawberries before my clinicals. This fills me up and give me long-lasting energy that helps get me through clinical. You absolutely have to eat breakfast.
I also make sure to bring a protein bar or a Cliff bar in my scrub pocket. Preventing brain fog and that mid-morning blah is a must.
Speak up for yourself.
You have to make your voice be heard with your nurse preceptor and your instructor. Too often things don’t go as well as they could have because the student didn’t tell the nurse the thing she can do…. so you’re caught listening to the nurse explain things you already know, or assuming you can do more than you actually can. Both are bad, but can be prevented through speaking up. Tell your nurse, “Hey, I’d really like to try inserting that foley,” or “Actually, we can only give meds with our preceptor.” It’s not rude or awkward.
All in all…
You’ll do great! Believe in yourself, try your hardest, and be prepared. I know you can do it.