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What are Nursing Clinicals?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Nursing clinicals are supervised sessions in real world health care environments which allow nursing students to put their knowledge and skills to work. Clinicals are the nursing equivalent of internships and residencies for doctors, and they are a critical part of medical training, as they give nurses a chance to work with real patients in a supervised setting before being thrust into real nursing work without instructors and guides ready to step in and assist.

During nursing clinicals, nurses are assigned to work with patients in a variety of departments, and they usually work side by side with nurses who have completed their training, along with instructors, doctors, and other health care providers. The nursing students are rotated through a variety of settings, from intensive care wards to outpatient clinics, so that they get to interact with a wide variety of patients, and to see a broad spectrum of health care interventions and situations.

Before being allowed to participate in nursing clinicals, students must finish a set period of training in the classroom, in which they gather the book knowledge they will need to be successful nurses. This knowledge encompasses everything from common nursing interventions used in specific medical situations to ethical issues which nurses may encounter in the course of the work. Students are also given an opportunity to work in lab environments, and to “treat” actors who are hired to be model patients.

In addition to being used to provide educational opportunities, nursing clinicals are also used by teachers to evaluate their students. Students are expected to thoroughly research their patients, and to be prepared to answer questions relating to patient care, the history of the individual patient, and other issues. Supervisors will also observe the way in which the nursing student interacts with the patient; for example, is the student cold and unfeeling, even though excellent medical care is provided? These observations are used to guide the student, and to determine final grades.

Many schools with nursing programs have affiliated hospitals where students can carry out their clinicals. Nursing clinicals may also be conducted at regional and area hospitals which have an agreement with the nursing program.

For students, nursing clinicals can be intense, because they provide the first opportunity to interact with real patients, and to make decisions which could have very real consequences. Students should remember that they are there to learn, and they should never be afraid to say that they don't understand something, or don't feel comfortable performing a procedure without assistance or direction.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By cafe41 — On Jan 03, 2011

Mutsy-Nursing school clinicals begin in the first year of nursing school. You will use the skill that you learned while performing work on your lab classes.

It will involve giving a patient a shot, dressing wounds, taking vital statistics, giving baths, and inserting catheters.

You will also be giving medication and using your nursing plan for your patient. Clinical nursing education can be challenging because it will be the first time that you will interacting with a real patient, but if you do your pre work as it is designed the nursing clinical ladders should not be too difficult.

By mutsy — On Jan 01, 2011

Nursing school clinicals are the equivalent of the internships that teachers have to do in order to have the necessary hands on experience to perform their jobs once they graduate.

Clinical nursing education involves interaction and treatment of actual patients. Many hospitals have reciprocity agreements in which they will participate in the nursing school clinical and even offer the student a job upon graduation.

Due to the shortage of nurses, many hospitals are also offering tuition assistance once the student enters into the nursing program provided that they agree to work for the hospital upon graduation.

I know that Baptist Hospital in Miami does this and they were recently regarded as one of the top 100 places for working women to work.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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