One of the most exciting and exhausting aspects of nursing school is the clinical rotation. You can expect long hours and great patients (and a wonderful educational experience).

But what else should you expect from a nursing school clinical rotation? We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you can expect

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What to Expect in Nursing School Clinicals?

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Clinicals are a mandatory part of nursing school. There is usually one clinical rotation each semester that are 10-12 hour shifts depending on your program. Clinical is generally done in a pass/fail grading system, so it takes a little stress off you compared to everything else you’re dealing with.

Clinical is usually not that difficult as long as you show up on time, prepared, and with a good attitude.

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1. What are Clinicals in Nursing School?

Clincals are the application of everything a nursing student learns in the classroom or lab settings. A student goes out to a clinical setting (like a hospital) and follows a licensed nurse to learn how to be a nurse first-hand.

Related: How to Pass Clinicals in Nursing School

2. What Do Nursing Students Do in Clinical?

You’ll be starting and discontinuing IVs, administering medications, and any other activity performed by a nurse. It’s important to remember you must be supervised by a nurse if you’re performing any skills that require a nursing license with your state.

Clinicals are your opportunity to get your feet wet in the world of nursing. The clinical site (hospital, nursing home, etc.) will largely dictate the type of experience you have. Because of that, each semester will be a little different.

3. When Do Nursing Students Start Clinical?

Clinicals usually start during your first semester of nursing school (this can vary depending on the nursing program). Clinicals continue until your senior year, so it’s important to get comfortable being in the clinical environment.

Please note that getting comfortable being in the clinical environment can take some time. But rest assured, before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned nursing student and master in your clinical rotations.

4. How Long are Clinicals in Nursing School?

Some clinical rotations in nursing school can last as long as 8-12 hours, and you may be required to be at the clinical site several times a week for either the entire academic semester or a portion of it.

5. Where Do Nursing Students Do Clinical?

Some of the places nursing students do clinicals include hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Even local prisons will sometimes allow nursing students to do their rotation there.

Every class you take will be different (i.e., Med-Surg, Fundamentals, etc.). Your clinical rotation and location will follow whatever content you’re learning during your lecture portion of nursing school.

Your program will ultimately dictate your clinical site, but they may allow you to select from a list (this depends on your program, all of them are different).

Nursing Student Academy

Check out the comprehensive supplemental course nursing students are taking to improve their grades and pass nursing school.

6. What Should I Bring with me to Clinical?

Bring snacks, a lunch (you may not be allowed to leave your facility for lunch), or money to purchase food from the cafeteria (if there is one at your facility). You will also want to bring your stethoscope, scrubs, a very comfortable pair of shoes, and any assignments you have.

I want to emphasize two things. The first is to make sure you bring any paperwork and assignments you have. Come prepared for clinical.

I mentioned earlier it should be a relatively easy class to pass. Well, the easiest way to fail nursing school clinical is by not being prepared. Or habitually showing up late.

The second point I want to emphasize is to bring a good pair of nursing shoes. You’re going to be on your feet a lot during those long shifts, so make sure you take care of your feet.

Dansko has long been hailed as the queen of all nursing clogs, but they are expensive. If you can afford it, you should definitely try to grab yourself a pair!

They have a ton of fun patterns and colors that will fit your unique style.

7. Are Nursing Students Paid During Clinical

Unfortunately, no, you’re not paid for clinical. In fact, you usually pay the facility for the ability to work there and learn the profession! With the help of student loans and grants, you can offset some of the costs.

I talk more about if nurses get paid for clinical in the linked article. Check out that article for the full discussion.

8. Can I Do Clinicals on the Weekend?

Some nursing school programs do have weekend clinical. If having a weekend clinical is important for you, check with the nursing school before applying.

9. What Should I Avoid in Nursing School Clinical?

The number one unwritten rule of nursing clinical? Leave the drama at home!

Seriously, do not get involved if there is drama going on with the staff or with your classmates. This seems like an obvious piece of advice, but it can ruin a clinical experience if you’re dealing with drama on top of trying to learn.

That being said, there is a saying, “nurses eat their young,” for a reason. If you are being bullied or belittled during clinical by a nurse, talk to your instructor. You do not have to tolerate abuse simply because you’re a student.

You’ll also want to make sure you keep your cell phone put away and do not take pictures inside of patient’s rooms or around patient information! This can get you removed from your clinical site, as it can be a HIPAA violation.

Nursing Student Academy

Check out the comprehensive supplemental course nursing students are taking to improve their grades and pass nursing school.

10. Anything else?

Yes! Make sure to take care of yourself. Burnout is a very real thing, so you’ll want to practice plenty of self-care during nursing school and clinical.

Self-care looks different for everyone, so whether you enjoy gardening, reading, or relaxing with a movie, you’ll need to make sure you find something that works for your unique self!

You Learn so Much in Nursing Clinicals

Let’s face it, nursing school is hard. But it’s worth it!

I hope this has helped you gain more confidence before going into your first day of clinical. Just have fun, work hard, and remember to breathe!

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