Student Life


Surviving Your First Clinical

Written by: Ariana Speight

It’s the night before your first day of clinical. You can’t sleep because you’re thinking of every possible bad outcome that could happen to your patient. You can’t stop thinking about how you will mess something up. You get to clinical in the morning and it is not as bad as you think. The patient you are assigned to is very kind and the day ends up being great.

I am sure every nursing student is familiar with this feeling and experience. As a nursing student who has completed two semesters of clinicals, here are some tips that helped me survive and excel in my first clinicals and beyond.

1. Get everything you need ready the night or morning before clinical.

If you set everything up and make it easy for yourself to grab everything and go, you will not be stressed about forgetting something or packing something you may not need.

For every clinical I have a small notebook and pen to write down reminders for my patient tasks, vitals that I need to chart, and anything that my nurse may tell me throughout the shift. Just remember to not write down any patient identifiers!

Second, I always have my stethoscope; it is a necessity! Next, be sure to always have a watch. I use a scrub watch that I attach to my scrub top because I have a personal preference of not having anything on my wrists to avoid getting it wet or keeping germs around. You will use your watch for tracking medication administration times, glucometers, vitals, and SO much more. I also keep my penlight with me for vitals and anything else you may need it for!

Since you will be washing your hands a lot, it is important to keep some unscented hand lotion with you to keep your hands moisturized. Sometimes this is not a necessity because hospitals provide their own hand lotion for you to use.

Depending on your shift, be sure to pack lunch or dinner! Pack foods that will give you energy and keep your mind and body fueled for the shift. Make sure to pack and drink LOTS of water. You need to stay hydrated so you can be your best for the patients!

Last thing is compression socks. If you have long 8+ hour shifts, these come in handy! If you pack all these items and keep them in a neat place and ready to grab before clinical, you will be all set!

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.

You do not know everything and will, of course, need help or clarification. Do not think you are being a burden by asking your clinical instructor or Registered Nurse a question. They were in your shoes before and should understand. You may have nurses on the unit that are irritated or unwilling to help, so I would just approach them politely but do not hesitate to ask questions.

You are in the hospital to learn and become the best nurse possible. This is a cliché, but no question is a dumb question! Take advantage of the learning experience in the hospital and the opportunity to see RN’s do what you will be doing in just a few years.

3. Be humble.

It is so important to be humble in clinical. Admit when you don’t know how to do something or don’t know the right answer. The last thing you want is to make a medical mistake because you did not admit that you couldn’t complete a task properly. It is better to get a nurse to demonstrate the skill before you perform it to be sure on how to execute it.

4. Relax and enjoy the experience to learn.

Last but not least, just relax! You are a nursing student in clinical to learn. No one expects you to know everything and be able to complete every task on your own. But - that is the joy of nursing school! You are there to grow and take advantage of the opportunity to learn new skills in a hospital setting. Enjoy the amazing opportunity that you get to preview your future profession in nursing.

From my first day of clinical, I was reassured that this profession is what I want to do. Nursing is such a rewarding field because we get to care for people at their most vulnerable moments in life. That is a great role, and we get the incredible opportunity to provide care for our patients. I hope these tips help you to get through clinical. We got this!