For all of you new nursing students out there, welcome! Your very first clinical rotation is a great milestone in your journey to becoming a nurse. You’re probably filled with conflicting emotions; excitement, nervousness, happiness and even a little trepidation. These tips can help make your transition a smooth one. Before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned pro.
8 Tips for a Successful 1st Clinical Rotation
1. Get a good night’s sleep
Those first few 5 a.m. alarm calls are a rude awakening. You may pass other college students heading home from a night out as you make your way to your car. Getting to bed early is a challenge, but you need your sleep now more than ever. Try backing your bedtime by 15 minutes to start, then another 15 and so on. Avoid having a TV on in your room. If you like a little background noise, try a noise machine app. And although sleeping in on the weekends is tempting, don’t sleep the day away. It will only make the following week more difficult.
2. Ask questions
The single most important thing that you can do as you enter the nursing world is to ask questions — as many of them as possible. That’s where your education truly begins. Some nurses will be more receptive than others. Identify those early on — they (and your clinical instructors) are your greatest allies.
3. Practice assertive communication
You may be a new face and feel relatively inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice introducing yourself to people, shaking hands and making eye contact. Speak up if you don’t understand a direction or you don’t feel comfortable performing a task. If you have difficulty with a nurse on the floor, address it early on in a direct, but respectful manner. Observe how clinicians on the unit interact with one another–see if you can pinpoint examples of collaboration and assertive communication.
4. Get the most out of your clinical journaling assignments
Writing accounts of your clinical days can feel like a real drag. But don’t think of it as just another assignment. Journaling can be beneficial for you, too. It can help you process what you’re learning and what you’re feeling. It will allow you to let go of fears and difficult experiences, and remind you of all the reasons you want to be a nurse in the first place. Don’t put it off — write as soon as you can after your clinical day while your thoughts and feelings are fresh. Get it all out on the page without censoring yourself. Then go back and edit. Hand in the edited version as your assignment, but keep both for yourself. Someday you can take a trip down memory lane to see how far you’ve come.
5. Accept feedback gracefully
Don’t let the constructive feedback you receive overshadow the positive things you’ve been commended for. There always will be room for improvement; that doesn’t diminish your abilities! If someone tells you something that angers or upsets you, it’s possible that there may be a grain of truth. Acknowledge what you’ve heard and find a trusted professor or clinical instructor to process it with. It could be the lesson that takes you to the next level.
6. Let go of perfectionism NOW
As a nursing student, you’re expected to do your best, connect with patients, stay engaged, and do the right thing. But you’re not expected to be perfect. Forgive yourself for small mistakes and learn from the bigger ones. There isn’t a single healthcare professional who hasn’t made blunders. You aren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last.
7. Accept that you will do the “nursing student dance”
You’re in the report room (if there is a report room) or you’re standing behind the nurses station. There are a bunch of nurses, several students, and little to no space. You might get the sense that not everybody’s happy that you’re there. You’re just in the way.
We’ve all been there. It’s just part of the process. Remember how you feel, because one day you’ll be on the other side of that fence, with nursing students who look too young to drive. And they’ll need your kindness, just as much as you need kindness from the nurses who surround you.
It’s going to be OK.
Let me say that again.
It’s Going. To Be. OK.
You will get through all of your firsts; first mistake, first med administration, first care plans, first vital signs, first wound care, maybe even a first patient death. You will get through them and to the other side.
Try to enjoy the process. Make taking care of yourself a priority, and find ways to de-stress. Trust in yourself.
You’re going to do a great job! Thank you to the next generation of nurses for the difference you will all make in the world of healthcare.