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How clinical placement prepares nursing students for a career in nursing

Nursing is a career that requires sound theoretical knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and other related sciences and their practical application to human health and wellbeing. As a result, the training of nursing professionals must necessarily involve practical and systemic exposure to healthcare service delivery.

Clinical placements are an opportunity for student nurses to practice what they have learned so far under the supervision of a more experienced nursing educator. It allows the student nurse to learn in a fast-paced environment, interpret complex care concepts, and prepare for a full career in nursing.

This blog post will explore the major ways in which clinical placement prepares nursing students for a career in nursing, skills that can be developed in clinical placements, and practical tips for making the most out of clinical placements.

Seven ways that clinical placements prepare nursing students

As discussed above, clinical placements are an important part of nursing education. Here are seven ways that clinical placements prepare nursing students for their careers:

  • Practical experience: Clinical placements allow students to practice and develop their nursing skills in a clinical environment. Nursing students learn how to take patient history, make records, perform basic physical exams, make appropriate clinical judgments, and order and obtain diagnostic tests. These valuable experiences cannot be fully understood by merely studying the learning materials.
  • Overcoming anxiety: Patient care can induce some anxiety in inexperienced nurses. Some patients can present with chronic conditions that may instill fear in nursing students or even act aggressively toward their healthcare providers, causing them to feel anxious. Repeated exposure to a clinical environment through clinical placements can help many nurses overcome this anxiety.
  • Develop good bedside manner: Interacting with patients during clinical placement helps nursing students to develop a good bedside manner. The way that nurses interact and communicate with patients has a huge impact on patient response and outcomes. Patients have reported how a good bedside manner by their healthcare professional matters to them. Clinical placements help nurses develop this critical skill.
  • Specialty: Clinical placements allow nursing students to make the all-important decision of choosing an area of specialty. Clinical placement requires rotations in different departments, giving nursing students an idea of what practice in a certain specialty would look like and enabling them to decide if it aligns with their personal interests and can give them professional fulfillment.
  • Professionalism: Clinical placement is the first introduction that nurses get to work as professionals. They learn how to interact with colleagues and superiors and handle patients and their relatives in a professional manner. Also, student nurses on clinical placements have to comply with the clinic’s dressing regulations, general office practice and hierarchy.
  • Exposure to other healthcare professionals: There are many professionals in the healthcare industry, and they all perform distinct roles in patient care. However, there must be a good synergy between all the professionals involved, be it physiotherapists, occupational therapists, lab scientists or pharmacists. Recognition of the distinct role that everyone plays will ensure the best outcomes for the patients and prevent conflicts in the system.
  • Mentorship and support: Experienced nursing professionals train nursing students during clinical placements. Working directly with these professionals can give room for developing an organic rapport for mentorship. Students also build a network of professionals who can support them through their careers.

Critical skills you develop through internship placements 

Internship placements are a great way to learn new skills. Skills that you will develop through internship placements include:

  • Communication: Communication is a critical soft skill that everyone needs to build. It is even more important for nurses as their jobs have a direct, immeasurable impact on human life and wellbeing. A nurse who can communicate can obtain critical information from their patients that will help in their care. Clinical placements allow nurses to develop this skill.
  • Patient-centered care: Nurses will learn during clinical placements to focus on their patients to achieve the best results. They learn how to manage the expectations of the patient’s relatives and how to sift out useful information from them, as against allowing them to dictate the approach to treatment. This will allow them to offer the best care and lifestyle advice to their patients.
  • Ability to work under pressure: The clinical environment is fast-paced and requires being able to handle significant pressure. Nurses must learn to cope in this environment without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms and aggressive behavior.
  • Emotional resilience: Clinical placements prepare nurses for the emotional rigors of their profession, which include watching patients suffer and sometimes die without being able to do anything about it. Nursing students gradually learn to be able to separate their feelings about their work and their personal life.
  • Teamwork: Nursing students learn teamwork during clinical placements as they must work with other healthcare professionals in the clinic to deliver the best outcomes for their patients regardless of their personal feelings about them.

How to make the most of clinical placements 

Aside from the fact that clinical placement is a prerequisite for their qualification, nurses must make a conscious effort to make the most of their clinical placement as it gives them a head start in their career.

  • The first step to making the most of your clinical placement is to find a good placement program. Finding a clinical placement can be difficult, but some programs such as the University of Indianapolis ABSN help their students secure placements.
  • As a nursing student, you need to prepare for your clinical placement. If you have senior colleagues who have just concluded a placement where you are going, ask them for advice about interacting with the hospital staff.
  • You should always show up for your clinic days, except if it is unavoidable. You do not want to get a reputation in the early days of your career of being someone who does not show up.
  • It is not just enough to show up – you should also be actively involved in your clinic’s activities. Volunteer to do tasks and say yes to learning opportunities that are presented to you.
  • You should also demonstrate a willingness to practice what you have learned and make sure that you always try to make sense of your practical exposure in terms of the theoretical knowledge you already have.

Clinical placements are an essential part of nursing education as they expose students to the practical aspects of their profession. Students must therefore make the most of their clinical placements by actively seeking to learn and grow during their time there.

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