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.