What Is a Clinical Practicum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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A clinical practicum provides hands-on training opportunities to people preparing for health care careers in fields like nursing and counseling. This can also be a part of education for social workers and teachers. Participants complete some classroom education requirements before applying for positions in a clinical practicum. They may need to complete a set number of hours to graduate from a training program, and similar hours requirements can be set for obtaining a license to practice. Stipulations like these help to ensure that people have a minimum number of hours in direct service before they start work in the field.

There are two critical components to a clinical practicum. The first is an opportunity to observe experienced mentors and preceptors while they work with patients and clients. For ethical reasons, the student on a clinical practicum needs to obtain consent from the client to confirm it is okay to sit in during an appointment and observe. Preceptors can discuss the case with the student, who has an opportunity to ask specific questions and participate in follow-up.


Another aspect involves providing direct care under supervision. Students in a clinical practicum can be assigned patients, clients, and classrooms to have an opportunity to practice. Informed consent requirements also play a role here, as people may feel uncomfortable working with a student in training. While offering direct care, the student is as independent as possible, but discusses the experience later with a mentor, who can also step in to intervene during sessions if the student gets into trouble.

During the course of a clinical practicum, participants may be required to attend lectures, conferences, and meetings as part of their work. They can participate in administrative tasks to learn more about policies and how facilities are run. These provide opportunities to discuss cases, understand all aspects of the field, and receive feedback on their performance. Nursing students, for example, can present and discuss cases and talk about what went wrong to determine how to prevent similar problems in the future.

Educational institutions with a clinical practicum requirement often have an established relationship with partners who accommodate students. Individuals will need to apply for a practicum, and in some cases may need to make an arrangements with an outside preceptor if there are not enough spaces available in partner programs. Students are graded on their performance in this part of their education, and usually need to repeat it if they fail to meet the hours requirement or don’t make a passing grade.


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