What Is a Nursing Practicum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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A nursing practicum provides nursing students with an opportunity to integrate theory and clinical practice under supervision from a mentor. This usually takes place at the end of nursing school, as students are preparing to graduate and enter professional practice. It includes a mixture of hands-on clinical experience, lab work, and classroom education to help students improve their skills. Typically a certain number of units in a nursing practicum are required for graduation and people need to meet a clinical hours requirement before they can apply for their professional licenses.

One part of the practicum involves direct patient care, where student nurses meet with patients, evaluate them, and participate in treatment. They are typically required to keep logs, develop treatment plans, and work with the rest of the team. Clinical rotations can provide opportunities to move through a variety of settings, including specialized environments like pediatric and psychiatric units.

In addition, during a nursing practicum, people may work in a lab. They can practice clinical skills in the lab as well as participating in other activities. This aspect of nursing education also includes seminars and discussions where nurses learn about different topics, present cases, and discuss their experiences. The goal is to help them apply the theoretical education they received to real-world situations, so they can be effective nurses after graduation.


Schools of nursing may have their own attached hospitals as well as relationships with regional facilities to provide clinical experiences for students. During their practicum, people typically need to follow facility-specific policies in addition to guidelines set by their schools. For example, they may be required to wear identification badges so people know who they are, in addition to introducing themselves as student nurses so patients and others understand their role in patient care.

After a nursing practicum is complete, participants are graded on performance. This can include a mixture of criteria including level of participation, professionalism, compliance with medical ethics, and demonstrated knowledge and skills. People who do not pass the practicum will need to repeat it, which can delay a license application because they typically need clinical experience to become fully licensed nurses.

If problems arise on a nursing practicum, they can be brought up with a supervisor. These may include issues like the need for disability accommodations or help with personality conflicts with supervising personnel. A mentor can evaluate the situation and make a determination about how to proceed to ensure the student has a chance to be educated while keeping the practicum experience fair for all participants.


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