8 Ways to Make The Most Out of Your Clinical Rotation

Kara Malone

The student nurse’s first clinical rotation is both stressful and exciting. It’s your first chance to really apply what you’ve learned so far in your training. But trust us, what you really end up learning is how much you still need to know. While this experience can give your self-confidence a knock, it truly is the start of what will be a big career adventure.

Here are five tips to help you acclimate to your first clinical rotation more quickly. We hope these suggestions make your first rotation better and more effective.

1. Prepare Yourself

Carry a notebook around to jot down pointers from other nurses or basic information about your workflows. It’s important to enter the unit by studying and reviewing any pertinent information needed for the day. Know what kind of unit you’ll be working on and the most common illnesses patients have when admitted. If you can get some data on the patients you will see in advance, try to look up the diagnoses and medications prescribed.

Side Note: It’s also helpful to learn the names of your unit staff members so that you can greet them properly, and with all the other information you are taking in, you can write down the names in your notebook so you can give them the respect and recognition they deserve!

2. Be the Early Bird

Your clinical rotations are your job, so it’s important to get there early! This will give you time to get organized and review the notes from the prior day. You can also learn the floor plan or look at patient charting. Those crucial first few minutes may even give you extra time with your clinical instructor, which could give you an edge on the day.

3. Look the Part

It’s going to feel like an extra burden when we tell you to iron your scrubs, but it matters. You’re going to be sleep deprived at times, so taking the extra step of neatly pressing your uniform, taking a backpack full of all the important tools you need including a stethoscope, scissors, a penlight, and personal hygiene items will make all the difference in getting you through the day preparedly and fresh! 😉

4. Always Be Professional

Address patients by Mr./Ms./Mrs. until they give you permission otherwise. Introduce yourself to your patients by name and share that you are a student nurse on their care team. Smile, and be as helpful and kind as you can to patients, your peers, and the senior clinical team.

5. Actively Participate

Instead of just saying, “I don’t know,” also add “I will find out the answer.” Make sure you ask for help when you need it and share information with your peers in a way that is helpful. Also, step up and volunteer more to learn more. Be the first to observe as many procedures as possible and pitch in to try new things whenever possible. Pre- and post-conferences can help you reflect on what you’re learning in clinicals. It gives you an opportunity to discuss with your clinical instructor what you’ve mastered and what you need more help with.

A unit works as a team, and you’re now part of the team! You may be able to offer some help with other patients on the unit, even if they’re not a direct part of your assignment. Your efforts will be appreciated and will help you learn and grow more professionally!

6. Communicate with Your Preceptor

Take the time to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions, in terms of patient care, with your preceptor. It may also be helpful to tell them what kind of a learner you are (for example, auditory or kinesthetic). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and welcome any constructive feedback! It’s only for your betterment.

7. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

As you continue with your clinical rotation over time, you’ll learn which skills of yours are developing and which may need some attention. Set a weekly goal for yourself to give time to those areas that need to develop. As mentioned above, feel comfortable in asking your preceptor or clinical instructor for help. These moments can help you improve your skills and help you gain more confidence.

8. Show an Overall Interest, Eagerness, and Appreciation for your Rotation

Enthusiasm to learn goes a long way and makes a difference for patients, families, and your co-workers. Ultimately, with the amount of time you are dedicating to your clinical experience, you want to be able to say you’ve gotten the most out of it. It’s also great to build rapport through this experience, as you may cross paths with certain individuals in your future practice!

Ask the Healthcare Recruiting Experts

For more tips on clinical rotations or any other information we can share about your profession, please don’t hesitate to connect with the MedSource team. We’re here to help.