What Are Clinicals Like in Nursing School?

In nursing clinicals you will put your nursing skills into practice within a supervised environment, learn to connect and interact with patients on a day-to-day basis, work with fellow health care professionals, and more. By the end of nursing school clinicals, you’ll be ready to become a nursing leader.

Nursing student with manikin and text that reads what to expect from clinicals

As a nursing student working toward a degree, clinical practice brings your classroom learning to life. It’s an essential element of any nursing curriculum and provides students with many opportunities to hone and practice their knowledge while comparing different specialty care areas. You might be asking, “what do you do in nursing clinicals?” While the answer can vary depending on your program and the health care facility in which you’re placed, no matter where your clinical rotations take place, you can expect a similar experience that will help guide you as you become a practice-ready nurse.

So, what are clinicals like in nursing school, and what will you be doing on a day-to-day basis? Read on and discover more about this element of your nursing education.

What Clinicals Are and Why They Are Important

Clinical practice is one of the most important parts of any nursing curriculum for nursing students pursuing their career. Coursework and labs are vital and provide the knowledge base every nurse needs, but clinicals give the opportunity to apply your education to real patients across a variety of care scenarios.

Through rotations in a variety of health care facilities, students will apply their skills under expert instruction and supervision. Clinicals also help students develop critical thinking skills and practice showing compassionate care to patients. If students are enrolled in an accelerated nursing program, like Misericordia’s own 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, clinical placements are especially important.

When learning in an accelerated format, clinical placements will ensure that students have experience in clinical situations before becoming a registered nurse. Clinicals also allow nursing students to sample different care areas and help them determine which practice area they might target after graduation.

“Clinicals opened my eyes to some areas of nursing that I was surprised that I actually ended up liking and that I could see myself working in,” says ABSN program graduate Megan M. “I think it’s OK to know which specialty areas you don’t necessarily see yourself in, because it can help you figure out where you’re supposed to be.”

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What Do You Do in Nursing Clinicals?

As a nursing student experiencing clinical placements, you’ll complete a set number of hours of clinical practice while working with experienced nurses and other health care team members across a variety of specialty care areas.

For clinical placements through the Misericordia ABSN program, for example, you’ll exceed the number of clinical hours needed for the state board. These placements span across specialty areas including mental health, pediatrics, community health and more. But those are just the beginning of what you’ll learn during your nursing school clinical placements.

You’ll Learn to Put Nursing Skills into Practice Safely

As a nursing student, you’ve already learned any number of nursing skills and techniques through your coursework and labs. But to be fully ready to become a practicing nurse, you need to gain experience administering treatment and techniques to real patients. Clinical placements allow students to learn under experienced nursing and care leaders.

Through clinicals, students also strengthen their nursing soft skills, including critical thinking, compassion, communication, and teamwork. This is the time you’ll practice your being a nurse in a supervised environment, so you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way after graduation.

Misericordia ABSN student Dominique C. shared her nursing clinicals experience and mindset as she began her placement, saying, “I was very hesitant to even ask the patients questions like, ‘Is your blood pressure normally this high? What type of medication do you take?’ I was quieter in the beginning because I was just trying to perfect everything and make sure I got that blood pressure right, because I knew my nurse was going to come in and check it.”

You’ll Learn to Connect with Real Patients

Beyond skills and techniques, nursing is about interacting with patients and families. As the members of the care team with the most face-to-face interaction with patients, nurses need to be comfortable with interacting with and providing care to people from all walks of life. At Misericordia we shape our nursing students to become nursing leaders, providing ethical and humanistic care to patients in need of care and understanding.

As Megan shares, “I would have to say what was most challenging for me was getting comfortable. I can definitely see my progress from my very first day, because I was super nervous to even walk into a patient’s room. I was excited, but nervous. Now, I can say that I feel comfortable going into a patient’s room, I feel comfortable sitting and talking with a patient and using those skills that I learned in skills lab.”

“Everything was planned right, we really got the most of our experiences,” Dominique says. “I know a lot of programs for their psychiatric rotations are just in observation, which we were, but we also actually got to play games with patients.”

You’ll Learn How to Work as Part of a Health Care Team

Nurses, beyond providing frontline care, are often the coordinators of the health care team. Nurses are often the first to note changes in a patient’s condition and need to rapidly note these while communicating with physicians and implementing care. In clinicals, forming rapport with fellow health care professionals helps students gain confidence going into the field professionally while also making it easier to learn from instructors and potential future colleagues.

“My first clinical rotation was a medical-surgical floor, and then I had a psychiatric rotation as well,” Dominique says. “I thought the facilities were great, and I thought our instructors were awesome. They were so excited to teach us.”

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Shape Your Nursing Future Today

Now that you have a more thorough understanding of what you do in nursing clinicals and how these can help shape you into the best-equipped nurse possible, it’s time to take the next step and pursue your own nursing education. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our clinical placements in Pittsburgh as well as the rest of the Misericordia ABSN program.

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