Nursing Student Clinical Placement: Expectations And Planning


As a practice-based profession, clinical placement is key for nursing students. It is the arena that enables them to apply the knowledge gained during classes; it is how key skills and competencies are developed by doing hands-on work, and how students can begin to experience the intricacies and the environment of their future workplace. It allows them to be better prepared for the moment when they enter the health care field and begin working with patients, doctors and other nurses.

Nurses play a central role in the overall provision of care. This does not end with the administration of medication and treatments; it goes beyond that into being appropriately equipped to offer emotional support, education and counselling to patients and families, and simultaneously being able to effectively work side by side with other health care professional to achieve desired outcomes.

Effective clinical placements for nursing students should take place within a variety of settings and should also allow the future nurse to:

  • Discover the variety of learning opportunities available in health care environments
  • Work under high-pressure and challenging frames that require fast and informed decision making many times
  • Get acquainted with the dynamics of the job
  • Learning efficient time management and prioritization
  • Developing a solution-oriented mindset
  • Working and learning from patients just as much as other medical colleagues

It should be the goal of any valuable clinical placement program to allow students to have a diversity of experiences across primary care settings and ultimately, building momentum towards successful certification exams and the beginning of their professional careers.

How can nursing students prepare and what to expect

For students, their first clinical placement is an exciting time. It’s a milestone signalling that things are finally becoming real and they are moving from notebooks to patient charts. Preparation is essential in making sure the experience lends itself to as much learning as possible. One of the main things to be noted is that in health care settings, flexibility is king. Being able to move shifts around and deal with unexpected schedule changes are going to be important, especially if the student wishes to practice side by side with a mentor whose schedule is always subject to change.

Many will find juggling school, clinical placement and social life overwhelming. Here is where organization skills will have to kick in. Luckily, technology has solutions to help ease the burden. For example, a cloud-based student nurse scheduling solution such as the one provided by Rotation Manager can take some of the pressure off by helping keep track of patient records, schedules, background checks and drug screenings and even getting job references.

The beginning of a clinical placement program will always be an exciting yet an intense time, especially when working in units where the full spectrum of medical conditions is present from day one. Regardless of this, working in health care is one of the most rewarding careers and with every patient helped, the motivation to do more and better will only increase.