Thousands of students from American nursing school programs go for clinical placement every year. It can be a daunting time.
For many, it is their first time in a real work environment. It is a chance to put the theory learned into practice, and their performance determines whether or not they qualify to join the nursing profession.
Clinical placement plays a vital role in preparing student nurses to join the real world of healthcare. It is a time to put the theory they learn from lectures and textbooks into practice.
Nursing school is important, but it can never prepare a student for the experiences and challenges of a real healthcare setting.
For example, they don’t know what it is like to work in an ER with multiple car crash victims.
A nursing student may have read about how to make a patient comfortable, but what happens when they meet an agitated patient who needs more than just a fluffing of pillows?
Nursing placements are designed to provide nursing students with real-life experience and are available in all hybrid nursing programs. These are programs that combine in-person and online learning. You can enroll in a hybrid ABSN or MENP and complete your degree in less than two years.
These programs typically require some on-campus residency, and students must log in clinical hours to graduate. The student is often a working professional who already has a nursing qualification. The courses are designed to offer flexibility, allowing students to balance the demands of school and work.
One of the highlights of any hybrid nursing program is clinical placement. Good nursing schools help their students get positions in healthcare facilities within their communities.
Each student is assigned a supervisor who also acts as a mentor throughout the placement period.
As you plan for a nursing career, you may wonder what clinical placement is and how it will benefit your career. Keep reading to learn more about this crucial period of nursing training.
What is clinical placement?
It is a period when nursing students are placed in a healthcare setting for educational purposes. During this period, the student is supervised by a qualified and licensed clinician who scores their performance. How well they perform determines whether or not they qualify to become nurses.
During placement, students learn all the practicalities of nursing. They are taught how to take patient histories, do physical exams, fill in patient charts and take samples, clean and feed patients and perform other nursing duties.
Placement should not be confused with on-campus residency. On-campus residency in nursing programs refers to periods during training when the student is required to stay on campus for instruction.
It could be to observe demonstrations by their instructors or use the campus lab. The reasons for on-campus residency vary depending on the nursing school.
Why is clinical placement important for nurses?
Placement is something that every nursing student should take seriously. It contributes to their final grade in nursing school and imparts basic nursing skills that help them transition into the workplace when they graduate.
Nurses who do well in clinical placement are often called back to the same healthcare facility to begin their careers. It helps them access a job immediately after they graduate. Below are some of the benefits of clinical placement for nurses:
- Opportunity to employ theoretical knowledge
Hybrid nursing programs impart all sorts of theoretical knowledge. Students learn the basics of nursing and patient care, but this is just theory.
Whether they are learning from their instructors or reading textbooks, it only provides basic nursing knowledge. Only when they go for placement can they put that theory into practice and fully focus on a career as a nurse.
- Look into the profession
Going for nursing placement gives students insight into what their profession is all about. They get to experience the challenges and the joys of nursing. It is a good time for them to decide whether or not they want to become nurses.
- Face-to-face with real patients
Meeting real patients is quite different from reading about them in textbooks. They are real people who are in pain. They have emotions, a sense of humor, and likes and dislikes.
Until you meet and interact with them, you’ll never know what it’s like to care for a human being.
Textbooks give you the theoretical bits, but clinical placement immerses you in the experience. You can no longer be remote. You have to be in the moment and do your best to care for the patients assigned to you.
- Different departments
Every hospital or clinic has many different departments that coordinate carefully to deliver efficient and effective healthcare to patients.
How do samples move from the ER to the lab, for example? How do nurses and doctors get test results back? What do you do if a patient needs to see accounting about their bill?
As a student nurse, it may be hard to fathom how different departments work together.
When you go on placement, you are rotated to different parts of the hospital to maximize your exposure. You may not work for very long in each of your posts, but it affords you an important chance to get a glimpse into the whole hospital and how everything is coordinated.
- Hands-on experience
When you go on placement, you will be practicing amidst other healthcare professionals, and if you use your time well, you can learn a lot from them.
Each student is assigned a supervisor, but they aren’t limited to learning just from them. They can observe other, more experienced nurses and take in the lessons they have to offer.
- Develop professionalism
How do you conduct yourself in a healthcare facility? What is the protocol for handling and caring for patients? How do you interact with doctors, nurses, and other professionals around you?
These are all things that nursing students learn during placement. By the time they get their first job, they are ready to jump right into work.
- Problem solvers
Hospitals exist to solve problems, and the better a problem solver you are, the better a healthcare professional you will be. Placement is a great time to observe how more experienced nurses go about solving problems.
You shouldn’t be shy about asking questions. Set aside time to talk to older nurses and find out how they evaluate situations and solve the different issues they encounter every day.
- Manage complex situations
Hospitals are complex places. They have many moving parts, and everyone who works within them must understand the complexities and how best to work within them.
You cannot get this knowledge from reading a textbook or listening to a lecture. You must be present to observe doctors and nurses at work. You learn even more if you are a part of the action.
Aim to be as helpful as possible during your placement. If you aren’t too busy, you can ask to be assigned tasks in different departments.
Within each department, there are complexities, and these fall into the complex systems of the hospital as a whole.
The better you understand each department, the better you will function as a nurse.
- Healthcare leaders at work
Many nurses know right at the beginning of their careers that they want to climb the ladder to nursing management. However, not many have a good idea of the day-to-day life of a nurse manager.
Placement can provide important insights into nurse leadership. Young nurses can talk to nurse leaders about the best career path to follow, what courses to take, and even what nursing opportunities they should look out for.
Good nurse leaders understand their role in mentoring student nurses, and they take time to get to know who they are and how well they are doing during placement. They offer advice and guidance where it’s needed.
- Communication skills
Good communication is required of all nurses, and placement can be an excellent time to develop this vital skill. Not only do student nurses get to talk to actual patients, but they also learn how to interact with colleagues.
Healthcare is moving towards integrated patient care. Care teams have become commonplace in hospitals and clinics all over America, and healthcare professionals have had to learn how to operate in those teams.
Student nurses who are lucky enough to become part of a team during placement learn how the dynamics work. They learn to understand the value of teamwork for the patient and the expectations for each member.
- Help existing healthcare teams
Many healthcare facilities rely on the services of placement nurses every year to assist other staff. They may not have many responsibilities, but the little that they do is important and helps fill in staffing gaps.
They assist nurses and doctors, help fill in charts, update hospital databases, and assist with basic patient care.
Tips to help nurses get through clinical placement successfully
Clinical placement can be tough for some students. For many, it is the first time they take on real responsibility. They have to learn to do as they are told and work under supervision.
There are certain things you can do to make your placement period go smoothly:
- Visit the facility in advance
Find out where you have been placed and then contact the nurse manager and book an appointment. Get to know the place and what is expected of nursing students during their time there.
- Learning objectives
It is always best to know what is expected of you; it gives you ample time to work on it. Find out from your supervisor what the goals of the clinical placement are. What are you expected to know at the end of the period?
- Spend time with patients and nurses
Working in a hospital isn’t easy, and you may feel like every free moment should be spent unwinding quietly in a room somewhere. Rest is important, but you should spend as much time as you can with patients and other nurses. It is the best way to learn.
- Organize lodgings nearby
Commutes can be difficult and often lead to a lot of wasted time. If you want your clinical placement to go smoothly, you should look for accommodation near the hospital where you’ll be working.
- Be a proactive student nurse
A proactive person doesn’t wait to be asked. They carry out tasks before they are asked. If you are that sort of nurse, you will become indispensable to those you work with, and they just may ask you to come back after you graduate.
- Keep in touch with your supervisor
Your supervisor should know what you are doing at all times. Keep them apprised of your progress and let them know all the new things you have learned in every department. It contributes to a favorable report at the end of the placement period.
Nursing is rewarding work, but it is also demanding. Nurses are often called upon to put in double shifts and spend a lot of time on their feet. Prepare yourself by ensuring you are fit and healthy before you start clinical placement.
Clinical placement is an important part of nursing training. Students are immersed in a hospital environment and get a taste of nursing by caring for patients under supervision.
Take your clinical placement seriously, as it contributes to your final grade. It is also a chance to secure employment; if you do well, the facility may ask you to come back and work for them when you graduate.