So your first day of clinical is fast approaching? Do you have a twisted feeling in your gut? Anxious? Nervous? You are not alone. We have all been there. Day one of clinicals feels part exhilarating, part frightening, and part exhausting. Here is my best advice to get you through your first days.
Show Up Well Read
If you know your patient assignment the night before, review care plans that apply to that patient. Bring your care plan book with you as a resource or download one of many free nursing care plan apps on your smartphone. Care plans may seem like a dreaded assignment just to get you through school, but they are there to guide you in thinking more like a nurse. Look up all the meds your patient is taking. If your clinical is on a cardiac unit, review your cardiac meds, rhythms, and care plans. Have some idea of what you are walking into. You do not need to know everything. You are not expected to.
Buy a small pocket notebook that you can keep with you at all times. As the day progresses, jot things down that you have learned. If time does not allow, try to take 10 minutes at the end of your likely tiring day to write down what you remember. Write even how you feel on that particular day, a nursing journal if you will. This way you can reflect back as you become more and more confident with each passing day.
Find the Friendly Nurses
It is easy. Those that smile and say hello are generally the ones that you can ask a question. If a nurse looks deep in patient care or deep in a MAR, perhaps this is not the best moment to ask a question. Jot your questions down as they come and ask when time allows.
Ignore the Unfriendly Ones
They exist, sometimes in abundance. You will know the second you glance their way and are greeted with a sour face. You then question that perhaps they did not see you standing there? They likely did. Some nurses are just plain unfriendly and that is the reality you will face from this day on. As you meet them, just put up your blinders and move on. It has nothing to do with you. They could be going through a tough time in life or are just unhappy. Do not let it affect your day.
Use Your Resources
Learn quickly who is the go to for pathophysiology, who is the IV expert, and who has the best body mechanics when turning a patient. Follow these individuals and learn from them. Learn from the best to be your best.
Take Care of Yourself
This goes without saying, but most of us tire ourselves in the service of others. Especially nursing students. You want to be the best nurse you can be, but being that means taking care of yourself and your needs as well. Make sure you get enough sleep and eat a good sized meal before starting your shift. Say no to social invitations if you are too exhausted.
Fake it till You Make it
One of my best friends was a nurse for about five years before I became a nurse. I would call her frustrated and tired with a million questions. The one piece of advice that sticks out to this day was “fake it until you make it.” Be confident in yourself. You may not know everything. You never will. Be confident in what you do know. Take with you the confidence that you made it to this point and will only continue to grow.
I invite you now to picture yourself walking through the doors of your host unit. Head high, shoulders back, repeat to yourself, “I have this.” You have this!!! At the end of the day you may find it was not as scary as you thought. Now put your feet up and enjoy a little you time.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram