Attending nursing school is more than just sitting in a classroom, reading textbooks and studying for exams. Of course these experiences are integral to the education and leadership of the students, but, reading medical scenarios and discussing the proper courses of action can provide a limited range of practice. The real training begins with the clinical, hands-on experiences that these programs provide to their students, offering real-life application and challenging critical thinking.
Although specific learning experiences vary between nursing programs, there are many opportunities available to students:
1. Basic skills in a hospital setting
Nursing students begin their educations by learning medical terminology and procedures from textbooks. Next, they may put those skills to use on classroom dummies or even each other. Finally, nursing programs move the new students into a hospital setting to begin real-life, hands-on training. This early immersion in a non-emergency hospital room teaches nursing students to talk to and deal with patients, to give medications properly and to do general assessments on a regular basis. Most of these patients are stable, allowing the nursing students to practice their basic skills.
2. Increased caseload in a hospital or nursing home
Once nursing students can regularly handle the basic cases provided in the entry-level hospital setting, many are relocated to another area of the hospital or to a nursing home to practice more skills and to begin taking care of multiple patients at once. The ability to manage time effectively and to juggle more than one patient’s medications, therapies and demands is something that takes nursing students time to learn. In addition, these students are expected to learn how to be part of a healthcare team, rather than relying solely on their own judgments and skills.
3. Specialization exploration
After learning the necessary nursing skills and ways to handle multiple cases at the same time, many nursing students are ready to begin examining specialties. Some students have a special interest in mental health, whereas others may be swayed more toward labor and delivery. Most nursing students will spend time in a variety of clinical settings, getting an idea of their personal interests and skill sets. With opportunities in outpatient facilities, operating rooms and small doctors’ offices, the options available to registered nurses are extensive. Moving through short stints in many clinical settings can only help students hone into their perfect field.
4. Complex patients and intensive care
With a lot more experience and time to practice their skills, advanced nursing students are given access to the most complex patients, such as those with heart problems or multiple issues, and those patients in intensive care areas. These are the most critical of all patients, so they require the greatest level of attention, care and skill. Nursing students have the opportunity to see the ways that even their smallest decisions can greatly affect these fragile patients; however, they are still students and under the careful supervision of their teachers and onsite leaders.
5. Outpatient nursing and family care
All the time in the hospital or nursing home settings have made students prepared to take their high level of sills to locations with more autonomy. With options varying from public schools to outpatient clinics to family practices, these nursing students are challenged to think critically and make decisions on their own because there is much less supervision in these settings. Many students work on community outreach programs that help provide medical services to those without insurance as well.
Nursing students have the opportunity through their schools to partake in a wide variety of hands-on learning experiences. Each college or university program offers a different range of opportunities, but it is these clinical situations that really help nursing students to become more knowledgeable and skilled.