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Surviving Nursing Clinicals: Top 10 Tips to Follow

There’s no denying that nursing clinicals are overwhelming and stressful—especially when you have no idea what to expect.

With the proper resources and habits, you can ease your nerves and find confidence as you embark on this new experience. Learn the top essentials to surviving nursing clinicals from Marlee Liberman, RN, Picmonic’s Master Nursing Scholar, to feel prepared and ready to take on your first assignment.

Here are some key points you should take note of from the video:

What are nursing clinicals? 

let's get clinical

In nursing school, you have different modes of learning. For example, the classroom/online lecture is where you’ll learn fundamental knowledge, and in your simulation lab, you’ll practice nursing skills before you care for a real client.

Then, you’ll have your nursing clinicals on the healthcare floor. Here, you’ll apply the skills you’ve learned and apply your knowledge to the real world.

Nursing clinicals consist of the following:

  • acute care 
  • long-term care 
  • medical-surg 
  • pediatrics 
  • labor and delivery 
  • mental health facilities 
  • community settings
  • and more!

You will go through these areas and pick an area of focus for preceptorship.

What to expect in clinical rotations 

If you’ve asked the big question, “What are nursing clinicals like”, explore the 13 tasks you can expect to perform in your rotations below.


  1. Practice real-life skills as a nurse
  2. Take medical history
  3. Head-to-toe assessment
  4. Obtain vital signs
  5. Bathe or dress patients
  6. Make beds
  7. Assist patients to walk or to the toilet
  8. Assist with procedures
  9. Administer medication
  10. Communicate with patients and their families
  11. Communicate with the interdisciplinary team
  12. Charting
  13. Give handoff reports

10 Essential tips to succeed during Clinical Rotations

Clinicals are when you will learn what kind of nursing you like, practice your skills, bond with fellow nursing students, and connect with potential employers and co-workers. Most importantly, you’ll get to know nursing and yourself as a nurse during clinicals.

To ease your nerves and prepare for a productive and smooth sailing time, use the following ten tips and essentials for clinical rotations!

Tip 1: Healthy habits are your foundation

Healthy habits look different for everyone, but these are essential to making your time in clinical rotations easier. First, sleep is a priority, and you cannot be coherent if you are exhausted on the floor. Being exhausted is not only uncomfortable, but it is also unsafe. The night before your scheduled clinical, lay out and prepare all of your items and get enough sleep.

Second, even if you’re busy throughout the day, remember to drink enough water You need to be hydrated enough to focus. You should also eat a balanced meal in the morning to prevent a sugar crash. Don’t forget to bring quick and easy snacks to eat, and try not to eat too much to avoid feeling tired or nauseous. It’s all about balance.

Lastly, before your shift, perform a quick 5-minute meditation or breathing exercise. This will help keep your nerves at ease and anxiety at bay!

Tip 2: Get prepped with efficiency tools

learning tools

You need a few tools to succeed during your clinical rotations. You should always keep a small notebook and pen on hand to take notes. Things will happen throughout the day that you’ll want to review later, and taking notes will help you remember. 

You can also use iPhone and Android apps that have helpful tools for reference. It’s impossible to memorize all the information you encounter at once, so use helpful resources like Picmonic and clinical rotation cheat sheets to go over everything you’ve been learning on the floor.

Tip 3: Research! Get familiar with your patient’s chart

book with stethoscope

Oftentimes, you’ll receive a patient assignment well enough in time before your clinical shift begins. When you do, start with the basics like admitting diagnosis, medical history, critical items, test results, medications, complications, procedures, and more.

Note any valuable information as you go through their chart, and if you encounter information you don’t know, do research at home and come prepared.

Tip 4: Anticipate your patient’s needs and plan ahead

Now that you know everything about your patient, you’ll get to their needs. Here, you’ll need to understand conditions, diagnoses, procedures, complications, lab tests, medications, and more.

From your knowledge and research, recall the tasks that you will have to perform and specific diagnosis questions your instructor will ask you about. When you’re organized and prepared enough, you’ll feel confident and avoid being a deer in headlights when encountered with “surprise” questions.

It’s essential to have a task-oriented mindset at this time. Set achievable goals and keep on schedule. If it helps, write a checklist and check it off as the day proceeds.

Tip 5: Utilize the buddy system

shaking hands

Your peers truly understand what you’re going through. They can provide mental and emotional support and help you out on the floor when possible—and vice versa. Debrief about the day and understand each other’s mistakes and successes so you can learn from one another. 

Tip 6: Ask ALL the questions

Speaking of learning, you are here to learn, so it’s okay if you don’t understand things or know everything right away. Questions are expected, so be a sponge and seek out answers for safe and quality patient care.

Tip 7: Put in the dirty work

Leave a good impression on the staff by stepping up to the plate. You should be the first person willing to try new things and offer a helping hand. This will build your confidence and resilience to do the tough stuff. Plus, you can get the nurses to trust you! Show up early and get more prep time in for extra kudos.

Tip 8: Keep a positive attitude

Avoid complaining about others and focus on what’s going right rather than wrong. It’s hard, but you should be able to put your feelings aside and take constructive feedback. Feedback is meant to make you a better nurse, and it is not personal. Don’t forget to express gratitude for the valuable information and time the staff is taking with you–a little thanks goes a long way.

Tip 9: You are being interviewed!

Every co-worker is a potential boss. You never know who you will work with in the future, so this is your opportunity to leave a good impression to potentially open doors for you later down the line.

Tip 10: Treat yourself

Clinicals are stressful, and self-care is essential to getting through it. At the end of every week, treat yourself and do something that makes you happy so you have something to look forward to and keep motivated.

It’s normal to be nervous or scared for your clinicals, but you can push through with courage and confidence with these tips and Picmonic’s help! 

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