What to Expect During Nursing School Clinical

As I write, I try to reflect back to the time before the first semester began. I started this blog to spread experiences to pre-nursing students and to assist current students. It was virtually impossible for me to locate nursing student blogs that were kept up to date. I wanted to share their experiences, giving me a taste of the super secret society called nursing school.


What I coveted the most was a sneak peak into the world of clinical. I was coming from a life of customer service and management. I could not fathom what I was getting into and my curiosity was brimming. Hopefully, this will help with the curiosity of future and current pre-nursing students.

Every school and nursing program is unique, please keep this in mind as recall my experiences. I am in a two year ADN program at Marion Technical College in Ohio. I am pursuing a dual degree. The dual degree allows me to work on both the Associates of Applied Science in Nursing and Associates of Science degrees. Students completing both degrees find it easier to transition into BSN programs at four year institutions.

First Semester Overview

For first semester, I had theory (lecture) Monday and Tuesday mornings and lab Tuesday afternoon. Lab was a time for students to check off on their nursing skills before attempting them on patients. Once we checked off in lab on the skill, we were able to attend clinical that week. If the skill was not properly demonstrated, we were not granted clinical access. In clinical, we also had to check off on the skill for our clinical instructor.

On Wednesdays, it was required to go to the hospital in order to retrieve our patient assignments. Then, on Thursdays and Fridays we would work at the hospital to provide patient care. For this first semester, we only had one patient. Sometimes, if there weren’t enough patients admitted or if patients were discharged, we would double up.

The Clinical Settings and Assignment Load

Clinicals started the first week of nursing school in geriatrics. This allowed students use STNA skills. At the nursing home, we were expected to have one surgical or medical diagnosis sheet and a secondary diagnosis sheet completed before clinical.

After geriatrics, we went to an acute care facility (med-surge). During this phase of clinical, we were required to have one medical or surgical diagnosis sheet, secondary diagnosis sheets, and a medication sheet for our specific patient. We also had to do one care plan with a satisfactory grade and a nutrition assignment.


During both rotations, we were required to do assessment booklets on our patients. The booklets gathered information based on categories of human functioning and head to toe assessments. We had the option of doing 2 assessment booklets or 1 assessment booklet and DocuCare. I preferred Docucare.

We also had observation days. These consisted of going to a facility, usually different than the one we were at for clinical and shadowing a nurse. The assignment was to write about the experience using several objectives and prompts.

The information that was taught in theory on Mondays and Tuesdays was extremely helpful for clinical and usually coincided the skills in lab.

Getting a Good Grasp on All the Work and All the Classes

It is important to have the required readings done for theory before Monday and Tuesday. It is also important to prep for the skill that was being taught. This can be done on the weekends. On Wednesdays, I spent my time going over and preparing the documents based on patient information retrieved. Time-management is an incredible skill to have in nursing school and will help keep everything bearable and not too overwhelming.

For my program, clinical and lab were pass/fail. Grades were earned primarily by performance in theory. The knowledge that theory, lab and clinical all intertwine and are not separate entities, is extremely helpful and I wish I would have known this sooner. Nursing is only one class, but actually seems like three.

Patient Experiences

Patients were always pleasant, in my experience. I believe this has a lot to do with the type of facility and the fact that they have to sign a waiver in order for students to provide care. In the nursing home, the residents enjoyed having the one on one time with students. We were able to commit more time and attention to them since we only had the responsibility of one patient. In the nursing home, we were mostly responsible for ADLs (activities of daily living), head to toe assessments, and getting them to breakfast, activities, and therapies. Majority of the time, residents would take a nap after breakfast so it gave us time to work on our assignments and chart.

During our time at acute care, we were responsible for the same skills as geriatrics plus med pass and wound care.

When you started your first clinical rotation, was it what you had expected?

Are you nervous to start clinical, what are some concerns?

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