Clinicals practicums are sort of like the internship of the nursing world, providing not only valuable on-the-job experience, but also opportunities to network with working professionals and impress prospective employers.
To better understand how practicums work, we talked to Ann, a December 2018 graduate of Concordia University Texas’ Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track. We first spoke with Ann in February 2018, while she was still in the track, to learn more about her experience with ABSN@CTX. We caught back up with her on graduation day to talk nursing school advice and getting a job after nursing school.
By her second year in college, Ann knew she wanted to be a nurse, but as she said, “It wasn’t really in the cards for me at the time.”
The problem was that she had already earned a lot of credits that wouldn’t have counted for anything had she changed majors. So she stuck with earning her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Development and Family Sciences with the intention of enrolling in an accelerated nursing track after graduation.
However, she didn’t begin the transition to nursing immediately after college. Instead, she took a job as a residential instructor at a school for blind and visually impaired children. Then, one day driving home from work, she heard about Concordia University Texas’ ABSN track on the radio.
“I was having a particularly hard day at work,” Ann recalled. “So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call.”
As it turned out, Concordia’s ABSN track was just what she was looking for. Having only recently graduated from a four-year bachelor’s program, Ann needed something that would allow her to earn her nursing degree in a shorter timeframe and without relocating. Concordia’s Accelerated BSN track in Austin, Texas, which allows students to earn a nursing degree in as few as 16 months, fit the bill perfectly. But what really sold her on the track was her experience with the admissions team.
“My admissions process was one of the determining factors for me,” said Ann. “When she said ‘Oh, I’m going to call you next week to check up on you,” she would call me next week to check up on me.”
Of course, the smooth admissions process and convenience of earning her nursing degree in as few as 16 months were not the only things she liked about the track.
Concordia’s ABSN track is perfect for career changers, like Ann, who want to earn their nursing degree as quickly as possible. In addition to the accelerated timeframe, CTX’s ABSN track offers three starts each year — so those students who have the necessary prerequisite courses don’t get stuck waiting an entire year to start their nursing journey.
The Accelerated BSN track at Concordia University Texas features a blend of online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs at our ABSN learning site, and clinical rotations around the Austin area.
For Ann, who prefers online learning to classroom learning, the convenience of online coursework was another reason she chose CTX. However, she stresses that you really have to be a self-starter and hold yourself accountable in order to succeed in an online coursework environment.
Though Ann loved the flexibility of the online coursework, it was her clinical placements that she enjoyed most.
“My favorite part were my practicum experiences,” she said. “I was able to meet many people, many different types of people. Some young. Some old. Some very sick. Some reaching the end of their life, and seeing their perspective, it makes me appreciate life a little more. It lets me realize the fortune I have in my life, but then also realize what I could do better to improve the quality of life I have and my longevity.”
Clinical practicums serve two very important functions: to provide you hands-on learning with actual patients and to help you get comfortable in the fast-paced, unpredictable world of healthcare so that you walk into your first nursing job confident. Of course, if you’re nervous about starting practicums you’re not alone.
“I was terrified,” Ann said of her first day in practicum “It took me about three other visits to finally ease into being okay at the hospital.”
To calm those clinical jitters, here five helpful tips, many of which double as first nursing job advice.
A lot of people shy away from asking questions because they’re afraid of looking like they don’t know something. This logic is counterintuitive, though. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know something; to the contrary, it shows a desire to learn and improve. Not to mention, some of the smartest people in history were notorious for their curiosity and willingness to ask questions.
Whether you have a technical question or don’t know how to process an emotional situation — something many new nurses struggle with — don’t be afraid to ask.
“You still have that buffer, that like safety net,” Ann explained. “So in the case that you see something that may be a little emotionally traumatic for you, you have the people like your preceptor and your peers and your cohort to go back to and just say, ‘I feel a little upset and I don’t understand. Can you guys help me?’”
However, there’s an important caveat to asking questions…
It’s essential that you show up at your practicums prepared. That means completing your assigned readings and any other work related to your assignments in advance. While there may not be such a thing as a stupid question, asking questions that make clear that you didn’t do the assigned prep work isn’t going to impress anyone. Not only that, failing to do the necessary legwork could put patients at risk.
Another aspect of coming prepared? Showing up in clean, unwrinkled scrubs. Remember, you represent your school and the clinical location.
Working in healthcare, you’re going to meet a lot of people. Some patients and their families will try your patience. In these situations, keep in mind what they’re going through and have empathy. Likewise, you may encounter a nurse or doctor who isn’t actually ecstatic about having student nurses around. Whatever the case, be patient and respectful.
Additionally, be sure to learn the names of the people on your assigned unit. If, like many people, you have trouble remembering names, write them down.
There’s always a chance that someone will ask you to do something you don’t know how to do. No matter how eager you are to impress, do not attempt it. Rather, explain that you don’t know how to do whatever it is you’ve been asked to do but that you would love the opportunity to watch and learn. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
One of the best ways you can make a good impression on the staff nurses — as well as gain additional experience — is to ask them how else you can help. Demonstrating a willingness to help and learn in any way you can is a surefire way to be remembered as the kind of person the nurses will want to work with.
Of course, if you’re ambitious, like Ann, you can seek out additional practicum opportunities — something she believes contributed to her getting a job after nursing school.
“Concordia partners with St. David’s to do an advanced student experience, or ASE for short, which is a program that I did,” she explained. “I was able to do additional hours on top of the required hours as well as doing a one-on-one preceptorship with an on-unit RN nurse.”
Whether you always wanted to be a nurse but chose a different path or are rethinking your current career in favor of nursing, Concordia University’s ABSN track can help you get there sooner. Give us a call today, or fill out the form, to find out if our accelerated nursing program is right for you.