A Quick Summary:
Just as an internship for a non-healthcare related field is highly recommended, quality clinical experience is a key requirement for today’s registered nurses. Why is clinical experience important to nursing? Because through it, you gain real-world experience and learn how to apply nursing theory concepts into a valuable hands-on experience.
Clinical experience plays an enormous role in nursing education. As a prospective accelerated nursing student, let’s explore why clinical experience is important in nursing education, specifically for Concordia University Texas’s Accelerated BSN track.
What is Clinical Experience?
It is the bread and butter of your nursing education. Regardless of where you go to school, in-hospital clinical placements are known to be the ultimate core of your nursing education because they open you to situations and experiences within various real-world settings, from outpatient clinics to community health centers to hospitals to mental health facilities. Within these environments, you not only get to see how nurses interact and care for patients in a hospital setting, but you also gain experience working as a nurse.
At Concordia University Texas’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track in Austin, Texas, the curriculum involves online coursework and hands-on labs, and 500 hours of hands-on clinical experience.
Before we explain how clinical placements work in an accelerated nursing program, like Concordia’s, it’s important that you understand how Concordia’s 3-part comprehensive learning model works.
How Clinicals fit in the Accelerated BSN Curriculum
As mentioned earlier, clinical placements inside top healthcare facilities make up just one part of Concordia’s ABSN track. In addition, you will participate in online nursing theory coursework and hands-on skills labs. All three components take place at the same time, helping you put the skills you’ve learned in one area of practice into another.
Online nursing theory coursework
Delivered through an e-Learning platform, online coursework lets you choose when and where you participate in class. Through the platform, you can listen to and read lecture material, participate in simulated learning activities, join scheduled chat sessions with instructors, gain insight through discussion boards, and more.
Hands-on skills and simulation labs
Before you can begin your clinical experience Concordia, you need to be able to practice hands-on nursing tasks, without fear or insecurity. After all, you wouldn’t just walk into a patient’s room and insert an IV without practicing it beforehand, right? This is where your hands-on nursing skills and simulation labs come into play.
Bridging the gap between your online nursing coursework and clinical rotations, skills and simulation labs teach you how to safely put nursing theory concepts you’ve already learned into experiential practice.
What are Skills Labs
Consisting of hospital equipment, full-body medical manikins, and task trainers, skills lab is where you learn how to apply basic procedural skills, like administering blood pressure, inserting a catheter, IV, NG tube, etc.
Some of these hands-on skills can be completed on classmates (depending on the severity of the activity, of course) while other skills will need to be done on task trainers and manikins.
What is a Simulation Lab in Nursing
The goal of a simulation lab is to make you feel like you’re in a real-life situation without the fear of hurting someone. Throughout the Accelerated BSN track, you’ll participate in a variety of nursing simulations that support different learning objectives, from completing basic head-to-toe assessments to caring for patients with complex needs.
You can expect the manikins in the simulation lab to be more sophisticated than those used in the skills lab. Depending on the scenario, you may find yourself caring for a high-tech medical manikin that breathes, blinks, talks, has heart sounds, and various other capabilities. You’ll also find these manikins to simulate symptoms, diseases, and conditions that you are likely to witness in a real care setting.
As you perform the tasks of a registered nurse, your instructor will observe you through a two-way mirror. This allows them to test your ability to critically assess the situation and respond to what is happening in real-time.
Concordia’s New State-of-the-Art Facility
At Concordia University, you will spend a lot of time at the ABSN learning center. Inside this brand new, state-of-the-art facility, you’ll discover:
- Nursing skills lab where you will see an assortment of nursing equipment, such as IV pumps, medication carts, enteral feeding pumps, stretchers, and more.
- Nursing simulation labs where you will find a high-fidelity medical manikin lying on the bed, along with an assortment of complex nursing equipment such as medication carts, IV pumps, enteral feeding pumps, and more.
- Debriefing rooms where you’ll meet with your instructors to reflect on your simulated experience in an open and honest setting.
- A student break room where you can relax, study with members of your cohort, and complete any online coursework.
In-Hospital Clinical Rotations
While online nursing theory coursework and nursing labs lay the groundwork for your education and skills development, it is your in-hospital clinical rotations that will provide you with the best understanding of what it’s like to actually work as a registered nurse. Your clinicals will allow you to showcase the nursing skills you’ve learned in coursework and labs on putting them into real-world practice on actual patients.
“There’s no replacement for this type of learning [clinical experience],” says Kera Lowery, a clinical instructor for Concordia University Texas’s ABSN track. “Learning in a clinical environment creates challenges that are missing in the classroom.”
Now that you have a good understanding of how the ABSN curriculum operates entirely, let’s talk more about how clinical placements at Concordia University prepare you for nursing success. This information can also help paint a picture as to why clinical experience is important in nursing.
Concordia University Texas Nursing Students’ Clinical Experience
As an Accelerated BSN student at CTX, you’ll complete seven clinical rotations, each one consisting of roughly 65 hours of clinical experience. These rotations can range anywhere from six to eight to twelve hours per day. As the ABSN curriculum advances, so do the skills you perform in clinical, which means you’ll have to adapt to a rigorous schedule and learn how to maximize your time to keep up with online coursework and hands-on labs.
Early Exposure, Lasting Benefits
Nursing clinicals at Concordia take place in the third week of the first semester. This shows you what it’s like on the job, as a registered nurse. This is a huge benefit that sets Concordia’s ABSN track apart from many schools. “Starting clinicals in the first semester gives students more time with patients and more time to think critically, which is invaluable to their overall success,” says Kera.
Along with enhancing your critical thinking skills, starting nursing clinicals earlier helps you build confidence sooner and lets you know what’s expected of you not only as a nursing student, but as a registered nurse.
For many, the very thought of entering a healthcare facility within the first few weeks of the first semester can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s required that accelerated nursing students participate in a clinical orientation, which occurs a few days before clinical rotations begin.
Some Examples of Clinical Experiences
Taking place at the clinical facility in which you will be performing your hands-on nursing skills, clinical orientation is designed to give you a detailed lay of the land and answer any questions you may have about your upcoming nursing clinical. Here is where you will:
- tour the hospital
- receive information on safety, security, HIPPA regulations, patient privacy, etc.
- meet fellow staff members, nurses, and doctors
- gain (limited) computer and badge access
You will also participate in a scavenger hunt, led by your instructor and assistant clinical instructor. This will require you to pair up with another student and locate items such as:
- Crash carts
- Oxygen tanks
- Sterile gloves
- Wheelchairs / gurneys
- IV polls and pumps
- Syringes and needles
We want the students to initiate everything and take charge in knowing where everything is. The nurses on staff really appreciate the students who can bring them the supplies they need without being told.
Shadow a Staff Nurse
For the remainder of your clinical orientation, you’ll be assigned to shadow a staff nurse. Not only will this give you the chance to see the types of patients you’ll be caring for, but it allows you to observe how he or she interacts and cares for patients, on a professional level, before taking the reins yourself.
Set Goals for Your Clinical
Once you complete shadowing, you will then sit down with your clinical instructor in a post-conference room to discuss the overall goals and expectations you have for your clinical experience. It’s your clinical instructor’s job to hold you accountable to these goals, so you’ll want to be upfront and honest.
Your clinical instructor will then give you a breakdown of the syllabus, the student handbook, and go over any and all expectations they have for you; this includes your clinical behavior. “We expect students to demonstrate professional behavior,” says Kera. “This is important because for many students this is their first real job. We use a lot of therapeutic communication techniques to prepare them as best as we can.”
What is therapeutic communication?
Therapeutic communication (TC) is a process where communication techniques are used to promote the well-being of a patient in a nursing care profession. For example, when communicating verbally to a patient, nurses must use relevant, clear, credible, and simple language. Non-verbal communication, including the nurse’s facial expression, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, and hand body movement also contribute to an effective therapeutic communication technique. TC helps the registered nurse to gain the trust of patients.
The day before your actual clinical, you’ll be assigned a patient. Your clinical instructor will provide you with this information before you leave orientation. Once you have the patient’s diagnosis, medications, and lab values, it may be in your best interest to do some research before your first day of clinical.
The First Few Days of Clinicals
Your first clinical placement will focus on the basics of nursing practice, which includes patient safety and head-to-toe assessments. As you begin caring for your patient, you’ll start applying the nursing fundamentals you’ve already learned in your online coursework and labs. At any given time, you can expect to:
- perform health assessments
- check vitals
- administer medication
- help patients shower and/or use the restroom, and more.
Keep in mind that all these skills will be performed under the watchful eye of your clinical instructor.
While these basic nursing skills may seem routine, it’s best you stay prepared for anything. Why? According to Kera, some ABSN students have been lucky enough to follow their patients into surgery.
Your Last Few Days of Clinicals
In your last clinical placement, you’ll be caring for multiple patients with varying ailments. By now, you should be able to handle several things at once. From hanging an IV while communicating with your patient’s family members to listening to your patient’s heart sounds while reciting their chart to a doctor, your critical thinking skills will be at an all-time high.
Under the mentorship of a registered nurse, you’ll gain concentrated clinical experience in a specific area of practice. You’ll work the same shifts as this registered nurse, and as you hone your skills, you’ll take an active, if not primary, role inpatient care. Once you’re finished with your in-depth clinical experience, you should feel confident in:
- Providing competent, compassionate care to various patient populations.
- Delivering care that meets the particular faith and cultural needs of patients.
- Demonstrating clinical judgment within the evidence-based practice.
Best of all, you’ll be ready to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Concordia University is committed to your success and it shows through its successful NCLEX pass rates. In 2019, Concordia Texas BSN graduates achieved a 100% NCLEX pass rate. On top of that, the College of Nursing has been ranked fourth in the state of Texas. With its accreditations at the national, regional, and state levels, you can rest assured knowing your nursing education meets today’s strict standards.
Your Clinical Instructor
Throughout your accelerated nursing school journey, you’ll find your clinical instructor to be your biggest source of support. This individual is here to answer all your questions, help you work through each problem and most importantly, hold you accountable. It’s important that you:
- Tell your clinical instructor how you learn best to get the most out of your clinical.
- Ask your clinical instructor for feedback on your performance at the end of each clinical.
- Get to know your clinical instructor on a personal level and let them get to know you.
Network for Your Future
Without a doubt, gaining quality clinical experience is beneficial to your future as a nurse. The same goes for the healthcare facility where you gain this valuable real-world experience. That’s why Concordia University Texas partners with some of the best healthcare facilities in Austin, Texas.
I’ve gained really good experience practicing at multiple hospitals.
– Carlee Dodge, Concordia University ABSN graduate
Within these exclusive partnerships, you’ll gain real-world experience while collaborating, communicating, and working alongside elite physicians, registered nurses, and fellow staff members.
“When you have the opportunity to rub elbows with different types of healthcare professionals, it gives you a different perspective, a different philosophy and way of doing things,” explains Kera.
While landing a job within one of these hospitals is never guaranteed, you should treat every nursing clinical like it is a job interview. Of course you may be anxious at first, that’s all part of the process, but it’s your best bet to put yourself out there and learn from everyone you can. At the end of the day, you never know who may be watching from afar.
Suppose, for example, you completed a clinical rotation on one floor of a hospital. Then after nursing school, you apply for a job on a different floor of that exact hospital. If you performed well during your clinical, the nurses and nurse manager you worked with could play a key role in helping you get the job.
Experience Clinical Variety
Within these healthcare facilities, you’ll learn to embrace the variety. That’s because you will have clinical rotations that range from the intensive care unit (ICU) to obstetrics (OB) to pediatrics. “Having the ability to practice nursing skills within a variety of settings helps you decide where you would like to begin your nursing path,” says Kera.
Five Ways to Find Success in Nursing Clinicals
Kera will be among the first to tell you that while nursing clinicals can get intense, they become easier to manage when you know how to prepare for them.
The challenges you overcome will help you become accustomed to high-stress moments. This is invaluable because it proves to others, including potential employers, that you can do anything.
Per Kera, here are six ways you can find success in your nursing clinicals:
1. Be organized.
Outside of hands-on labs and nursing clinicals, you can expect to spend up to forty hours a week writing papers, reading, learning about medications, and more. Knowing this, it’s crucial that you find a way to stay organized at all times. “Have a plan for your day and write down your goals like it’s your job,” says Kera.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Nobody knows everything. With that being said, it’s imperative that you’re asking questions. For example, if a staff nurse is doing something you have never done before, you should ask plenty of questions while you have the chance. Your clinical instructors want to see students who are willing to attempt new things, so don’t be shy. If you have downtime between rounds, use that time to connect with other healthcare professionals.
3. Find your support system.
Throughout the Accelerated BSN track, you will be surrounded by like-minded peers from various types of backgrounds. These individuals will serve as your biggest support system, so it’s essential that you reach out to them for support when times get challenging. “Successful ABSN students organize study groups early on,” says Kera. Your cohort members will offer a lot of support in ways you didn’t know you needed.
4. Practice, practice, practice!
As mentioned earlier, the nursing theory concepts you learn during online coursework come to life during the skills and simulation lab.
These labs are the cornerstone for your nursing clinical success, so it’s important that you take the time to refine your skills in the lab before working with actual patients in clinical rotations. “The students who find success during their clinicals ask complex questions during their skills and simulation lab,” says Kera.
5. Take time for yourself.
While eating, sleeping, and breathing the accelerated BSN track may seem like a good idea, it can also be a recipe for disaster. To prevent this from happening, be sure to take time for yourself; whether this involves taking a walk, attending an exercise class, or meeting up with friends, taking little amounts of time away from nursing school will benefit you in the long run.
6. Go into each clinical with an open mind.
Beyond the nursing specialty, you may think you would like to pursue, it’s important that you go into each clinical with an open mind to receive the best experience. For example, you may start clinicals wanting to pursue the emergency room (ER) and then completely change your mind after caring for infants in pediatrics.
Are you a Concordia University Nurse in the Making?
As you can see, clinical experience plays an important role in your nursing education. At the end of the day, the clinical skills and experience you gain through Concordia University’s accredited Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track will leave you feeling confident when entering the workforce.
Ready to begin your accelerated nursing education? Contact an Accelerated BSN admissions counselor today.