A wise nurse once told me “if you feel comfortable, you’re doing something wrong.”

Working as a tech and a nurse are 2 different roles that become glaringly obvious once you step into the patients room as a nursing student. As a tech you can walk into the room, see a patient who is supposed to be on a Heart Healthy diet, destroying a Big Mac and fries, quietly shut the door, and go get the nurse. As the nurse if you see this… well there’s no one to grab or pass the responsibility to. You are the nurse so you get to go snatch up the fast food, and argue with an angry patient as you try to explain why they should be more compliant with their diet. 

Fun times. 

The level of responsibility has suddenly increased and its hard to feel confident taking care someone else, when realistically you can barely care for yourself and the only thing you can remember from class is to always make sure the call bell is in the bed. I remember my first year of nursing school it wasn’t rare to walk into the bathroom or supply closest and find a student in there crying quietly or squatting in a corner. In order to survive clinical with your sanity intact (which yes, it is possible) here a few tips that I’ve. complied.


Be willing to make mistakes 

In your nursing career you’re going to make mistake. A LOT of mistakes. You’re only human and while there is a way to limit the amount of mistakes you make, there is no way to ensure they will never happen. What truly matters is how you bounce back from it, and learn for the next time. Clinicals will be full of “first” experiences that even a job as a medical assistant or CNA can’t prepare you for. 

You won’t know everything. Heck you probably won’t know 90% of what happens most of the time, but that’s okay! No one is expecting you to know it all and they know you’ll be making mistakes or saying “I don’t know” on a daily (probably hourly) basis. Basically they accept the truth you try to hide. You don’t know what you’re doing. 

But the reason you lack knowledge is because you lack the experience. You can understand and explain how to start an IV but until you’re holding that needle in your hand and a patient’s arm is stretched in front of you, you’ll be lacking experience. The textbook can only prepare you for so much. 


Learn to work alongside fear

In clinicals fear can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It can help you recognize your shortcomings and help you be cautious of the risk you are exposing your patient to. On the other hand it can make you doubt yourself, and question your capabilities.  Remember that the only reason you’re scared is because you don’t want to make a mistake and you want to ensure that you are always providing the best care possible. An important thing to remember is that these patients know what your role is. Before you do anything to the patient the nurse or instructor will always make sure to introduce you as a student nurse. When the patient allows you to contribute to their care they are communicating that they trust your ability. (On the other hand it’s also quite obvious when the patient doesn’t trust you because they become very vocal and loudly list their complaints and concerns).

The patient trust you, so trust yourself! Lastly remember this, There is always a professional watching over you just in case they need to jump in, and your teacher won’t let you do something you aren’t ready for. Be ready to dive in, and only be afraid that you didn’t try.


Shuffling to opportunities 

Peers always say “you should run to opportunities as they present themselves”. And I will be the first to say B-S. Its one of those “easier said, then done” moments. 

When the teacher ask “who wants to help remove a chest tube?” your hand better be the first to go up! Don’t give yourself time to panic, and question yourself. Just raise your hand and go do it! Like I mentioned every experience in clinical is a learning opportunity.  I’m a very open person. I wouldn’t tell you to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do, and I won’t sugar coat anything just to make it sound better. Anytime a nurse or clinical instructor ask for volunteers my hand will always be the first up. Am i confident in my abilities? Heck no. Am I eager to learn? Not really. 

I do it because experience is the only way to lose the fear, and gain confidence! 

I think most nursing students will agree inserting NG tubes is not a walk in the park. Its nerve wracking and requires patience and technique. During clinical we all love taking care of the pateint with the already inserted NG tube but not the one who needs a NG tube. Its terrifying to think about shoving a tube up someone’s nose and down their throat. 

How did I conquer that fear? 

I volunteered to shove a tube up someone’s nose and down their throat. 

I freaked out the entire time, my hand was shaking as I inserted the tube, and I was about ready to quit when the patient started fidgeting in pain. 

No one said nursing school was easy. 

But remember the only way to learn is by stepping up and being willing to gain that knowledge. 

Don’t shy away from new experiences because of fear or feelings of inadequacy.  

At the end of the day you’ll do great, and remember no one starts knowing everything. It’s something that requires time, patience and practice.