Practical residencies will take place at various points in every nursing course, but at most universities, they will start right from the beginning of the program. Often referred to as rotations, they can last from four to twelve weeks, depending on the course and the specialism being studied. Clinical placements offer a huge breadth of experiences, and students have the opportunity to gain knowledge that might otherwise not appear on the curriculum. Moreover, they can learn from meeting the people they will eventually be responsible for, the patients.
At traditional universities, placements are offered across a wide geographical area, ranging from rural community hospitals to city clinics. For working nurses hoping to gain further qualifications, this presents a problem because many have families and don’t want to travel long distances to complete residency.
To solve the problem, schools like Rockhurst University have developed an online MSN AGACNP course with clinical placement within driving distance of each student’s home. Designed for advanced practice nurses who are planning to follow a specialized career path in acute adult care, the program is offered on a full or part-time basis to fit in with students’ commitments and can be completed in as little as three years.
What happens during a clinical placement?
Students should prepare for their practical training in advance by establishing their learning outcomes. It’s also a good idea for students to get in touch with their supervisor and introduce themselves. It ensures they can get the most out of their experience once it begins.
Meeting the patients and learning about their health journey
After the initial orientation and introductions to the wider team, nursing students will usually work with a diverse group of patients in their ward. Under supervision, they will perform examinations, take medical histories, and share their thoughts with more senior team members. Part of this process involves following individual patients from the day they are admitted to the ward through their recovery and eventual discharge. Watching and recording this process gives students a deeper understanding of the patient’s journey and experience with healthcare.
Ward rounds with senior colleagues
Following other staff on their daily rounds teaches students about appropriate behavior on the ward and communication skills. There will be chances to speak with other health professionals face-to-face, through video calls, and on the phone to gather more information about a patient’s condition and medical history. Under guidance, students often practice documenting patient records and learn how referrals are made. There may also be opportunities for carrying out treatments that fall within the student’s competence, but these will always be supervised.
Opportunities for independent learning
Aside from the teaching opportunities that are scheduled, students on clinical placements can search for additional learning experiences. For instance, they can ask someone on the team to identify patients who might be happy to speak about their diagnosis. Students can gain insight into a patient’s perspective by chatting about their condition and symptoms, as well as what they have learned about their diagnosis. At other times, senior nurses or physicians may allow students to visit patients with interesting clinical signs. The students can then give their medical opinion to a staff member and get feedback on their understanding.
Why are practical placements important for students of nursing?
For graduate and postgraduate students, practical placements promote effective learning and provide access to experiences that cannot simply be learned through coursework. Moreover, on a hospital ward surrounded by experienced practitioners and patients, student nurses can start to apply the knowledge they have gained at university in a practical setting.
Building a future network
On a clinical placement, student nurses work alongside nurse practitioners, physicians, and other staff members. They collaborate with a large team every day, people who share their ambitions and understand the challenges they will face after graduation. By staying in touch with the clinicians they meet on a placement, students can begin to build or strengthen their existing professional network, an important consideration for all nurses.
In the future, these relationships can be incredibly useful when it comes to locating the ideal job offer and advancing a career in the healthcare industry. Whether this happens through getting recommendations or being given a good reference, networking also provides opportunities for finding a mentor or simply a few hours of coaching from someone more experienced. Even when a person is in their dream job, a network can provide useful support for tackling difficult situations and finding actionable strategies for solving complex medical issues.
Professional development opportunities
For both postgraduate and degree-level students, the chance to participate in real-world situations nurtures the development of practical, professional competencies. For instance, tech is becoming more prevalent in clinical settings every year, and on placement, nurses can learn how professionals use it daily. From accessing electronic health records to using software diagnosis tools and staying in touch with colleagues, students have many opportunities to develop their IT skills. Furthermore, on ward rounds, students will assist with procedures in an unpredictable and dynamic environment, as well as interact with patients. They will learn to listen, form bonds, and advocate for the people they care for—traits that are difficult to teach in a classroom.
Learning about the culture of the US healthcare system
After working in a busy hospital, students will gain a better understanding of modern healthcare and the changes that are taking place. By spending time in environments they are unfamiliar with, student nurses will appreciate how dynamic a clinical setting can be and how unpredictable the working day often is. Even experienced post-grad nurses can treat placements in new environments as a learning opportunity, where they will see different approaches to care and meet a range of new professionals. Within that system, they will feel valued and learn that colleagues can be relied upon. Moreover, they gain experience in a workplace culture that appreciates the importance of professional development.