Easy Win-Wins to Impress Your Clinical Instructor

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In this article, I will share what student behaviors I look for during clinicals. Hopefully, I will also provide insight on what to avoid for a great clinical experience.

by J.Adderton J.Adderton, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 29 years experience.

How can I impress my clinical instructor?

Easy Win-Wins to Impress Your Clinical Instructor

One of my favorite job responsibilities as a nursing instructor is nursing clinicals. It is an inspiring moment when a student is able to make the connection between classroom and hands-on nursing practice. As much as I enjoy clinicals, there are situations when student actions or behaviors can bring additional challenges to clinicals. I’ll share a few of these and, hopefully, provide you with a little helpful insight.

STEP 1 Appreciate Your Instructor’s Responsibilities

Your clinical instructor is legally obligated to safeguard student and patient safety. In addition, they can be held accountable for the negligent or wrongful actions of a nursing student. You can help your instructor make appropriate patient assignments by communicating your strengths, weaknesses and skill level. I have always appreciated students who perform ongoing formal and informal self-assessments on knowledge and skill.

STEP 2 First Impression Really Is Important

You have several "first impressions" to make on any clinical day- your instructor, patients, caregivers, clinical site staff and others.

The dress code is what it is.

There are certain uniform requirements as a nursing student you probably find overly strict, out-of-date or too restrictive for your own personal style. When I started nursing school 25 years ago, we were required to wear nursing aprons. It was an archaic uniform requirement, but it was also just that… a requirement. Updating your program’s dress code policy is may be a worthwhile project, but always follow current policy. Students are anxious as it is and a uniform reprimand at the day’s start only makes it worse.

Be on time and eat before you come.

First, I would like to acknowledge there are legitimate reasons you may be late to clinical (I.e. sick child, traffic, car problem). In these situations, be sure to follow your program’s instructions for notifying your instructor. Otherwise, leave early and allow time for the unexpected. Be sure you eat before you arrive. Asking if you can “go eat breakfast” 1 hour into clinical will probably not be well received.

STEP 3 Value Your Program’s Relationship with the Clinical Site

Identifying willing clinical sites for students is challenging and requires active relationship building. You can help your clinical instructor foster this relationship by:

  • Caring for all patients with dignity and respect.
  • Following the clinical facility’s policy and procedures (I.e. parking, non-smoking campus, patient confidentiality)
  • Reporting any issues with staff to your clinical instructor immediately.
  • Being realistic with facility staff expectations. Remember, the nurses are busy and stress levels may be elevated at times.
  • Always receiving report and giving report to your assigned patient’s primary nurse.
  • Avoiding “hanging out” at the nurse’s desk. Talk with your instructor if you are not sure what you should be doing.

STEP 4 Avoid These Cringe-Worthy Faux Pas

I value students who participate and focus on the present clinical. The following student behaviors take focus away from clinical, place your instructor in an awkward spot and should be avoided.

  • Asking if group can be dismissed early because “no one will tell”.
  • Asking questions about past or upcoming exams.
  • Talking negatively or gossiping about other students.
  • Talking negatively or gossiping about other faculty.
  • Asking if post conference could be “skipped” for the day.
  • Talking negatively about the overall nursing program.
  • Talking negatively about the clinical site and/or staff.
  • Arguing or disrespectful behavior toward facility staff.
  • Studying or working on outside assignments during clinical.
  • Asking if the student has to perform patient personal care.
  • Complaining about “working all night” or not sleeping prior to clinical.
  • Providing inappropriate information about personal life.
  • Actions that risk student and/or patient safety.

Finally, always avoid behavior or attitudes that diminishes, devalues or is uncaring towards any patient.

STEP 5 Set Realistic Goals Pat Yourself on the Back

I understand students are anxious and apprehensive. It raises a red flag when a student is overly confident and without any hesitation. Your clinical instructor appreciates a student who asks questions and seeks clarification. At the end of each clinical day, pat yourself on the back and reflect on what fear you overcame, what you learned and how you made a difference in your patient’s care.

Do you have tips or stories to share? Would love to read your perspective.

Additional Information:

Seven Tips For Getting The Most Out of Nursing Clinicals

J. Adderton is a nurse with over 20 years experience in a variety of roles and settings. Nurse educator is one of her favorite nursing roles. If you enjoyed, read her other student focused articles on her Allnurses.com blog.

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23 Comment(s)

JBudd, MSN

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 41 years experience. 1 Article; 3,836 Posts

16 hours ago, J.Adderton said:

Being realistic with facility staff expectations. Remember, the nurses are busy and stress levels may be elevated at times

Remember, the staff nurse is not getting paid to teach you, you are an extra duty tacked on.  Questions are good, but not if it was something you should have already been prepped on and ready to do.  "Why are you" is challenging, you might try "how come it gets done that way?" or "what is your favorite way of doing ____?". 

Do your best not to slow that nurse down, ask ahead of time if there are procedures you want to do (and are permitted to do) so they know what you want.  I've sought out students if I thought it would be something interesting, but not all nurses will take the time unless you've already brought it up.

If you aren't sure about something you are charting, check it out with your instructor first.  My student once had a staff nurse change all the student's entries (during paper charting days) because she disagreed with it (student was actually right!  grrr).

16 hours ago, J.Adderton said:

You can help your instructor make appropriate patient assignments by communicating your strengths, weaknesses and skill level.

Had student get to go into a cardiac catheterization (first day of clinicals no less) because she spoke German (her first language) and was able to translate during the procedure for a foreign tourist, who had to be conscious for it.

Ace Savanahh

59 Posts

Silly article.  Your clinical instructor should impress you.  Your paying their salary. 

JBudd, MSN

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 41 years experience. 1 Article; 3,836 Posts

You're.

Your CI is the one who has to evaluate your professionalism, character, ability, competence; because when you graduate the school is stating you have mastered the basics of what it takes to be a safe nurse. 

I always did my best to stay out of their way my second time at nursing school and not draw attention to myself because I was so traumatized by an awful instructor at the first school I went to (she gaslit me, bullied me, told me she hated me because I was attractive and that “most nurses aren’t pretty” which was so so weird). To this day, ten years later, I have no idea why she treated me the way she did. Perhaps she was mentally ill, I have no idea, either way she seriously should not have been teaching.

J.Adderton, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 29 years experience. 165 Articles; 494 Posts

6 hours ago, Crystal-Wings said:

I always did my best to stay out of their way my second time at nursing school and not draw attention to myself because I was so traumatized by an awful instructor at the first school I went 

I taught at a community college and other faculty filed complaint that I was being bullied by the program director.  You're right, it is traumatizing.  The college President acknowledged bullying and hostile work environment.  Six months later, I was told my contract was not being renewed.  It was devastating.  I did alot of research on bullying in nursing academics and unfortunately... there is plenty of research to support the claim.

On 2/12/2021 at 12:59 AM, J.Adderton said:

I taught at a community college and other faculty filed complaint that I was being bullied by the program director.  You're right, it is traumatizing.  The college President acknowledged bullying and hostile work environment.  Six months later, I was told my contract was not being renewed.  It was devastating.  I did alot of research on bullying in nursing academics and unfortunately... there is plenty of research to support the claim.

It wasn’t just bullying. I legit think she was mentally ill. One time during a clinical a staff nurse said excuse me to me because he almost bumped into me while I was walking out of the bathroom. No big deal right? Wrong. My instructor immediately pulled me aside and started berating me and saying “Why should he apologize to you?!” I was honestly floored and didn’t know what to say because WOW!, and the guy that bumped into me didn’t either. You say excuse me when you bump into someone don’t you? She said and did a bunch of weird crap to me that I won’t even get into. If I had to guess, she probably had some kind of personality disorder. Why she zeroed in on me and disliked me so much only god knows. She got me kicked out of the entire program for things she made up about me, and in return I went to the board of directors and told them I would take them to court and gave them a list of all the things she said and did with the dates and they ended up giving me a $50,000 settlement. It was a private school and it no longer exists. I came to find out later on that she had been fired, and this was not the first time she’d been fired from a teaching job at a nursing school.

They seemed to have an awful lot of questionable staff. One clinical instructor started screaming and yelling at a student because she was wearing an orange sweatshirt and claimed it “triggered” her ptsd. Another one used to leave the students on the floor for hours at a time and would always come back with bloodshot eyes and sniffling like he was doing drugs. 

I honestly feel like anyone who gets a teaching job (nursing or anything else) needs to be thoroughly screened, because nobody should have to put up with that in a learning environment.

Ace Savanahh

59 Posts

On 2/11/2021 at 3:00 AM, JBudd said:

You're.

Your CI is the one who has to evaluate your professionalism, character, ability, competence; because when you graduate the school is stating you have mastered the basics of what it takes to be a safe nurse. 

I knew my spelling error would draw out People like you! ? Professionalism is usually used by be people with little talent to look important.  If you were professional, you would know that you need to impress your students the way you should impress your patients.  It’s called good customer service.  Anyways, get over yourself.   Nursing was easy and The NCEX was the easiest test I took in my life.   So all those fear tactics by people with low self esteem like you, isn’t needed in nursing.  

Edited by Ace Savanahh

JBudd, MSN

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 41 years experience. 1 Article; 3,836 Posts

"People" like me, you mean the ones who have to grade papers for "professional" looking presentations? If you knew you had made an error, why didn't you go correct it?  

I'm glad nursing school was so easy for you, it doesn't seem like that to many students, who actively seek ways to help themselves improve.  Why get upset that someone offers to help?

The point of the article was how to do well in clinical, which impresses instructors.  Respect is a two way street.

To the OP: nice topic!

 

Hannahbanana, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Physiology, CM, consulting, nsg edu, LNC, COB. Has 52 years experience. 1,183 Posts

On 2/10/2021 at 6:40 PM, Ace Savanahh said:

Silly article.  Your clinical instructor should impress you.  Your paying their salary. 

You probably aren't. Also, if you think that your paying for school (and only that) entitles you to pass, you're in for some serious disappointments. The author has spent a lot of her personal time offering you some excellent recommendations for succeeding in clinical. Your instructors will be doing the same-- I can tell you that from personal experience. You would be well-advised to cut the attitude and listen up.

Once I was correcting care plans one Saturday afternoon and my 9-year-old wandered into the room. "Whatcha doing, Mom?" "This is my homework for school." (Aghast): "You have ... WEEKEND HOMEWORK??" Yes-- 14 care plans and journals from my 2 clinical groups. plus lesson plans for clinical conferences and a presentation for faculty meeting. Weekend homework.

Your instructor has more work to teach clinical than you do to take it.

 

(And it's NCLEX, and watch out for subject-verb agreement)

Ace Savanahh

59 Posts

2 hours ago, Hannahbanana said:

You probably aren't. Also, if you think that your paying for school (and only that) entitles you to pass, you're in for some serious disappointments. The author has spent a lot of her personal time offering you some excellent recommendations for succeeding in clinical. Your instructors will be doing the same-- I can tell you that from personal experience. You would be well-advised to cut the attitude and listen up.

Once I was correcting care plans one Saturday afternoon and my 9-year-old wandered into the room. "Whatcha doing, Mom?" "This is my homework for school." (Aghast): "You have ... WEEKEND HOMEWORK??" Yes-- 14 care plans and journals from my 2 clinical groups. plus lesson plans for clinical conferences and a presentation for faculty meeting. Weekend homework.

Your instructor has more work to teach clinical than you do to take it.

Programs are shut down if there are not enough students to keep the program open.  Instructors with attitudes not conducive to a productive learning experience were fired after students complained. 

Why would I need to listen though? I am done with school.  I have a BSN and a RN license.  I am looking into an DNP program, and I will be sure to avoid schools that have instructors like you.  

Edited by Ace Savanahh

Hannahbanana, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Physiology, CM, consulting, nsg edu, LNC, COB. Has 52 years experience. 1,183 Posts

It is my experience that most programs have more applicants than they can accept. In part this is not because the programs have too few students, LOL. It is sometimes because faculty pay, especially for clinical faculty, is ridiculously low, much lower than staff nursing, so it is hard to attract and keep them. Many clinical instructors work two jobs so they can teach, because they love teaching and have a talent for it.
If you continue c this attitude towards hard-working faculty who want nothing more than to prepare you for a successful start to a career, you will be doing the schools a favor to avoid them. Good luck in your future endeavors.