Clinical Learning Environments in Nursing Programs

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

A clinical nurse educator should provide a positive and engaging experience for nursing students. This article will take you through key points of creating the best experience possible,including preparation, establishing expectations, and evaluating.

Achieving the Ultimate Clinical Experience

Say you are a clinical nurse educator. You have a new nursing student, Amy, coming in for training. You want her to have a good experience, both for her benefit, you and your staffs, and that of Amy's future patients!

Preparation is paramount in the overall receptiveness of a clinical experience. General knowledge and experience in the clinical setting, preparing the students before they arrive, and establishing expectations for both students and clinical staff provide a framework to objectively evaluate the usefulness of the experience.

But what does it really mean for a nursing student to have an 'ultimate experience'? This lesson will provide an outline of key characteristics for nurse educators to consider when accompanying their students through the clinical setting.

Preparing Nursing Students

Clinical settings are heavily varied. They can range from inpatient to outpatient settings, physician offices, ambulatory care settings, community health centers, school health offices, and many more.

In order to effectively prepare students to enter into any setting, the educator may provide a general overview of what it might look like.

For example, if Amy has only ever been in operating room rotations and is now moving to a maternity unit, the new unit will feel like a foreign land! You can prepare Amy by explaining where to find supplies and equipment, the general layout of the unit or facility, and what services are offered there.

Establishing Expectations

Current clinical staff, along with nursing students, have a list of expectations to live up to. Nursing students like Amy require guidance from the nurse educator, which may include facility or unit specific instructions, overall course goals, and tips on how to apply skills and knowledge. Examples of nursing student expectations may include:

  • Coming prepared to the setting with the appropriate supplies (i.e. stethoscope, penlight, clipboard)
  • Any applicable uniform revisions (i.e. wearing fun or animal patterned scrubs on the pediatric unit instead of all white)
  • A review of what skills are to be practiced
  • A review of goals to be accomplished for that specific clinical setting

Evaluating Students

In an effort to make Amy's experience meaningful, you must thoroughly evaluate her performance and provide objective feedback. You can first do this through direct observation to see firsthand how Amy interacts with staff members and patients. Also track how accurate her assessment and medication administration techniques were at the point of care.

You may also require Amy to demonstrate the skill prior to performing a new procedure with the patient. During demonstration of skill, the educator can provide timely feedback, reaping multiple benefits.

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