Tips for Surviving your First 12-hour Clinical

By Anna Beth Daley

Speaking from experience, here are a couple tips to help you survive your first 12-hour clinical, whether it be on a GI, Cardiac, Oncology or other floor!

1. DRINK WATER
This may seem like common-sense, but trust me, it’s harder than it sounds. It is so easy to get caught up in the busy work on the unit and forget to drink water. Bring a reusable water bottle and try to drink 2-3 bottles full of water throughout your shift. Trust me, your kidneys and bladder will thank you.
2. EAT BREAKFAST
Many of you may be thinking, “I don’t need to eat breakfast, I never do and I’m fine.” Trust me, you’ll regret thinking that when you’ve been in a contact droplet room for the past hour and it feels like its 1,000 degrees inside and you’re about to pass out. It doesn’t need to be a gourmet meal, but putting something substantial in your stomach, like a breakfast or protein bar, will help you stay awake and alert during the first hours of your shift.
3. BRING MORE THAN ONE PEN
You will lose one, period. No matter how hard you may try to keep your favorite pen, it will inevitably be borrowed by someone, or dropped or completely lost.
4. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
This may seem like another common-sense tip; however, it is a serious one. Being on your feet and moving around for 12 hours is no easy feat. Try to give yourself at least 8 hours of sleep before a clinical, it will really make a difference.
5. PACK YOUR LUNCH
There is no worse feeling than not packing lunch, running up to the cafeteria and then realizing they are serving some food you really don’t like. Not only will packing your lunch save you some time and money, it will save you some heartbreak. Try to pack it the night before so it saves you time in the morning.
6. BRING SNACKS
Pack a few snacks in your clinical bag, you will get occasional breaks and a good snack can help replenish your energy and mood.
7. GET TO KNOW THE STAFF
I don’t mean just the nurses, get to know the techs and the support staff. As you get to know them, you might find yourself learning even more about nursing and working in a hospital than you think. Many will give advice from when they were in nursing school, or the techs may share tips and tricks for moving a patient or taking their vitals.
8. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR PATIENTS
This is easily one of the most important tips on this list. As a student, you will have a smaller patient load, giving you the opportunity to spend more time with patients than a staff nurse may be able to. Sit down with them and talk, many patients may not have any visitors coming that day or their nurse may have a heavy patient load and won’t have time to have a sit-down conversation. The patients will love having someone to talk to and you can learn a lot from having a good conversation with them, whether it be life advice or tips and tricks for caring for them and their specific ailment.
9. ENJOY YOURSELF AND LEARN
Finally, take it all in. You only get a few semesters of clinical in nursing school, then you’re off in the real world. Take your time during clinical and ask questions, you may not have the opportunity later on. Enjoy yourself, clinical is an exciting time, it can help you realize what kind of area you want to work in and can help you visualize your future as a nurse!

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