Why Clinical Experience Is Important in Nursing School

Secrets to being a well-rounded nurse - nurse in scrubs standing outside

Nursing is a profession where you need to be extremely flexible and able to roll with the punches. After all, unpredictability may be the only thing that is predictable about the job. Have you ever asked yourself “Why is clinical experience important in nursing?”

The answer to that question comes in the day-to-day variety of care scenarios that you’ll encounter, as well as the wealth of knowledge that can be found among practicing medical professionals. The learning environment achieved by having diverse, well-rounded clinical experiences in nursing school is vital in shaping you as a well-rounded and practice-ready nurse. Let’s explore what you can expect from the clinicals offered through our 16-month ABSN program, and why this aspect of nursing school is so important.

Clinicals Give You a Feel for the Nursing Profession

As a student in our ABSN program, which has site locations near Boston and in Charlotte, you’ll complete a rigorous blend of online coursework, hands-on nursing labs, and in-person clinical rotations while pursuing your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. While the online coursework and nursing labs set the foundation for your education and skills development, it’s the clinical rotations that really show you the day-do-day responsibilities of nursing.

Northeastern ABSN student Ellen

“Talking about a nursing concept is one thing, but it’s really important to see it in the real world,” said Ellen, a current student in our Charlotte ABSN program. “Clinicals allow us to see firsthand what it’s truly like to be a nurse.”

Clinicals Expose You to a Variety of Practice Areas

Our ABSN program will introduce you to a variety of clinical settings across the healthcare continuum, with your first rotation taking place in the first semester. You’ll find that we partner with both big-name hospitals and small suburban healthcare facilities so that you gain a broad perspective of the nursing profession, as well as experience the different practice areas within the occupation, including:

  • Adult health
  • Women’s health
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental health
  • Critical care
  • Public health

As you navigate through the various clinical rotations, you’ll probably find something special you like about each one. The experiences you will have across your nursing clinicals can help you hone in on which practice areas you want to explore most after graduation as a registered nurse.

As someone who wants to be a labor and delivery nurse, Patti, an ABSN program graduate from our Charlotte location, absolutely loved her first clinical, which focused on women and families.

Being a first-semester student, Patti was surprised by all of the skills she was able to apply in this clinical.

She helped with operating room tasks, assisted a mom and newborn in recovery, and performed post-partum checks.

I came home giddy the day I was able to observe a C-section.

-Patti, ABSN program graduate

Quality Clinical Placements Further Your Nursing Education

Like most nursing schools, we can’t guarantee your placement in a specific hospital or healthcare facility. When it comes to scheduling student rotations, there are several factors at play, especially on the part of our clinical partners. Thus, where you get your clinical experiences will depend on factors such as staff nurse availability and patient acuity.

What we can guarantee, however, is that we’ll place you in quality clinical environments that are conducive to your nursing education and that promote your personal and professional development. Studies have shown that positive clinical experiences are more likely linked to how valued and supported a student feels than they are to the physical aspects of the placement.

Megan, an ABSN program graduate from our Burlington site location, was impressed with the wide range of clinical rotations she was able to complete through our ABSN program. The experience she gained helped her to gain confidence in real care scenarios and become a practice-ready nurse.

Northeastern ABSN student Megan

“I loved every single one of my clinicals for different reasons. I couldn’t have asked for better clinical instructors or people to work with,” she said. “I learned so much during my preceptorship. I got to work twelve, 12-hour shifts on the floor and took care of patients by myself.”

Clinicals Clear Up Nursing Student Misconceptions

A common misconception among nursing students is that the best nursing school clinical experiences only happen in big-name hospitals. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are several variables at play when it comes to patient care, making it impossible for students to encounter the exact same experiences everywhere. You might actually see more diverse patients in a community hospital or gain more in-depth experience in a smaller healthcare facility.

Another nursing student misconception when it comes to clinical practice is that you can approach clinicals the same way you approach labs or online lecture-based learning. Your clinical instructor will lead you through your responsibilities and teach you along the way, but you will need to take a proactive approach to benefit the most from this experience. Seek out the things you want to learn during clinical rotations and ask your clinical instructor to teach you or connect you with the individuals who can help answer your questions.

Clinical experiences in nursing school

Stephen, an ABSN graduate from our Burlington location, considered his nursing school clinical experience to be the best part of nursing school. While in the program, he completed clinical rotations at big-name hospitals in Boston and a smaller community hospital outside of the city.

While he says all of his clinical experiences were amazing and incredible, he particularly valued his time at Lowell General Hospital, an independent, not-for-profit community hospital. It was here where he got to work in the intensive care unit, septum-cardiac unit, and the orthopedic post-op floor.

While some of his classmates had rotations at a large teaching hospital, Stephen enjoyed his placement at Lowell General Hospital because he got to do a lot more hands-on work than others in his cohort.

Northeastern ABSN student Stephen

“I could literally do almost everything at Lowell General, which was really cool,” he noted.

Clinical Rotations Provide Students With Real-Word Experience

As a Northeastern ABSN student, you’ll complete six clinical rotations, each one comprising 72 hours of practical experience. During these rotations, you can expect to perform health assessments, develop care plans, and take vitals under the watchful eye of an instructor.

Every time you enter a new clinical setting, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable until you become familiar with your surroundings. Keep in mind that these experiences aren’t just about learning new skills, they’re also about how well you consistently provide safe, competent, and compassionate patient care in all types of situations. For example, let’s say you mastered nasogastric tube insertion during your first clinical; you’re still expected to apply this skill repeatedly throughout your nursing school clinical experience.

In the final weeks of the program, you’ll complete a preceptorship, which is also known as a role transition experience. Under the guidance of a preceptor, who is a registered nurse, you’ll gain concentrated clinical experience in a particular area of practice. You’ll work the same shifts as your preceptor, and as you refine your skills, you’ll take an active, if not primary, role in patient care.

Northeastern University ABSN students

Want to Know More About Nursing School Clinical Experiences?

Now that you understand why clinical experience is important in nursing, and how it impacts a nursing education, you may be interested in pursuing your own nursing school clinical experience. If we’ve piqued your curiosity with this post, you can learn more about the diverse clinical experiences we provide to our ABSN students by contacting our admissions team and starting a conversation today.

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