Excelling During Your Nursing Clinical Rotations

NursingApril 13, 2017

Clinical rotations are an excellent, crucial opportunity for nursing students to get the hands-on, real-world experiences they need to become well-rounded nurses. If you are pursuing your bachelor’s degree in nursing, getting the most out of the clinical experience is of paramount importance, so here are some pointers for maximizing this key opportunity for growth.


You will probably be assigned a mentor. This could take the form of the supervisor on the service you are assigned to. He or she may or may not have the time—or the patience—for hand-holding or even extensive, detailed explanations. Most experienced nurses are primarily focused on providing excellent patient care.

Teaching is something these seasoned nurses often view as secondary to their job. Be understanding, and recognize that it is up to you to listen carefully, do as you are told (when you are asked to do it), and only ask questions after you have attempted to look up the answers for yourself. If you are enrolled in BSN classes, this approach to learning will come as no surprise. You should also arrive prepared. This means; well rested, appropriately dressed, and in possession of at least some knowledge about the service you have been assigned to.


Going into clinical rotations with a can-do attitude is likely to endear you to staff nurses, other healthcare personnel, and your supervisor/mentor. BSN students who recoil at unpleasant tasks, or who take an attitude that certain tasks are beneath them, are likely to be ignored. And that could mean you will not receive the opportunities for learning that you might otherwise receive—and benefit from. Remember that these rotations are an important component of your BSN courses. 

One of the more important lessons you should be able to glean from your clinical rotation experiences is that nursing is a team effort. As the cliché goes, there is no “I” in team. This means no one is above any task, no matter how unpleasant. Nursing necessarily involves doing plenty of tasks that others may view as unpleasant or unsavory. You cannot afford to be among them. It is the job. This is an opportunity to demonstrate just how much of a team player you are. By pitching in willingly and without complaint or even reluctance, you will signal to your mentors and other professionals that you are worthy of their time and attention.


As noted above, an important part of your job as a nurse will involve functioning well within the framework of an efficient team. Effective teams do not and cannot embrace selfish behavior. That means divas are not welcome. Divas belong on the opera stage, not in the operating theater. Whatever task you are assigned, do it willingly and view it as an important opportunity to learn, or to improve skills. Clinicals are your opportunity to practice certain key nursing skills in real-world settings. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but be understanding if other nurses seem less than thrilled to be teaching you. Their primary focus will inevitably be on ensuring their patients receive excellent care and remain safe at all times.

Patient Interaction

Perhaps more than anything else, clinical rotations are your first good opportunity to interact with real patients. In some instances, among people with chronic conditions, for example, you may be able to learn more from the patient himself than you will from the medical professionals providing his care. Some patients are happy to share information with you.

You will also get the opportunity to practice important practical tasks that cannot easily be simulated in the classroom, such as taking vitals, listening to breath sounds, and making safe, efficient transfers. Keep in mind that many patients may be in pain, or experiencing side effects from medications that make them less than friendly and cooperative. You cannot afford to take any objectionable behavior personally, but highly inappropriate behavior should certainly be reported to your supervisor.