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Getting Organized: Preparing to Facilitate Nursing Clinical

The transition from expert clinician to novice educator presents the opportunity to take on a fresh role and make a significant impact on the development of many budding student nurses. It may seem intimidating to start anew as a nursing clinical instructor, especially after functioning as an expert registered nurse for several years. Taking the time to prepare can give you what you need to feel confident and ready for this challenge. We organized some of our essential tips to consider when starting to lay the groundwork to successfully facilitate nursing clinical.


Before you begin, look to connect with the nursing program’s clinical coordinator and the didactic facilitator for the course. Review the school’s policies and expectations for clinical experiences, along with the scheduled clinical dates and total hours needed for completion. This is a good time to request a personal copy of the course text and align access to the program’s learning management system. Since using learning management systems has become so commonplace in higher education, you may be asked to build your "course" in an online system to be used for functions such as providing an introduction to the clinical experience, clinical expectations, resources, contact information, grades, and messaging. The clinical coordinator and/or didactic facilitator can provide the course syllabus and topical course outline, which are both hugely helpful for coordinating clinical experiences with classroom learning. In addition, be sure to connect with the nursing leadership of the unit where clinical will take place and review the unit/facility policies. Request a tour if you are unfamiliar with the site and ask questions regarding best places to meet for pre- and post-conference. This is also a great time to find out where the students should leave their personal belongings during the shift and review additional considerations, such as parking and meals, ahead of time. It may also be wise to consider boosting your professional liability insurance to align with your new role.


When you meet up with your group, try to set things off in a positive direction and begin to find your flow. Providing clear direction and answering questions early on sets the experience up for success with limited distraction. The student focus should be on learning and growing as they progress through their education and gain confidence in their abilities, so reducing confusion is key. Be sure to cover the learning objectives and what is expected, along with what is not expected, and provide examples whenever possible to assist with forming connections to the material and preparing students to tackle new challenges.


Student nurses are often eager to receive their patient assignments, which you, as the educator, can organize ahead of time with the unit staff. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the nursing role in your practice area; therefore, reviewing your nurse practice act, or similar, is a must. Be ready to provide proactive guidance and to respond to unsafe clinical performance. Students may need redirection at times and support to process experiences. Some of the best advice revolves around communication—clear, direct, and frequent communication—as this enables opportunities to connect, reflect, and avoid overloading. Sometimes it’s the nonverbal cues that grab your attention. Seek to foster an open learning environment that is built on respect for the experience and the learning process.


One of the most significant responsibilities of the nurse educator is to function as the facilitator of learning, which involves stepping back and providing opportunities for the students to safely provide patient care. This can create quite the transition hurdle when you are very accustomed to carrying out the care yourself like an expert clinician. Remember, here, that students need time to work through these new experiences, so patience, calmness, and composure really helps.


Typically, nursing programs include specific documentation-focused clinical paperwork to be completed in addition to what is required at the clinical site. This paperwork may include clinical assessment findings, treatment planning, and nursing-related care considerations, including nursing diagnoses along with medication indications and administration. If there is a journal requirement or simulation experience built into the clinical aspect of the course, be sure to review these and help the students prepare for their completion. Be aware of privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), or similar, and apply them as required.


Now that you have started setting the foundation for teaching clinical, consider exploring additional posts on The Ignite Blog for more support. We included some relevant titles below and links above to help you further prepare to facilitate successful nursing clinical experiences. This post is part of the "Getting Organized" series, which centers on establishing groundwork. More posts from this series can be found on our blog.







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