Evaluating nursing students in the clinical setting

Written by bonnie swain schindly
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Evaluating nursing students in the clinical setting
Evaluators recognise that nursing students are nervous during clinicals. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Nursing students gain real-life experience by working in clinical settings. Clinicals move students from textbook theories to patient bedside care. Supervisors observe and critique undergraduates as they dispense oral and intravenous medications and assess patients' conditions. Novices often rotate clinical assignments at hospitals so that they spend time in intensive care units, emergency wards and different speciality departments such as cardiac or paediatric. Evaluating nursing students in the clinical setting becomes part of the learning experience.


Nursing school faculty and hospital supervisors expect nursing students to demonstrate accurate knowledge and appropriate skills when they perform their clinicals. A student proves that she has critical thinking abilities by establishing priorities, fixing problems, picking up on patient cues and interacting with patients and staff, according to the University of Portland School of Nursing. She displays excellence when helping multiple patients or with a smaller number of complex clients. She requires minimal supervision, whether she is inserting a Foley catheter or changing bed linens.


Clinical assignments usually intimidate novices. On their first days, some students stand outside patients' rooms trying to figure out what they are expected to do next, according to the online article "Teaching Tools: 10-Minute Assessment for Patient Safety" published on the Nursing Center website. Barriers that sometimes preclude a student from excelling during her clinicals include feeling a low level of self-confidence, holding a job outside of her studies or wrestling with family issues, says associate nursing professor Janet McMahon on the Delmar Cengage Learning website.


Evaluators rely on different tools to critique student nurses. Some instructors rate novices on scales of one through five, depending upon students' demonstrated skills and needs for guidance, says the University of Portland. Some nursing schools utilise human simulators and scripts so students practice every stage of patient care before setting foot in a hospital, the Nursing Center website reports. A script walks a student through the entire process of greeting a new patient, conducting hand hygiene, and assessing the client's condition. After intense practice, a student enters a clinical setting with more confidence that leads to optimal success.


Student nurses benefit when evaluators' feedback is timely and constructive. Effective assessments emphasise appropriate behaviours and patient safety, the Delmar Cengage Learning website reports. For example, an anxious student avoids eye contact and shuffles through papers when he feels uncomfortable. These behaviours usually signify a student is deficient and requires some coaching. His clinical evaluator needs to mention these weaknesses so the student understands that he must perform differently. Daily written feedback produces the best results for student nurses.

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