Nurses spend a ton of time hitting the books—memorizing facts, and learning big stuffy medical words. Their education is what qualifies them for their jobs but it’s their empathy and personal skills that will ultimately ensure that they accelerate at it.
Learning how to effectively interact with patients, family members, doctors, etc. is a difficult skill that can take practice to master. Getting direct experience with patient care is an integral part of nursing school. But how does it happen?
In this article, we take a look at how nurses get hands-on experience while they are still in school. We also provide an overview of the overall educational experience that most nurses go through.
Becoming a Nurse: Overview
Nursing school is an intense experience. That path can vary quite significantly depending on your background, and your goals. Students enrolling in a traditional university will usually take four years to get their degree.
During that time, they will take gen-eds and complete their nursing curriculum. Not only will this see them in the classroom, but it will also involve a lot of practical experience in the hospital setting. We will talk more about that in a later heading.
People who already have an undergraduate degree do not need to get another one. They can limit their focus only on BSN requirements, which will allow them to save money and time.
There are programs specifically designed to shorten the amount of time it takes to get your degree. Accelerated programs are intense but, for many people, worth the effort. They can allow you to complete your studies in as little as 18 months, making them an awesome fit for professionals who want to enter the work force as quickly as possible.
No matter what educational route you take, you will need to pass state certification requirements before you begin working as a nurse. At a minimum, this will mean taking the NCLEX— an exam that all nurses must pass before they can work in a hospital.
If you decide to specialize, there may be additional certifications you will have to get through.
Skills that Contribute to Patient Care
Patient care naturally depends on high-quality medical training and comprehensive knowledge. Patients need nurses who know what they are doing, but that’s also only the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve ever had a prolonged stay in the hospital, you might understand: quality care is the expectation, but empathy is the quality that impacts your overall experience.
As a nurse, you need to be able to understand your patients’ mental and emotional needs just as clearly as you do their physical ones. That’s a skill that you can only develop through time and experience.
Simulation labs play a foundational role in helping nursing students experience the pressures of patient care without any of the stakes. Learning about what can go wrong in the hospital setting isn’t the same thing as experiencing the pressure firsthand.
Labs are equipped with life-like mannequins that mimic patient behavior. This includes everything from responsive vital signs to a wide range of other simulated medical conditions.
Not only does it give nursing students experiences that they can’t get in the classroom but it also introduces them to unique circumstances that might not come up organically during training. Rare conditions, unique complications: hypothetical scenarios that nurses should prepared for regardless of whether or not they are likely to come up naturally.
Simulation labs provide a natural way to get experience without risking the health of a real patient.
Simulation labs provide experience with fake people. Eventually, however, nurses in training will need to apply their knowledge to human patients. Clinical rotations are a vital and legally mandatory aspect of nursing training that puts students in hospitals. There, they work on various floors so that they can acquire practical experience with all of the situations they might encounter once they are actually on the job.
Not only does this help nursing students gain practical knowledge but it also introduces them to the more human aspect of patient care. Even the best medical mannequin in the world can’t recreate the emotions involved in taking care of a living human.
Role Playing: Enhancing Communication and Critical Thinking
Role-playing is a training technique in which students work on developing their communication and critical thinking skills. In these scenarios, the student will assume a role commonly experienced in the hospital setting. One student might be a patient. The other will be the nurse. Someone else may play the role of a family member.
The scenarios will require the students to adapt to various scenarios that commonly come up in hospitals. The goal is to push beyond mere technical proficiency, helping the students develop techniques that will help them navigate the complex social interactions that so frequently emerge in hospitals.
Nursing is highly collaborative. Healthcare workers need to know not just how to communicate with patients, but also their coworkers to provide effective and quick care. Working in a team environment helps expose students to the collaborative environment they will experience on the job.
Team-based training exercises help push beyond the value of simply knowing something. When it comes to acquiring collaborative skills, it’s not just about what you know, but how you are able to share that information with others.
Patient care is about more than just facts. It’s about figuring out how to successfully collaborate with someone during what might very well be the most challenging moment of their life. It’s about being a great medical professional, and a powerful patient advocate.
Getting practical hospital experience is an awesome way to learn how to deal with the pressures of health work while also learning how to connect with the human side of patient care.