What You Need to Know to Successfully Complete Your Clinical Rotations

Dear Aspiring NP:


You probably have not had a chance to even think about your upcoming clinical rotations, especially since you’ve been so busy with school work and actually landing a clinical site. Or perhaps, you may have already done your research, have asked fellow recent graduates about their experience, or have even gone back to your school for a clinical skills intensive week.

However, if you still have doubts about what it takes to successfully complete your clinical rotation, continue reading, I’m here to help.

Here’s what you need to know about successfully completing your clinical rotations:

  1. There is no “one-size fits all”: Your experience will vary from instructor to instructor, you will need to remain flexible during the whole process, and you are bound to feel very inadequate and uncomfortable most of the time. This is all very normal, and it’s okay to feel this way during clinicals. Just remember that these feelings don’t define the rest of your career.
  2. You may question why you are pursuing a career as a Nurse Practitioner during your Clinical Rotations: Seeing the struggles of working Nurse Practitioners can often feel very discouraging, but remember, you make your own way, although some struggles are universal such as patient to provider ratio, lack of sufficient support staff or pressure from managers, you’ll feel differently when you practice on your own. So long as you define your WHY ahead of time.
  3. Know the different styles of clinical instructors: For instance, some instructors will have you dive right in and start doing procedures and practicing your skills on your very first day. I had an instructor once that handed me a speculum and asked me to conduct a pelvic exam and pap smear on a patient. Although I had done it before, I was so nervous that in spite of my best attempts, I was not able to visualize the cervix, however by my second and third time doing this kind of visit, I was able to see everything right away. The benefit of having a hands off instructor is that you learn as you go and can quickly catch on after the first few times of doing a procedure. Some other instructors, can be more hands on, and will have you shadow them for a day or so before slowly transitioning you into seeing the patients alone, then giving report and helping select a diagnosis and possible treatment outcome. The benefit from having a hands on instructor is that you’ll be provided with many opportunities to ask questions and refine your critical thinking skills. Lastly, there are some instructors that are very nervous themselves about teaching or upsetting their patients about having a student in the room. If this is your case this may limit what you can or cannot do at that clinical site. Either way, make the best of every single learning opportunity headed your way.
  4. Establishing clear expectations at the beginning of your rotation: communicating openly with the instructor on the first day of your rotation will help you both arrive to a mutually comfortable zone where you are best able to learn and they are best able to teach. Find out what their expectations of your stay there are, and his or her teaching style, some preceptors like to quiz you while others simply allow you to arrive to your conclusions with little intervention. An important piece of information you’ll be sure to confirm is how many days it’s feasible for them to precept. Some preceptors like to do it full time while others don’t want to have the students around every day. Make sure that your arrangement is very clear for the school and your instructor. An unclear schedule could impact your graduation timeline. Lastly, be sure to reiterate that if anything should change on your Preceptor’s availability you’d like to be notified first, to make the necessary adjustments. This piece is important as some Preceptors may bypass you and go through the school directly leaving you in the dark.
  5. Have an attitude of gratitude at all times: This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I could give you. While you are in the clinical site, conduct yourself in a way that reflects how thankful you are of being a guest there. Avoid topics that may be controversial, personal conversations, texting while you are seeing patients or when you are with your instructor (you can always use the bathroom to do this), and getting involved in any office drama.
  6. Know your weak and strong areas beforehand: Before you start your clinical rotation, you should have a very clear understanding of the concepts that you are very familiar with, those that you could use brushing up with, versus those that you don’t really understand and need to reference the guidelines all the time. Don’t expect your clinical preceptor to do this homework for you. I encourage you to purchase whatever review book you’ll be utilizing for your boards before you start your clinicals. I highly recommend this because it’s a great way to assess your knowledge, identify weak areas and use as reference during your rotation.

And now I leave you, to ponder on these 6 tips that you must keep in mind in order to get your 700 or so clinical hours completed, successfully graduate and start practicing in the field.

P.S. Don’t know where to start? Be sure to download the following self assessment tool that will help your identify weak and strong areas before your rotation begins.


Liliet Gomez

Author Bio:

Liliet Gomez is a Family Nurse Practitioner practicing in NYC. She enjoys supporting Aspiring Nurse Practitioners in their NP journey through blog posts, videos and downloadable resources at www.aspiring-np.com