10 Ways to Improve your Grades in Clinicals

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For better or worse, nursing school is far different from other classes. In clinicals, the instructors grade you based on their personal observations of your behavior and skill. Here are 10 ways to make sure you get a good grade.

Instructors should be as objective and fair as possible. However, they may really only be with you for a short time each day. They might have multiple students and units to rotate to.

They’re people like us, and we’re all subject to subtle judgements and mistakes. They cannot and should not be expected to assess you as objectively as, say, a multiple choice test would.

So how can you get that A in clinical?

1. Pay attention to detail at all times. If the instructor perceives you as an organized, prepared, and well-composured person, they are much more likely to give you that A. Make a maximum impression in the short amount of time you have.

2. Always be respectful and professional. People will rub you the wrong way. I can almost guarantee it. Just keep yourself calm and remember that it really doesn’t matter. Healthcare workers can get crabby. Smile and wave it off, and people will be impressed with your composure. It can be really hard to do; I speak from experience! In the end though, you’ll be glad you did it.

3. Keep your papers and supplies neatly organized. Use a binder or folder for each class if you need to. This will contribute to your overall impression of neatness.

4. Give yourself time to prepare before going out of the house. Do your hair, clean your clothes, and don’t look shabby. There’s nothing that will deflate a teacher’s impression of you than seeming sloppy.

5. Prepare the night before. Have a backpack or bag where you have all your essentials before going to sleep. That includes your clinical supplies, keys, nametag, etc. Laying out your outfit is helpful too. Have everything at the ready, as if you’re planning on getting up and leaving the house within 5 minutes.

6. Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions. That’s what they’re there for, and they like to teach. (Why else would they be there?) You’ll get to know them better, and they will know that you really do want to learn more. It will improve their impression of you because you’ve built a student-teacher relationship.

7. Don’t just do this for your clinicals. Make sure you look professional in the classroom as well. You never know who will see you, so make sure it’s a good first impression.

8. Check the syllabus often. Classroom teachers often want you to print out a document or bring some other item to class. Don’t get stuck having to ask the teacher for a copy. Keep your syllabus safe and check it often.

9. Master your skills. Without going all the way to the practice lab, here’s a way you can prepare your skills before clinicals right at home without a huge time investment:

Think about or write down some of the common skills they’ve already taught you in class (they won’t make you do anything they haven’t taught you).
If you’re a first year student, this might include doing a head to toe assessment, subcutaneous injection, an IV Push, priming a bag etc.
First, review the instructions. If you have a lab sheet, fundamentals textbook, or workbook, use that. As a last resort you can search it on the internet.
Then, just imagine yourself at the hospital, doing the skill and going through each step (or act it out). If you can, pretend your instructor’s watching you.
If you can’t remember a step, look at your sheet. Then try again. Eventually, you’ll be thinking it out in your mind, impressing your instructor with your awesome skills!

Now you have the procedure down. Most importantly, though, you will be prepared and confident. Confidence works magic. It will keep you from panicking when something comes up (for example, forgetting how to set the pump).

Instead, you will turn to your instructor and ask him/her calmly how to do that particular task. (Believe it or not, they like to help!). Then you can confidently continue and finish the skill because you’ve already done it in your head so many times.

Of course, going to practice lab is part of preparation. Don’t neglect that either. The above method is just a great way to prepare your mind and gain confidence.

10. Smile! Don’t forget to relax. Having a positive attitude and a smile is the best way to make an impression. Everyone likes being around a happy person (and, hopefully, giving them good grades!). Be that person.

It may sound like I’m asking you to be fake and “fool the teachers.” Nope. These are all good habits to have anyways. Make them a routine. Nursing school is different from other schools. In nursing school, you learn to be detail-oriented and responsible. Although you do learn a lot of information, they are also trying to teach you a frame of mind. If you learn these habits right from the beginning, you’re already off to a huge head start.

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