When you are training as a nurse, one of the most valuable aspects of the process is the experience you get in the clinicals. As the name suggests, the clinicals are the part of the course where you are on placement, usually on a ward, and have access to real-life patients, with real-life scenarios, and you get to see how a ward works. 

Clinicals require a different skillset from completing coursework, so many student nurses feel intimidated about what they can expect when they begin working in these clinical settings. In this short guide, you will be introduced to what you can expect from nursing clinicals. 

Sooner, Not Later

This will depend on the nursing course you undertake. If you are taking an accelerated course, such as an ABSN program from UIndy, you will be placed into clinicals sooner than if you are taking a standard nursing course. This means that your clinicals could begin by the end of your first semester. 

However, don’t panic. You will have plenty of support, and it has been found that for most student nurses, the sooner they begin clinicals, the sooner they develop the appropriate skills to practice with confidence. And so, they tend to have better outcomes long-term with their clinical and academic nursing exams.


One thing all nurses, and nursing students on clinicals, must be able to do is multi-task. As such, this is something that you will be expected to do from your first shift on the ward. Like most areas of nursing, multi-tasking is a skill that develops with practice, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right away.

Baptism By Fire

Starting clinicals can sometimes be referred to as a baptism by fire, meaning you will be dropped into the deep end and expected to swim. Alongside being able to handle multiple things at once, you will need to be able to remember valuable clinical information about patients, medication times, medication interactions, patient contacts, referrals, meetings, ward rounds, etc. So, it is a tough role starting your nursing clinicals, but by taking on all these responsibilities at once, you are more likely to adapt.

Quick Thinking

A key skill you will learn is quick and critical thinking. This will apply to patient care, medications, staff interactions, and of course, how to handle a crisis, as you can rest assured, that there will be a few of those. Once again, quick thinking can be tough at first, but with enough experience working with patients and in a ward, you will pick it up soon enough.

Patient Care

It may sound odd to say to a training nurse that you will learn about patient care while in clinicals, as surely you have learned about this a lot in lectures. However, as is the theme here, when it is in practice, it is different. You will learn about how to care for different kinds of patients, how to prioritize patients, and of course, how real-world scenarios can impact your patients’ moods. As a nurse, you will need to show empathy, compassion, and most of all, professionalism. In some cases, this is certainly easier said than done.