Nursing Clinicals: What to Expect and How to Make the Most of Them

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If you’re thinking about going to nursing school, you’re probably wondering, what are nursing clinicals like? We’ll go over what to expect during a typical shift and what you can do to make the most of your experience, including showing up prepared and acting professionally.

Nursing student at bedside with patient

If you are a prospective nursing student, you may be researching the curricula of various nursing programs and found that clinical rotations are common. It is important for you to know what to expect from clinicals, as they are what set nursing programs apart from other educational experiences.

In short, clinical rotations provide an opportunity for you to see your classroom lessons in action. They allow you to observe nurses at work across multiple specialties and settings, enabling you to further explore your interests. The Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track at Mercer University offers clinical placements at some of the top healthcare facilities in the Metro Atlanta area.

Now, let’s dive a little deeper to discover what nursing clinicals are like.

Why Clinical Rotations?

First, it’s important to understand the tangible benefits that you will receive from clinical rotations as a nursing student.

students in clinicals

Not only will you brush up on hard skills through observation such as starting an IV or checking a patient’s vitals, but you will also have the opportunity to practice the soft skills that good nurses possess. For example, clinicals teach you how to interact with patients and communicate concepts in a way that is both understandable and sensitive.

In addition to caring for patients, it is essential to know how to effectively navigate the healthcare system as part of a team. Learning how to interact and work with physicians, nursing aides, and other staff members is essential for your shifts to run smoothly.

As a Mercer ABSN student, you’ll rotate across some of the top healthcare facilities in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area. In these facilities, you’ll work with a diverse patient population across a variety of specialties. Our experienced clinical instructors will be an invaluable resource for you in this portion of your nursing school journey.

Now that you have a better understanding of how clinicals will enhance your nursing education, let’s get into the details of what you might be able to expect when you arrive to a clinical shift.

nurse helping patient with blood pressure tool

Read more about the benefits of getting your BSN.

What Are Typical Nursing Clinicals Shifts Like?

As you progress in nursing school, you will take on different tasks, so each shift is different as you continue to learn and grow and will vary according to your placement. Below we’ll cover the basics of what you might expect over the course of a typical clinical shift.


Before each clinical shift, you may have a meeting with your clinical instructor and classmates to go over the plan for the day. This is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have and gain clarity on any relevant expectations or concepts for the day.


Each day will be different (especially as you advance further in your program). However, you might generally expect to be assigned to one or a few patients throughout the day, and you may follow a practicing nurse. As you progress in the ABSN track, you may start caring for your patients as if you were their nurse. Tasks that you’ll practice include reporting patients’ medical and family history, taking vitals, changing bedsheets, assisting with patient hygiene and personal care, and helping with medication calculations and administration.

Many of the tasks that you will complete in clinicals you may have already practiced during our skills and simulations labs on our state-of-the-art medical manikins. It is vital that you actively participate in your labs to ensure that you are prepared for your clinical rotations and can safely take care of your patients.


Once your clinical shift is over, you may reconvene with your classmates and clinical instructor for a final meeting, at which point you will likely have the chance to ask any questions. Additionally, you may report on your patients, explain what you did, what medications your patients are taking, why they are receiving treatment, and any other relevant information and takeaways.

Mercer ABSN student holding backpack by lockers

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Clinicals

While clinical rotations are a requirement for you to graduate with your BSN, they are so much more than just another hoop to jump through in pursuit of your diploma. Clinicals are a unique opportunity to continue growing your skills, learning from experts in the profession, and building connections for your future career.

1. Come Prepared

Make sure you arrive to all of your clinical shifts prepared. This means staying on top of your assignments and readings for your courses, including your labs and online coursework. You should also have a list of questions ready for your pre-shift meeting and the nursing staff that you will be working with that day. Understanding all the concepts relevant to that day of clinicals will help make your shift go more smoothly and allow you to get the most out of this learning opportunity.

Clinicals are a great chance for you to interact with individuals currently working in the nursing field. These professionals can be great resources for you if you ever need career advice, as they offer a different perspective than your classmates and instructors.

2. Keep an Open Mind

Another way to make the most of your clinicals is to maintain an open mind throughout the learning process. You may have moments when you feel uncomfortable or nervous—but that is part of the learning process. As you refine your skills, your comfort zone will grow. Take advantage of opportunities to further your nursing skills with the help of your instructor and the nurses on staff. Not only will these opportunities help you become a better nurse, but they will show off your ambition and initiative, making a good impression on the nursing staff at your facility.

nursing students standing in sim lab

Additionally, remember to remain open-minded regarding the many unique nursing specialties and settings. While many students go in to nursing school with an idea of what they want to specialize in within the field, others are keen to dry different things to identify their passions. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, keep an open mind whenever you are prompted to try something new. You never know whether you will like something until you try it.

3. Act Professionally

Be sure to act professionally during your clinical shifts. Not only will you be representing Mercer during clinicals, but you will also be representing yourself. While it is not guaranteed, it is not uncommon for Mercer students to receive job offers during their clinical rotations, contingent only on their graduation and passing of the NCLEX. Regardless of whether you get a job from your clinicals, establishing professional networks can benefit you in the future.

Mercer partners with some of the top healthcare facilities in the Atlanta metro area, making the opportunity to expand your network during clinicals even more valuable, as you will be interacting with some of the best in the field.

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Ready to Take The Next Step?

Now that you’re familiar with nursing clinicals and what to expect from them, you may be interested to learn even more about the other aspects of your nursing education. Mercer’s ABSN track can be completed in as little as 12 months, allowing you to enter your dream profession sooner. Contact us today to speak with an admissions counselor who can answer your questions and even help get started on your application.