Fast Facts for the Clinical Nursing Instructor: What They Never Tell You

Fast Facts for the Clinical Nursing Instructor: What They Never Tell You

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.”  – Dan Rather

For those of you teaching nursing and those aspiring to teach nursing, there has never been a time when Dan Rather’s words resounded more loudly than they do today. Although compassion for others will always remain its essence, nursing continues to become more complex. Therein lies the challenge for each aspiring and current clinical nursing instructor!

How do we ensure that our students’ hearts remain firmly invested in the patient as a person, while the pull and stream of technology steers them away from the bedside? Truth is our most powerful tool. Truth in teaching the ideals of nursing and the true realities of nursing in today’s health care environment is our most difficult task.

If you are reading this blog, then you are possibly a clinical nursing instructor now, or may be thinking of becoming one. Either way, see how you score in answering a few questions below that are commonly posed to both aspiring and seasoned clinical instructors alike:

Place a T for true and F for false next to the following statements. Then, review the answers that follow below.

  1. I will need to prove my clinical competency on a daily basis.
  2. I will contribute to the nursing profession.
  3. I must be friends with my students.
  4. All of my students will like me.
  5. All of the unit’s staff nurses and aides will be happy to take guidance from me.
  6. I need to spend time on the clinical unit, and become familiar with the staff and the nursing systems before I bring my students to the clinical setting.
  7. I must know every detail about every patient that my students are assigned to.
  8. I must personally supervise every procedure and all interactions between my students and patients.
  9. I will earn more money in this position as a clinical instructor than as a staff nurse.
  10. All of my students will be motivated learners.

In the book that I co-authored with Eden Zabat Kan, Fast Facts for the Clinical Nursing Instructor, we share our combined classroom and clinical site teaching experience of over 50 years. In our book, you will find invaluable guides to such topics as:

  •  Preparing for your clinical teaching assignment
  • Getting to know your nursing students: Who are the best and who are the rest
  • The performance appraisals: Clinical evaluations
  •  Managing the clinical day
  •  Satisfaction in the role

Here are the answers to 5 of the quiz questions, please see chapter 1 in our book for the remaining answers.

  1. False. Some of you are transitioning from practice as expert staff, others are tenured professors, and advanced practice nurses. Whatever your background, remember that you are there to supervise and guide novice learners. Learning to refrain from doing the procedure yourself will be a challenge. Your role is not to prove your competency daily but to enhance student learning by supervising and not performing skills. Use strategies like questioning, role playing, and discussions to improve student thinking and problem solving skills.
  2. True. Whether as a part-time or full-time professor, you are contributing to a profession that is in great need of successful instructors who can teach students how to effectively care for patients.
  3. False. If you go into clinical teaching thinking that you can be “friends” with your students, then your tenure in this role will be short. Friendships with students can lead to difficult situations, particularly during evaluation periods. Keep personal information about yourself to a minimum.
  4. False. Face it; we all want to be liked by our students. Stay away from focusing on where you are liked or disliked. Instead of focusing on “like” or dislike” be that instructor that fosters the “aha” moment with your questions and guidance.
  5. False. Remember you are a GUEST on the unit. Your goal is to teach students. You can use any example on the unit as a teaching experience. Incorrect nursing examples often can teach the most to your students. You need some degree of humility as you foster growth in your student, and maintain working relationships with the nurses and staff on the units that you teach.

There is not a better job than that of being a clinical nursing instructor! Your legacy will continue as a nurse in each of the students that you teach.

Have fun and good luck.

Fast Facts for the Student Nurse: What They Never Tell You

Fast Facts for the Student Nurse: What They Never Tell You

Think back to your last vacation. Was it fun? Did you relax? Was it everything that you hoped it would be? If that answer is yes—chances are that it was the result of CAREFUL PLANNING. The mechanics of planning to pursue a career are similar to planning a vacation.

The first step in planning a vacation is choosing your destination. Your career destination is the profession you choose. In recent years, Gallup polls have consistently found that nursing is the profession that is most trusted by the general public. Perhaps that fact has sparked your interest in the nursing field. That makes perfect sense. Nursing can be a stimulating and personally satisfying career. At the same time, just as you read the fine print in the travel brochures, make sure that you know what is truly involved with a nursing career.

Take this 10 question true/false quiz to help determine how accurate your own perception of nursing is:

  1. I will make a lucrative salary as a nurse.
  2. It is easy to find a job as a nurse.
  3. Patients will always be grateful and positive to me.
  4. If I do well in my nursing class work, I will do well in my clinical rotation.
  5. If I am organized, I can always plan and predict my workday as a nurse.
  6. I like people, so I will like working with all of my patients.
  7. I will have nursing aides who handle all of the “messy” parts of nursing.
  8. I would prefer to be a physician but becoming a nurse is much easier.
  9. I am going to become a nurse anesthetist or nurse midwife following nursing school.
  10. I can keep my full-time job because my classes are on weekends and evenings.

In my book, Fast Facts for the Student Nurse, I share over 30 years of experience teaching in the classroom and at the clinical sites at two, three, four, RN-BSN, and online schools of nursing. Throughout the book the reader can find pages capturing thoughts and reflections “In Student Nurses’ Own Words . . .”  A sampling of the actual reflections of some of my former students follows:

“Keep a positive attitude and take the initiative to learn (it took me a while to get this one . . . ). Don’t procrastinate with assignments. Understand that they help you formulate your thought process and allow the instructor to show you better ways to care for your clients. Clients (patients) are real people, just like me.”

“Rely on your fellow students. We helped each other and learned from each other. Take advantage of experience by asking questions of your instructor and the nurses who work at the clinical site. Even the bad ones can teach you how not to communicate! The reality of the nursing world is high patient-to – nurse ratios. I was not prepared for how physical nursing really is.”

“There really isn’t a balance – it’s either all school or not. I spent weekends doing homework, but I did make sure to do one social event each week. Eat a good dinner and keep a regular bedtime. Do homework in a comfortable place – even outside if the weather allows.”  [ For more discussion on taking care of yourself as a nursing student, see Chapter 12 titled “You are Your Own Patient.”

This is just a brief preview from my book. If you are considering a career in nursing, I encourage you to take a look, or consider it as a gift for someone who is now (or will someday be) in nursing school

For the answers to the quiz above, see Chapter 2 of Fast Facts for the Student Nurse.

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