Navigating nursing school clinical placements: tips for success and growth

Clinical placements are the practical side of a nursing degree and are an essential part of nursing studies. They take place in various medical settings, from hospitals and clinics to homes for the elderly or mentally impaired and doctors’ surgeries – whichever suits the student’s particular line of study.

Modern technology has taken practical experience to new levels with the introduction of simulation laboratories as part of an exciting development in nursing study, however, there is nothing like real-life practice to hone nursing skills.

The benefits of attending a clinical placement program

The obvious benefit of practical work is learning important skills. Observing mentors and other professionals closely, taking notes, and asking questions is integral. Students should learn as much as possible during this time so that they can begin their new position with confidence. 

  1. Practical knowledge

There is no better way to learn than by putting theoretical knowledge to the test in real-life clinical situations. Placement programs assign students to a preceptor, or teacher, who is passionate about their job and passing on their knowledge. Preceptors observe students as they practice, emphasizing the correct use of methods and procedures while ensuring patient safety.

  1. Learning about leadership

Leadership skills come with time but they can also be learned. Students should watch how others lead in medical situations: how they make decisions, how they convey their wishes and intentions, their tone of voice, and their disposition, and take away the leadership styles that they would like to use.

  1. Good communication and professionalism

In emergency situations, nurses cannot afford to make mistakes. Effective communication of a patient’s vital signs could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. Good communication involves interacting professionally with colleagues by providing accurate information in a clear, concise manner.

Just as important is the way in which healthcare professionals communicate with patients and their families. Students will learn to communicate respectfully with people from all walks of life, be they patients and their families, physicians, or the hospital janitor.

  1. Critical thinking and analysis

Critical thinking skills help students make better decisions. With the move towards evidence-based practice in nursing, critical thinking and analysis of past successes in treatment methods help to create new, improved methods of practice.

  1. Learn to work in teams

Nursing involves a lot of teamwork, as nurses administer medication, consult with patients, and make decisions together. A strong team that communicates well and pulls together in a crisis is invaluable. Teamwork can also involve various specialists from multi-disciplinary backgrounds who collaborate in the treatment of a patient with multiple conditions, such as a pregnant mother with a heart condition, for example. 

Obtaining placements

Some universities offer to place their students, leaving students to focus on their studies. Unfortunately, this does not apply to all universities and colleges. Students often find themselves on waiting lists, and some end up postponing their studies or changing to a different course entirely.

Therefore, it is beneficial for students to secure a placement before enrolling at a particular educational institution. To make life easier, they can visit various universities and research their placement options. They may be lucky enough to find a university that offers their required course and has a placement service, preferably close to home. But they should bear in mind that different states have different regulatory requirements for nurses, particularly nurse practitioners. If a student decides to study outside of their state of residence, they should make sure that the university’s degree and placement options are recognized in their state. This can be determined by checking online

There are other options for finding clinical placement vacancies. If placement services are not at a university, students can still ask them for advice or try to find somewhere online. This needs to be treated with a degree of urgency, as once the universities have placed their own students, there is very little space left for outsiders.

The University of Indianapolis recognizes its students’ study needs and offers a clinical placement facility to assist them with local placements. Their online Master of Science in nursing empowers students with the knowledge and skills to become leaders in advanced nursing practice.


Students can begin their studies with peace of mind, knowing that they have secured a suitable environment where they can transform their practical knowledge into valuable skills. The earlier they begin to plan, the more likely they will be to secure a placement in the institution of their choice, and possibly even the institution where they would like to seek employment someday.