Nursing Series: Clinical Bag and What’s Rotation like?

Hey guys! Happy March! I literally can’t believe we’re already in the 2nd week of March! That means I’m 2 months done with nursing school and it is T-10 months before I am officially done with Nursing School!! Yipee!!!! 😀

Now, for those of you who are new to my blog or don’t know, I’m not in a traditional Bachelor of Science of Nursing program. I’ve chosen to go for the accelerated program because my goal is to get my MSN to become an FNP (#futureFNP). 🙂 That being said, our clinical rotations are different from what one may experience in a traditional 2 year program.

Normally, within a traditional program, one may have clinicals for about 4-6 hours per week. This is normally done at a hospital, but that may not always be the case depending on the school and program. For my particular ABSN program, I’m in clinicals 2 days a week, each with a 12 hour shift (Total: 24 hours per week). When one does the calculations, the program I’m in actually has more clinical hours than required. For me, being a hands on learner (on top of a visual learner as well), I actually like this a lot. One can learn all the theory they want. However, as a nurse, you really have to be able to apply what you’ve learned. Obviously, a nurse for the most part is a hands on, patient contact type of career, so, clinical hours are pretty important.

I’ll start off with what’s in my nursing bag:


So, I know you can get a nursing bag that’s cute on various websites or grab a diaper bag from your local department store. I happen to have a bag lying around that I got when I left my previous job so, it’s my current nursing clinical rotations bag. It actually fits quite an amount. Plus, I used this for labs prior to the start of clinicals for health assessment, so essentially it’s a bag was lying around that I ended up using. No shame in that…there is no need to buy another bag if you already have one that’s available. Extra money saved.

The content of what’s inside is a different story. So, I have a lab coat with my school logo on it. This is for when it gets cold. I don’t get cold too often. However, that’s not to say that I won’t carry this just in case. I’d rather be warm and not catch something. Also, I have some specific nursing tools that I was required to purchase – A pen light, hemostat (for clamping), and bandage scissors (mine are also trauma scissors as well). The white pouch that these 3 items are in is a scrub pocket pouch. It wasn’t required. But I liked it as a pocket protector and that it has extra pockets (You can never have too many pockets). I’m also carrying an RN Notes book for easy access to information. I also have a Pharmacology mneumonic spiral book because I took pharmacology over 5 years ago and when I need a refresher, I can turn to this or my Davis Drug Guide app.

I also have this pretty cool nifty clip board that folds up. On the back are some crucial values for those moments when you are on a pinch (also fits nicely in larger pockets in scrubs; a plus!!). Some people carry giant binders for clinicals, I just carry a smaller binder. This is for crucial notes and take aways; this will not carry patient material (In fact, we’re not allowed to carry any pt materials out of the facility, so don’t even!! Don’t even try to get away with stuff like this, it is a big deal all around….be safe and make sure you don’t have patient info!! HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is serious business, don’t mess around at ALL). My purple binder contains the clinical syllabus as well as check off lists that we need to complete.

For supplies, have post its of various sizes for care plan assignments. I also am carrying pens and highlighters. Since I’ve outgrown using watches, I often just strap on a digital watch onto the handle of my bag so that I won’t forget it. Lastly, I have my stethoscope. My school gifted us a stethoscope (Thank you nursing school!!!) and it’s a fairly decent one. It’s by MDF and I believe you can get this on Amazon at about $80. My clinical manager for our course also recommended that we have a spare stethoscope in case we forget ours (cause to be sent home sometimes) and so I recently gifted myself a 3M Littman Cadiovascular 4. Before you guys go ham on why I purchased an expensive stethoscope like the Cardiovascular series one, let me explain.  Firstly, it’s my birthday present to myself (Last year, I purchased make up for myself…as well as a bag…gosh, can I be anymore vain?). Secondly, remember my goal. I intend to go on in the future to become an FNP, where I, as a health care provider (mid-level), will be seeing and diagnosing patients under a physician (MD or DO). I want to be able to hear heart and lung sounds. I have seen doctors misdiagnose patients because they aren’t hearing sounds properly out of a stethoscope, and I am sorry, but minus experience and expertise…I refuse to purchase a healthcare instrument that won’t let me hear what I need to hear for my patient. If I have to spend $$ on a stethoscope to hear properly. I’m sorry, but I’ll save my money on other things and spend what’s needed to ensure that I can properly assess my patient’s health condition. So…for all of you looking at me funny for buying such an expensive stethoscope, but judge all you want. I have no regrets buying it. It works better than my MDF. I like both, but I hear way better with my 3M Littman. You don’t have to go and buy something that expensive. I have a colleague and friend who uses a 3M Littman Classic 3 and it works for her. The thing is, buy something that works for you not simply in terms of comfort but what you are using it for. If you need to hear lungs, heart, and bowel sounds, my suggestion is do splurge on a stethoscope. You won’t go wrong if it works and you hear something during a health assessment. So this is my spare in my normal purse.

I keep a set of scrubs in my car because, things do get dicey in the hospital. You never know when you will need a change of clothes. I haven’t worn my spares yet, but they are in the car always as a just in case.

So…clinicals, how are they?

My first set of clinicals may not be the best description, because like with any firsts, we start off with the orientation & tour of the facility. Due to patient confidentiality, I am not going to share where I’m doing rotations. Just know that I’m doing them. I’m not alone; I do have several classmates with me. We also have a clinical faculty who guides us along our journey through clinical rotations. As with classes, clinical faculty does change as classes are changed up. For instance, who you get for Medical Surgical Nursing may not be the same as when you do a rotation for Pediatrics (both are core nursing classes). Given that it’s a 12 hour shift, we have the privilege of seeing what’s called a Shift Change, which is a time when there is a change in shifts. The morning staff ends their shift and the evening staff comes on. Given that you, as a student and there for 12 hours, you get the opportunity to see that as well as fill in any blanks that may occur. I have yet to personally do that as a new student nurse on the floor. However, I did see a shift change. This isn’t something new to me due to prior healthcare experience. However, what I did learn from the experience is a report out between nurses. That was interesting.

So, for rotations, we get to shadow nurses while also doing things that a typical nurse will do. Now, there are a bunch of rules to abide by when a student. If you’re licensed as an EMT let’s say, when you’re on the floor as a nursing student, that EMT hat goes away. You can garner experience from that said position. However, to wear both hats — EMT and nursing student is a big no no for us. Essentially, be the nursing student, learn the things a nurse would do. I used some of my previous CNA and MA skills like providing ambulation or turning a patient to change them or give them a bed bath. However, whatever scope of practice or work that you did prior to nursing school needs to be placed on the back burner. I hope that makes sense. It has a lot to deal with liability more than anything. So we aren’t allowed to put in any IVs or central lines. We can watch one..but we will never do…not until we are licensed nurses (i.e. Passed NCLEX and get a job).

We also get to do care plans. For each program, this is different. Essentially, care plans are opportunities to focus and hone in on clinical and nursing skills. From the assessment, diagnoses (nursing not medical; there’s a difference), planning, intervention, and evaluation, clinical rotations provide us the opportunity to put that into action. Essentially a care plan helps us with this. Again, every school is different, so I will not go over how I do my care plans because it’s different for every school.

We also have post clinical reflections, and this is a paper that you as a nursing student write up. Again, this is different for every program. Some have this, some don’t. For me, it’s an opportunity to think about how you provided care for the patient you were assigned for the 48 hour shift. What did you learn? What could you have done better? What was impacting? There are many prompts to this. Again, it’s dependent on course, program, and school.

So there you have it. With HIPAA being a big deal, I wish I could say more. However, for my sake as well as best practices to not share data openly about rotations in case something patient related does get out, I made this as specific yet as broad as possible. I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free and leave a comment below. Let me know if you have a topic that you want to see so that I can think about and prepare ahead of time!!!

Happy March! Happy St. Patrick’s Day for those who celebrate..I’ll be in a final…thank you very much. 😉


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