During your nursing education, you’ve gained a lot of theoretical knowledge and you’ve likely had a chance to complete your practicum, which is important for learning practical nursing skills. However, it’s a great idea to gain additional experience beyond your practicum before you start working as an RN.
Internships are perfect for helping newly qualified nurses get the practice they need under the watchful eye of an experienced nurse. Even better, many internships are paid, unlike practicum placements that you complete during the course of your nursing education.
So, how can you best prepare and get the most out of your internship? Here are some tips so you can focus on learning and becoming the best nurse you can be.
Set Goals Before You Start and Communicate Them
Many nursing students go into an internship with no clear goals. While you’ll still get some benefits from a nursing internship if you don’t set goals, you’ll get even more by getting clear on what you want to learn.
Ask yourself if there are any gaps in your knowledge or skills you encountered in your practicum that you’d like to improve. Would you like to work on your communication with family members? Learn how to place an IV? Get a handle on managing multiple responsibilities?
Your goals will be unique, based on what you’ve already learned. It’s important to share your goals with your supervisors— they can’t read your mind! As an intern, your work will require supervision, so it’s important to express what you’d like to learn so you can maximize your opportunities for gaining practical experience.
Make a List of Questions
Between your interview and the start of your internship, you’ve probably had more than a few questions come to mind. Start making a list of questions to ask your supervisor or HR before your first day. That way, you won’t forget to ask something important in the excitement of starting your internship.
Brush Up on Your Terminology
In a clinical setting, healthcare professionals are busy. They have to communicate about complex topics quickly, which often means using medical abbreviations and acronyms. As a nurse, you’ll be expected to understand medical terminology and use standard shorthand during your internship and beyond.
Before the first day of your internship, it’s a good idea to brush up on your terminology. With that said, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you don’t understand a term or abbreviation you encounter on the job. After all, you’re there to learn!
Bring a Notebook
Internships are all about learning, and it’s important for you to retain as much information as you can. Bring a notebook with you and take notes as you go. Not only will you be able to refer back to them later, but writing down valuable lessons and information will help with your ability to retain what you’ve learned.
Journaling at the end of each day can also be helpful. It will allow you to look back on what went well, what you need to improve, and any observations you have about patient care, your emotional response to the work, and other factors. Journaling will help you process each day so you can work through any problems and celebrate your successes as a new nurse.
Prep Your Meals & Make a Schedule
Internships are usually full-time, which means you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to balance your work with your personal life. It’s a good idea to practice your good habits during your internship and prioritize self-care musts like eating a healthy diet and making time for exercise.
Before your internship begins, consider meal-prepping some healthy lunches and snacks you can take to work. You might also want to prep some freezer meals that will make your life easier when you come home tired from a shift. The more you can make a schedule that prioritizes your physical and mental health, the better.
Get Ready the Night Before
Being late is a huge no-no for any internship or new job. Take some of the stress out of the equation by getting everything ready the night before. Put your clothes and travel mug out, put the coffee in the coffee maker, and decide in advance what you’re going to have for breakfast.
By prepping for the morning the night before your shifts, you’ll have a more relaxed mindset as you get ready for work. You’re also less likely to find yourself running late and rushing out the door!
Prepare Your Mind for Learning and Constructive Feedback
An internship is all about learning and building critical nursing skills. This means that you’re not going to do everything right the first time. If you did, you wouldn’t need an internship!
Prepare your mind for learning and curiosity. Prepare for the inevitable constructive feedback, and be ready to embrace it instead of getting defensive. Remember that everyone is on your side and wants you to get as much as you can out of your internship experience, so help them by showing up with a great attitude and being ready to learn.
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.