Getting the most out of your nursing shadowing experience

July 16, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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One of our students posing with the nursing staff in Chiang Mai Having the opportunity to shadow a nurse is a great learning experience. It gives you a chance to learn the day-to-day tasks of a nurse and become familiar with the types of environments you would be working in. If possible, consider a shadowing experience where you may be able to observe different types of nurses, such as in the emergency room, pediatrics ward or maternity unit. Before you start shadowing a nurse, prepare for the experience by considering some of the following factors.

Be professional

Even though you are not an employee or getting paid to be there, you still need to be professional at all times. If you act inappropriately or do not take the experience seriously, you may be limited in what you are allowed to participate in. A professional attitude also includes showing up on time, dressing appropriately and being respectful around staff and patients. It is important to make a good impression. Keep in mind that by being professional and networking, you may meet people who will be making hiring decisions in the future.

Ask questions

Make the most of your nurse shadowing experience by asking questions. After all, you are shadowing a nurse to learn as much as possible about the job and the field in general. Ask about a nurse’s duties, different types of nursing careers and advice on getting your first job. While you don’t want to be afraid to ask questions, don’t go overboard if the nurse is very busy. You don’t have to ask every question on the first day.

Determine how you can help

As a student shadowing a nurse, you may only be allowed to observe. In other circumstances, you may be able to do nonclinical tasks, which may provide assistance. You may be able to help by doing things like assisting in repositioning a patient in bed, getting pitchers of water or gathering supplies. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overstep your role and you should always ask first before assuming you are allowed to do something.

Dos and don’ts

Do observe different disciplines or types of nursing if possible. For example, if you are shadowing a nurse on the medical floor and the wound care nurse is making rounds, ask if you can observe.

Don’t take things personally if your nurse is a bit hurried or does not explain everything as well as you would like. Nurses are human and can get stressed. At times, explaining things and answering questions may need to take a back seat to performing duties.

Do get in as many hours as possible. The more you shadow a nurse, the more you will learn.

Don’t get in the way. In some circumstances, things can become hectic and multiple medical staff may be attending to the patient. These situations may provide a great learning experience, but patient’s rooms can also get crowded. If you think you may be in the way, ask the nurse you are shadowing if you should step out.