What Are Clinicals in Nursing School?

nurse writing on whiteboard in hospital

Clinicals in nursing is a major milestone in your academic journey because it is when you finally get to put the knowledge learned from textbooks, hands-on lab skills, and immersive simulation into practice in a direct patient setting.

But what are clinicals in nursing school exactly? Let's explore the most common questions about clinical rotations in nursing school.

In This Article:

How Many Clinical Hours for Nursing School?

The type and how many clinical hours for nursing school depend on a few factors. Some state boards of nursing require a set number; others rely on accredited universities to decide how many hours reflect an adequate competency for a new nurse.

In the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Grand Canyon University, you will complete clinical hours in direct patient care clinical settings and in immersive simulation. These are broken up between each semester and coincide with the coursework you are learning about that semester.

How Long Are Nursing Clinicals?

Nursing clinicals happen throughout your nursing school curriculum and align with the course content each semester. For example, once you start learning about pediatric nursing, you will be placed in a pediatric clinical setting to practice those skills.

During your nursing school clinicals, you’ll be scheduled to attend an 8 to 12 hour day alongside your clinical faculty.

Because hospitals are the most common clinical site for students and are open 24/7, nursing staff must be available to care for patients around the clock. This may include days, nights and weekends. You could get assigned to any of these shifts, and it’s important to remember the valuable experiences you will get from each.

Do Nursing Students Get Paid for Clinicals?

Nursing students are not paid for clinicals. They also cannot receive gifts or compensation for nursing school clinical time.

Nursing clinicals are the ideal safe place to put practice into motion. Immersive simulation and hands-on skills labs are also great learning tools but cannot wholly replicate caring for actual patients.

Nursing clinicals are also a great way to network with professionals in the healthcare setting who may provide a letter of recommendation or alert you to potential job openings once you graduate. Take your nursing clinicals as a time to build your professional reputation and master your nursing skills. You won’t always have an extra set of hands to guide you and answer your nursing questions in real-time.

Important Tips for Success in Nursing School Clinicals

Here are some additional tips for getting the most out of your nursing school clinicals:

  • Prepare the night before — get your uniform, paperwork and equipment ready for the next day.
  • Arrive early— anticipate how long it may take to park, walk across campus and find your clinical faculty.
  • Don’t bring expensive equipment — you may not have a secure place for your belongings for the day, so keep it to the basics — pen, paper and stethoscope.
  • Be flexible — you can’t always anticipate what may have happened on the shift before you, and assignments, staff, patients, and even units may have changed. Be appreciative of the opportunity for a different learning experience, and be ready with questions to get you up to speed.

Nursing Clinical Experience: The Final Piece of the Puzzle

If you remember when you first got into nursing school, what you looked forward to the most was getting hands-on experience. Well, now that you’ve answered what are clinicals in nursing school, you can be better prepared to take the big step next to becoming a registered nurse.

If you are ready to start your nursing school experience, complete the form on this page for more information about our nursing school clinical sites and how you can earn an ABSN in as few as 16 months at GCU.1

1 Secondary applicants must transfer a minimum of 60 of the required 123 credits or have completed a baccalaureate degree which includes nine prerequisite courses/labs and 10 general education courses prior to starting the core nursing courses, which can be completed in as few as 16 months. Direct entry applicants that do not transfer 60 credits but meet the minimum requirements can complete these credits through GCU prior to starting the core nursing courses. Depending on the state where student has enrolled or intends to complete the program, student may require additional courses. This may include, but is not limited to, additional general education courses, courses in the major, clinical courses or a different course sequence. See University Policy Handbook.

Approved by the associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on July 17, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.