The different clinical placements and their benefits to students

Training to be a healthcare worker requires not only classes but also gaining practical real-life experience.  Clinical placement is a short-term work experience for students training to be nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners and more. The length of the clinical placement depends on what healthcare degree you are trying to achieve.

A clinical placement involves working at a medical facility and often following a doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner while they conduct rounds. This experience is usually not paid, but you will learn things that cannot be replicated in the classroom and thus gain confidence and expertise as a healthcare worker.

In this post, we will concentrate on the types of clinical placements you can expect when training to be a healthcare worker, particularly a nurse or nurse practitioner.

What is a preceptor?

A preceptor is a physician or other high-ranking medical worker who agrees to allow a student to operate under their license for clinical placement. They provide mentorship and support throughout the clinical placement. Preceptors typically receive no compensation besides the services provided by the student.

What clinical placement setting is right for your career goals?

Since there are many different settings, you can choose to gain experience from, it is important to consider what type of practices and specialty areas of medicine you ultimately want to work in. Deciding well before your search for a clinical placement begins is a good idea because it allows ample time to find the most suitable placement for your career goals.

It is a major advantage to be enrolled in a degree program that provides clinical placement services. While you can find a placement on your own, the process can be very time consuming and even cost you extra money if you have to hire a service to get the type of placement you want.

Clinical placement settings


A hospital is going to be the largest and one of the busiest clinical placement settings you can choose. The advantages of choosing a hospital are that it is a fairly easy placement to get and there are many different departments that may be willing to accept a student. This can make it easier for you to find a position that caters to the specialization you are most interested in. For example, if you wish to specialize in neonatal practice, then a hospital that delivers many babies each year might be a good option, particularly if they have a high-level neonatal intensive care unit.

Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics

A large number of people rely on urgent care centers to make up for the lack of primary care providers in the US. At an urgent care center, you would help provide treatments for a variety of common illnesses and injuries such as major colds and flus, sprains, minor to moderate fractures and lacerations, etc. Urgent care centers are often a major source of care for those who are disadvantaged or lack a primary care provider. More urgent care centers are appearing in areas with highly diverse populations that are hesitant to seek medical care at major medical centers.

Assisted living facilities

Working at an assisted living center can involve working with patients that span a wide range of ability levels. For example, one patient may only need help with a few basic needs, whereas the nursing care wing may have residents who are entirely dependent on others for practically every single need. You’ll often experience what it is like to work with dementia patients and those who are severely chronically ill. This type of placement is good for those who want to specialize in adult and geriatric care or want to gain experience to apply to working at a facility that caters to the medical needs of people of all ages.

Specialist clinics and offices

While it is less common than doing a placement at a hospital or larger clinic, it may be possible to do a clinical placement at a specialist such as a pediatrics clinic. If you want to do one of your placements at a specialist, it is important to plan for this well in advance so that your university or placement service has the best chance of securing a spot for you.

Primary care providers

A primary care provider may be a private practice, or a healthcare facility comprised of many doctors, all operating under the jurisdiction of a major regional medical provider. For example, a large hospital may have doctors operating at clinics owned by the hospital but located throughout a region. A primary care provider usually works standard business hours, but hours may go a little longer at some clinics. For example, the end of the day may be 7pm instead of 5pm to allow for some visits from patients working a standard work day.

A primary care doctor or nurse practitioner diagnoses and treats a wide variety of conditions and conducts preventative healthcare screenings. Referrals to specialists and ordering medical tests are part of the job.

Primary care providers are in demand, so this can be a good career path to follow. With so many aging adults and better access to medical care, the shortage of primary care providers is going to continue to be a problem in the coming decade.

Clinical placement is graded on a pass-fail basis

Although there are no letter grades in a clinical placement, you need to be aware that the recommendation and references you can get from doing a fantastic job can make a big difference when you are seeking out a permanent position after graduation and when your licensing requirements are met.

Tips for getting the maximum benefit from your clinical placement

Be ready to take notes

There is a lot to learn during your clinical placement. Many former students recall how they quickly realized the need to always carry a small notebook and pen with them to take notes. This allows you to jot down thoughts and questions to ask later or research on your own.

A notepad is also useful for writing down any notes you want to remember about a patient. When you are a nurse practitioner, all records will be electronic, but as a student, your access to patient info may be limited, so taking notes is always a good idea.

Improve your organization

Successful clinical placement requires good organizational skills. Learning to be super organized now will not only benefit you throughout your degree program and clinicals but also when you are practicing as a licensed medical professional.

Good organizational skills will prevent misunderstandings as well and save time so that a maximum number of patients can be treated without compromising the quality of care they receive.

Duties and expectations

It is important for both the student and the preceptor and their colleagues that everyone be aware of the duties and tasks they are expected to perform. Setting clear and realistic expectations is crucial so that there are no misunderstandings or time wasted in a busy medical setting.

Be sure to ask questions to clarify your duties at the start of any clinical placement if there is anything at all you are not clear about.

Communicating effectively

Great communication is essential in a medical setting. In a clinical setting, you are a member of a team, which means that all team members must make sure to communicate all important information with each other. This requires knowing the chain of command in your department and overall facility.

Before starting any clinical placement, it is important to work on your communication skills. Written and verbal skills are both essential. It’s a good idea to take a writing or public speaking class or join a group to practice these skills even if you are an experienced registered nurse (RN). As a nurse practitioner, you will be communicating even more with people from many different backgrounds.

Network with colleagues and other students

Clinical placement can be stressful and challenging at times. If you are in a placement at a mid-size to large facility, then there are likely other people working through their clinical placements as well. Networking and supporting each other can be very helpful. If you see someone else who seems to be stressed or having a hard time, reach out to them. Forming a supportive network helps build teamwork skills and can result in lifelong connections and friendships.

Seek feedback from your preceptor and colleagues

Part of the learning process involves receiving feedback. While some feedback may be given without asking, it can be a good idea to request feedback yourself. By doing this, you not only show that you want to do as good a job as you can but that you also value and respect the opinions of those you work with.

Take time to get to know your colleagues and patients

Developing your bedside manner and interpersonal skills is important and will help you in your future career. It is good to be friendly and show that you are open to talking, but you should also be aware when someone is interested in talking and when they prefer minimal communication.

Sometimes, patients or colleagues may really need to talk about more than just about their immediate health issue, or they may want to discuss how their health is affecting their life. While time with each patient is limited, it is important to make them feel that you are listening to their needs and empathizing with their situation.

Becoming a nurse practitioner

If you are a licensed RN in good standing, then you may want to consider what the next step in your career might be. You can transition to a nurse practitioner role by completing an online Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Walsh University. All classes are completed entirely online, and clinical placement services are available to all students. In as little as two years, you can become a licensed family nurse practitioner and help fill the need for primary care providers. Besides the time you need to complete your clinical placement, you can continue to work while earning your degree.

The importance of clinical placements

Clinical placement is an important capstone experience for any student training for a degree and position in healthcare. Finding the right clinical placement is possible through a good inclusive degree program that offers clinical placement services to all students. That being said, some students do find their own placements or use a placement service.

Clinical placements can help students find positions after licensure because you will be able to show that you have practical experience and ideally, the recommendation of your preceptor and colleagues. In some cases, a clinical placement may lead to a permanent position at the clinical placement site after you have received your license to practice.

Comments are closed.