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NP Student | Equipped for Success

The key to success in any clinical rotation is to be prepared, whether that is in your attitude/mindset or your equipment. I will go over some tools I keep with/on me to keep me successful for rotations as an NP student. Although I am an NP student, RN, PA, or medical students may find some of these tools helpful as well.

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These are things I have with me at clinical rotations on the daily. Not all of these may sit in my pocket though.


1. Dress the part.


The simplest way to be prepared for clinicals (aside from bringing your brain) is to be dressed for the part. Set a good impression, especially if it's on your first day, and let that impression last! Knowing the dress code for the clinical site is helpful as well. Contact the clinical site or your preceptor ahead of time or as soon as you find out this information (if clinical placement is done for you) to find out how you should dress for the duration of your rotation.

For my rotation (pictured), the dress code was scrubs and a white coat. For some of my colleagues, the dress code was business casual attire with/without a white coat. Your name badge is a must! Make sure your name badge is visible and worn appropriately (not hanging on a belt loop). For me, I wear the white coat provided by my school. I love having tons of pockets, so I have stuck with my tried and true scrubs Dickies Gen Flex, which is the same scrub brand and style I wore in nursing school.

2. Watch your time.

Although I don't wear a watch regularly when I'm not working or in school, I recommend having a watch of some kind with you for rotations. It'll help you with keeping track of the time throughout the day and for notating the time when events occur. I use the Fitbit Charge 2, so that I can also keep track of my steps when I am working/at rotations and not feel bad if I leave it hanging on my days off (like I said, I really don't wear watches unless needed!). There are also other smartwatch options out there if you're looking for something with a lot of capabilities or even a basic watch with a second hand.

3. Clipboard

I remember the time back in nursing school when my class representative did a bulk order for these clipboards for my cohort. I am so happy that I decided to buy one at the time. Aside from using that clipboard for RN school clinical rotations, I still use the same clipboard for work! I have even ordered a second clipboard (pictured), which I use for my NP school clinical rotations.

The clipboard has come in handy for organizing my notes and for keeping a preliminary log of the cases I have seen during the day (which I need to log for credit when I get home from rotations). I also tape some pertinent notes and things to the inside of the clipboard. This clipboard also come with the option to add (or not add) a premade clinical tool sticker that has pertinent information to your field of practice (ie. pharmacy, medical, nursing, etc). The best part of this clipboard is that it folds in half and fits perfectly in your white coat pocket (and scrub pockets, for me at least)!

4. Pens

I like to carry a couple of different pens around...some with multi-colored ink and some with plain black ink. It's good to have a variety on hand because you never know when you'll need to color code or mark something as important. Black colored ink is preferred (my preceptor often asks me to use black ink).

5. Stethoscope (and other tools!)

One tool that you should never forget is a stethoscope! Since my nursing background is stroke, telemetry, and cardiac surgery, I carry a Littman Master Cardiology stethoscope. I have used the same brand and line of stethoscope as I had in RN school, and it has really been helpful in hearing abnormal heart sounds in patients on my units (and even now currently in rotations). There are other brand of stethoscopes that may also be of good quality, but I myself have not ventured out from the Littman.

For my rotations, I had emailed my preceptor ahead of time to get an idea of what tools are already available at the site (so that there would be less for me to have). So far, my rotation sites have available an otoscope, an opthalmoscope, tuning forks, a Snellen eye chart, reflex hammers, manual and automatic sphygmomanometers, and more. One thing to keep in mind is that more rural sites may lack some or all of these tools, so it would be wise to bring your own (even if they end up sitting in the car).

6. Notepad

Depending on the provider you're working with, some may be more old school and prefer that you carry a notepad. Regardless, having a notepad handy is helpful when you need to jot down quick notes or an interesting disease process/condition that you want to research more later on or when having a laptop with you isn't possible.

7. Laptop

Having a laptop with long battery life, quick start up, and quick shut down are some of the things I look for in a laptop I bring with me to rotations. Some of my classmates may even argue that having a tablet is better than a laptop, but to each their own. When I was doing clinical rotations in RN school, I used an Acer Google Chromebook. It was light, portable, had a quick start up/shut down, and used linked perfectly with my Google Drive. However, I ran into internet connection problems with the laptop when I started my NP school at U.C. Davis, so I switched to an Apple Macbook Pro (my very first Apple product). Being a native Windows user, there was a slight learning curve for me. The laptop came in handy for class and even now during rotations. For context, I had purchased the laptop when the newer version came out (so I got a pretty good deal).

8. Resources

Last, but not least, is to know what resources you have and to have them ready to go. There is a myriad of apps out there, so which one do you choose? For me, I have found it most helpful (and realistic) to pick my "top 3." Some factors to think about when choosing an app is the reliability of the information, how you like the way the information is presented (easy versus having to spend some time to find the information), and cost. My "top 3" are:

  • UpToDate - Has a cost. May be free if you get it through your school or work institution.

  • Epocrates - They have a free or paid version. I use the free version, although one of my preceptors (MD) uses the paid version.

  • Family Practice Notebook - Free. Not an app. Just need internet browser.

Technology and apps are great, but if you are rotating at a site without internet (think rural) or where they don't allow you to bring your personal laptop, it's time to think of and have a hard copy resource on hand. One of the hard copy resources I recommend is the Pocket Notebook series. The one I carry with me is the Primary Care Pocket Notebook, since my program is primary care based. No matter what your rotation or specialty, there is probably a Pocket Notebook for that!

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And...that's all. Do you use any of these same tools too? What are some tools or equipment you've found helpful for you to have during clinical rotations?


- Nicole G.



Disclaimer:  I am not at all affiliated, sponsored, or backed by any of the above brands. I have purchased everything that is pictured with my own money and am suggesting them based on what has worked for me and may be helpful for you.

Nicole's Clinical Tip: One easy way to easily impress your preceptor is to get to your clinical site early. It gives you time to get settled in and to start looking up the patients on your preceptor's schedule. If you're in primary care, your preceptor will probably have an idea of the patients because they have worked with the patients over time, so impress your preceptor by showing that you know a bit about the patient too.

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