How Do You Prepare for Health Science Clinicals? 

Clinicals are some of the most important parts of a health science curriculum.

You have to make sure your students know the proper procedures for performing any task in a medical environment, regardless of what they want to do with their careers.

Phlebotomists need clinicals.

Nursing assistants need clinicals.

EKG technicians need clinicals.

The list goes on and on! 

So here’s the big question — how do you set them up?

You almost definitely have to include clinicals as a part of your health science syllabus. So where do you actually start?

Fortunately, we have your answers!

With these seven points, you’ll be ready to start clinicals for your students in a matter of weeks!

1. Setting up Insurance

01-setting-up-insuranceSetting up insurance is one of the hardest and longest parts of starting clinicals. That’s why many health science educators choose to start the insurance process first.

Your main concern here is liability insurance. Basically, if something goes wrong during clinicals, you don’t want the student, the school, or yourself to be liable for harm done to someone else.

Fortunately, this form of insurance is pretty standard, so it won’t be hard for you to track down.

Still, you’ll have to navigate a handful of obstacles to successfully insure your students for their clinical work.

When in Doubt, Ask Around

We’re about to give you some recommendations so you can find insurance for your students during clinicals.

However, these are just ideas. It’s possible none of them will work for you.

That’s why we want to start by saying that if you ever need guidance, your administrator is your best resource.

They’ll know the specifics better than anyone else — and if they don’t, they’ll probably know the person who does!

We’re happy to give you advice as much as we can. But at the end of the day, your administrator will have the best information for you!

At any rate — let’s dig into clinical insurance! 

Ask Your School or District

You can start with the most obvious place — your school or district.

It’s possible that your school already offers insurance for clinicals, especially if they have liability insurance for tech ed labs that use dangerous equipment.

If that’s the case, the cost for insuring your students should be minor, at least compared to the other options in this list.

In addition, your school or district will almost certainly have a list of criteria that you need to meet in order for your students to be insured.

These criteria will differ depending on your state and the level of students you teach. For example, if you teach high school seniors who are 18 years old, the insurance process will be different than high school freshmen who are 14.

Still, those criteria will most likely require you to:

  • Have a formally approved health science program
  • Operate in school-sanctioned locations
  • Operate with school-sanctioned equipment
  • Operate during school-sanctioned hours
  • And more!

If you’re responsible for starting your school’s health science program, then this process can be an uphill battle just in terms of paperwork and communications.

If you’re lucky enough to teach at a school with a well-established health science program, these criteria are probably available to you from an administrator.

But what do you do if your search with your school comes up empty-handed?

Contact a Health Science Organization

After your school, the next best bet is to contact a health science organization for help.

This organization could be the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), which is the country’s most prolific health science education organization.

HOSA has a powerful network of health science professionals and students, all of whom have faced the challenge of clinicals at some point in their lives.

If you want advice straight from those who have had the same experiences as you, then contacting an organization is the best choice!

You can also try the National Consortium for Health Science Educators (NCHSE), another organization that is comprised exclusively of health science instructors from around the United States.

NCHSE also provides the National Health Science Assessment (NHSA) — which is administered by Precision Exams — to ensure your students know everything they need to pursue certifications or prove their end-of-pathway knowledge.

Then again, there’s always the chance you’re not affiliated with a health science organization.

So what can you do?

Seek Insurance Yourself

If your school doesn’t offer you insurance, you can seek out liability insurance yourself.

This would entail contacting your preferred health, home, auto, or business insurance company to inquire about liability insurance for clinicals.

This inquiry can pretty much lead to any answer you can imagine. In some states, you may have to get your administrator’s permission to set this up.

In other areas, you may be good to go in a matter of hours.

This also opens the doors to questions about financial reimbursements, documenting an accident in the event it happens, and much more.

Essentially, this method places all of the effort and work on your shoulders.

And it’s not even guaranteed to work for your needs! Your school or state may not allow you to pursue insurance for clinicals.

In that event, we recommend what we stated earlier — contact your administrator.

It’ll be the most direct way to solving your problem.

Once you have the complexities of insurance completed, it’s time to pick your clinical site!

2. Setting up a Clinical Site

02-setting-up-a-clinical-siteSetting up a clinical site is easier than it sounds.

Many schools have simulated work areas in their health science classrooms that may work for the purpose of clinicals.

However, a lot of schools don’t have that luxury.

That’s why it can feel like a challenge to find an area in which you can perform clinicals.

Realistically, local healthcare institutions are often excited to host clinicals for students.

After all, the people who work in healthcare were at one point health science students — even if they only started their medical education in post-secondary schools.

They understand how important it is for students to learn, especially at an early age.

By contacting your local hospital, urgent care, or family medical practice, you can quickly find locations where you can take students for clinicals.

Keep in mind, though, that the location of your clinicals may impact your insurance.

If that’s the case, it’s best to keep in touch with your administrators, colleagues, and insurance companies to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Once you have your site in place, it’s time to think about training!

3. Developing a Training Plan

03-developing-a-training-planNow that you have your insurance and your location, it’s time to consider how you want to train your students for their clinicals.

The options here are limitless.

You can use simulations.

You can use roleplaying.

You can use digital curriculum.

In a nutshell, you’ll get the best results when you have your students practice clinical procedures hands-on.

That way, when they go to do their actual clinicals, they’ll be able to confidently work to their best ability.

You can plan to “train” your students for clinicals over any time period, really. Some teachers may choose to do it the week before clinicals, and others may choose to have their students train throughout the marking period.

Regardless of your choice, it’s crucial to have this plan in place so you can help your students succeed when the time comes.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to reach out to an unexpected group of people — your clinical preceptors.  

4. Coordinating with Preceptors

04-coordinating-with-preceptorsLinguistically, a preceptor is just another word for teacher or instructor.

Contextually, a preceptor is a third-party observer or instructor who monitors your class and your students to give you unbiased, professional feedback about student progress.

This makes preceptors essential to the clinical process, as they don’t have any of the connections to your school or students that may bias their considerations.

However, it’s worth noting that preceptors are far more common in post-secondary clinical work than middle school or high school.

That’s because preceptors may cost extra money, or a school simply may not have the experts in their community to act in a preceptor capacity.

Still, there’s a decent chance you’ll encounter them while you set up clinicals.

Preceptors often have their own list of criteria that they use to observe your students, or they may use a standardized form provided by your school.

All they see are the students, their work, and their results.

If they don’t perform the clinical well, you can be sure your preceptor(s) will tell you.

If your students do perform their clinicals well, then you can bank on hearing that from them too.

Regardless of their impressions, you’ll probably get a preceptor’s opinions in the form of a standardized report that you’ll have to analyze on your own.

5. Analyzing Preceptor Reports

05-analyzing-preceptor-reportsPreceptor reports are basically third-party report cards that specialize on how your students perform during clinicals.

They’re often straightforward, almost to a fault.

On a preceptor report, you can expect to find:

  • The preceptor’s name and contact information
  • The observed student’s name
  • The clinical skills the student performed
  • The preceptor’s observations of a student’s performance
  • Areas of success
  • Areas of opportunity
  • The preceptor’s final “grade” of a student

This is a rough sampling, but it’s enough to form a general expectation about what a preceptor report may show you.

As the classroom instructor, it’s on you to gather these reports, analyze them, and weigh them against the grades that students earned throughout your class.

Plus, every student is different. Some will excel where others struggle and vise versa.

That’s why it’s important to meet with students individually.

6. Planning to Meet with Individual Students

06-planning-to-meet-with-individual-students

Like we said above, every student is different. That’s why it’s so important to plan to meet with individual students so you can talk about their performance in clinicals.

In reference to their clinicals, you can speak to students about their:

  • Behavior
  • Attitude
  • Academic performance
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses

A lot of this will come from the reports that you get from your preceptors (if available).

The rest of the information will come from your observations of your students in the classroom and at the clinical site.

This area can be a challenge for some first-time teachers because it involves telling students point-blank what they did wrong and what they need to fix.

It’s not always a comfortable situation — but it’s the kind of conversation that can shape a student’s future!

Be honest with your feedback. Don’t withhold any information.

As their teacher, it’s on you to make sure your students are on the path to success! 

7. Reinforcing Clinical Experiences with Classroom Instruction

07-reinforcing-clinical-experiences-with-classroom-instructionAfter your clinicals and meeting with students, you probably have a few days or weeks to brush up on material with your students with classroom instruction.

During this time, you can choose to use any reinforcement or remediation strategies you want to ensure your students are completely prepared for their end-of-pathway evaluation.

For most schools and advanced health science classes, that means taking a health science certification exam.

This is a big point of anxiety for students, so it’s common for more empathic teachers to include test-taking strategies with their reinforcement programs.

Your instruction will vary depending on the needs of your students.

But with the right teaching strategy and enough time, you can do everything possible to ensure your students get certified!

The Next Step: Certifications!

99-the-next-step-certifications

So once you’re done with clinicals, what’s next?

If you run a classroom like most health science teachers in the country, the answer is simple — certifications!

Certifications (and getting students to earn them) are the biggest hurdles to health science teachers today.

In fact, you may be judged on your teaching performance by the number of students who pass their certification exams each year!

So what can you do to make sure you’re prepping your students for certification success?

We have the perfect solution!

Check out our guides for some of the most popular certifications in the country!

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