What to Expect During Your Final Quarter of Nursing School + Nursing Senior Practicum

It’s been a long time coming, but I completed my final quarter of nursing school and graduated! Actually, it was a month ago, but I needed time to decompress. In the last month following my pinning ceremony, I visited Mexico for 2 weeks, got COVID, recovered from COVID, got a foodborne/waterborne illness, semi-recovered from that, and then studied and took my NCLEX. I officially took my NCLEX this morning and completed it in 75 questions and got the good pop-up. So while I don’t know if I officially passed, I have a good feeling I did. Once I find out for sure I will be posting how I studied for it in a different post.

As for this post, I am going over what you can expect during your final quarter of nursing school and nursing senior practicum. This quarter is such a huge transition period! Making the most of your clinical experience, this quarter especially is so important.

Disclaimer: Every nursing program is different. Just because my school did clinical a certain way or covered topics this quarter doesn’t mean that other schools do this as well. This is just to help you get an idea of what to expect during your sixth quarter of nursing school and what might be covered in an ADN program!

(~My post-final clinical selfie~ I’m finally done!!)

What to Expect During Your Final Quarter of Nursing School + Nursing Senior Practicum

Weekly Schedule

This quarter, my program focused a lot on time management and self-care. We created our own schedule when it came to clinical, as long as we met the 100- 108 clinical hours for my program guidelines. As for classes, our tests were frontloaded so we finished our exams during the first 4 weeks. We had class and clinical reviews on Thursdays each week and they were in-person.

Quarter Workload

I arranged each week a little differently than other people, but everyone had to complete the same program requirements for the quarter:

  • 20 volunteer hours at one of the pre-approved sites
  • 108 clinical hours with an assigned preceptor
  • Weekly case study
  • Weekly clinical goals and reflection
  • Paper on the ANA’s Nursing Ethics
  • Group final presentation
  • Cover letter + resume review
  • Mock Interview

Looking back, it does not seem like a lot of work, especially compared to other quarters. However, it seemed like a lot at times because not only would the weeks get pretty full with clinical and class, but I was applying and interviewing for jobs. I felt like I spent hours perfecting my resume, writing cover letters, filling out applications, and practicing interview questions.

Content

This quarter was a lot of review on laws, isnurance, prioritization, delegation, and fundamentals. We also had an NCLEX review course from Saunders (which helped my study). In our clinical review, we covered the Radonda Vaught Case, just culture, case studies, and med errors. The content was not hard, and we didn’t learn any more about disease patho. This part of my program helped a lot in terms of NCLEX prep and decreasing stress since there were other priorities for the quarter.

Nursing Senior Practicum

The big thing for this quarter is the preceptorship! My preceptorship was on a medical-surgical floor at a level 1 trauma hospital (and in a major city). The floor I was on had a little bit of everything from gunshot wounds, hip replacements, and burns. My school had a variety of different placements like hospice, OR, oncology, med-surg, and inpatient rehab. There was only one placement for both ICU and L&D. I was a bit disappointed being put in med-surg initially because I really had wanted pediatrics (which was not an option in my program). However, I realized that the senior preceptorship is a huge deal for your skill development and confidence in nursing school and there are a few things that made a huge difference in my experience.

  • Request a specialty that you will learn a lot! Unless you know OR or hospice is absolutely where you want to be, choosing a unit that will encourage a lot of learning in a variety of settings will be much more valuable than experience that may not translate as well into other units. Although I didn’t initially want med-surg, the experience I had in such a fast-paced unit helped with my organization, prioritization, time management, and critical thinking.
  • Clearly communicate your goals to your preceptor so they know where to encourage learning.
  • Go into every shift like it’s a new beginning and do your best. Introduce yourself to the unit manager, the other nurses, doctors, pharmacists… Literally everyone. There is a good chance you will be seeing the same people often and possibly even getting a job offer for the unit you’re on. It doesn’t hurt to ask someone how their shift is going and let them know you would be open to any learning experience they might have.
  • Always say yes to any new learning experiences and be prepared for anything. Make yourself useful on the unit and others will remember you. This is really the best way to get the most out of your experience.

Job Searching

The next big thing for this quarter is searching for a job. I started applying 2 months before graduation. If you want to work at a hospital, check the RN residency for any deadlines. If no deadlines, about a month from graduating seems like a good time to apply. Honestly, it is really easy for a new grad to find a job right now. It used to be that students wouldn’t have found a job until after graduating or taking the NCLEX. Nearly everyone in my cohort had been hired or offered a position (or more) by graduation, and those who hadn’t just had not applied yet. I put a lot of unnecessary stress into finding a job before graduating instead of focusing on finding the right job.

If you’re wondering what nursing specialty I’m going into, I will announce it when I have officially started, most likely on my Instagram, here.

Overall Thoughts

The final quarter can vary significantly from program to program. Other programs may have more clinical hours, no required volunteer work, etc. However, I think that the workload is very manageable and you should focus on arranging your schedule so that it’s not as stressful for you. I would also worry less about finding a job with the current nursing shortage and instead choose somewhere that has good retention and satisfaction. If you want to get into a specialty and didn’t complete your practicum in it, it is possible.

If you want to read any other of my nursing recaps, you can find them linked below!

I hope this helped you know what to expect for your final quarter in nursing school, or hope you just enjoyed the update if you’re following along on my nursing journey! 🙂 I can’t believe I’m done, it’s been 2 years in the making! My next step is getting my BSN, which I’m starting on next month.

To be alerted when I post in the future you can like my Facebook page here or follow my Instagram here! If you have any other questions on what to expect for your fifth quarter in nursing school, just send me a DM on Instagram, or an email.

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