School of Nursing

Guide to Choosing a Practicum Site

Some students feel that choosing a practicum site is one of the hardest things that they have to do before graduation. If you are having trouble deciding what to request you are not alone. Here are some tips to think about as you get ready to make a request.

  1. If you are shaky and/or feel at all weak in your basic nursing skills, have a low G.P.A., need to improve organization and priority setting skills, then we recommend that you request a basic medical surgical nursing unit experience. You can indicate the units if you have a preference. So we encourage you to learn what hospital units are available.

  2. If you have completed the Geary Coop experience, or feel you have strong clinical skills, and your G.P.A. is 3.0 or above, perhaps you might consider a specialty placement such as ER, ICU, PACU, OR, OB, pediatrics, or community mental health nursing. Placement in a specialty area is sat the discretion of the practicum instructors. We will consult your clinical faculty to determine appropriateness.

  3. Consider location. If you already know where you want to work, doing your senior seminar in the same facility might be beneficial, and you will have an 'inside' reference. If location is an issue due to commuting, please consider this and indicate your needs when completing this request. Be sure to explain your facility preference as a strong factor in your rationale statement.

  4. Already know what nursing area you want to practice in? Then be sure to list the area as your top rationale and then provide choices of hospitals/agencies that provide that experience.

  5. Haven't a clue? Think about what is important to you---geographical area? Size of hospital? Type of care model seen in hospital? Patient population? Readiness to take NCLEX exam? Ask your advisor, clinical instructor (especially adult health), people who know you best to help you brain-storm. Then carefully craft what you feel would be best, second best and third best for you.

  6. We do not recommend doing your practicum experience on a unit where you are currently or recently employed. Please talk with us if this recommendation conflicts with your plans.

  7. We will do all that we can to place you in your first choice location. However you must know that there is no guarantee that you will be successful in first choices. There are several reasons for this---- one is that we are very dependent on the availability of slots in the various hospitals/agencies and we do not have control over their decision to take a student. Some hospitals do respond to individual student inquiries, but some of the larger hospitals like MMC have very proscribed ways of ascertaining availability of preceptors for students and get very upset if we, or a student, go directly to a preceptor or Nursing Director.

    The primary reasons that slots are not made available have a lot to do with what is going on on the unit we requested. The Nursing Director, or Head Nurse in some institutions, have the final say because they do know the activities planned, the number of orienting nurses, and the availability of seasoned preceptors. It would not be fair to anyone to place a student with an inexperienced preceptor, or on a unit that is stressed out for whatever reason.

    A second reason is instructor-driven and has to do with how well students have progressed through their program---especially in adult health clinicals. If you want a placement that is in a specialty area and have been a weak student clinically, it may be a disservice to you and the unit to place you where the expectations are such that they need a strong student clinically from the beginning.

    A third reason is that we are in competition with other schools for the same type of experience and there are only so many resources available. As our classes have increased in size, so has the number of requests for placements. It is becoming more of a problem as time goes by. So the bottom line is to carefully chose for your second choice as well as your first choice. We will do the best we can to get you what you want within reason and availability of resources.

  8. If you have someone in mind to be your preceptor, please include a name, telephone, and work location. But PLEASE DO NOT APPROACH ANY NURSE MANAGER OR STAFF NURSE. It is the faculty responsibility to coordinate this with the designated facility. We want to avoid any conflicting communication. For example, a nurse you know who would be a good preceptor might already be slated to precept a new graduate or a student from another school. Give us the information and let us use the organization's process please.

  9. Preceptor placements may be confirmed as late as a few weeks prior to practicum. You may refer questions to the faculty members who will be teaching the course during your semester.

last updated - 02-21-2007

NCLEX-RN Pass Rates

For calendar year 2013, the USM School of Nursing NCLEX-RN pass rate was 91.89%. The national rate for baccalaureate programs for the same time period was 85.18%.

Connect With Us