Schools Training

The Practicalities of a Practicum

13 AUG 2012
Career Path : Nursing

There are many different styles of education. You could bury yourself in a mountain of books, studying the histories, literatures and philosophies of the world, if your goals are the pure pursuit of knowledge. Or, you could just get to work to get the best ‘hands-on’ training, if your educational goals are a better career.


Many industries require specialized training before someone becomes a professional. A mechanic, or legal clerk, will often do internships to begin working as part of their education. But in certain industries, it is unwise for someone still learning to do actual real work. For these industries, there is the practicum. Examples of these jobs are teachers and nurses.


A practicum is a form of schooling where the student is given supervised practice to apply the theoretical side of their education side-by-side with their classes. Unlike internships, a student doing a teaching practicum won’t be permanently assigned a full time class of youngsters, and a nurse doing a practicum won’t be thrown into a hospital treating patients and helping doctors. Working with children or patients leaves less room for error than with cars and documents.


Let us take nursing school to describe how a practicum might fit into the rest of the program. It is common for a program to be four semesters long, and for each semester, to have the student do about three hours a week of a practicum along with their regular course work. The practicum during the early semesters will immediately give the student applicable experience in lab work and long term care units, where students can gain experience helping patients feel more comfortable, and get more comfortable themselves being in a hospital setting, while not actually making the student do any serious nursing work.


In later semesters, the student is getting closer but is still not yet fully ready to do actual nursing work. Simulated learning environments are used to ready the student for dealing with real physical illness. Mental illness, on the other hand, is an area where the practicum is useful, and students may be given hours to work and assist in psychiatric units.


Towards the end of a nursing program, the practicum becomes more advanced and takes up more time, often for up to twelve hours a week. Options are given for what area of nursing the student would like to practice, with the most common being:


– postpartum maternal care and neonatal care

– palliative care

– care of patients with acute or long-term nursing needs


The practicum is crucial for nursing, as well as other industries like education, because the nature of the work is so delicate, helping people’s health and minds. This is why a practicum, unlike other ‘hands-on’ training programs or internships, is the best and safest way to prepare for these kinds of careers.


Visit Mohawk College for more information on applying to a school of nursing.