PURPOSE: To describe the lived experience of nursing students when faced with clinical judgment in a nursing practicum at the hospital. METHODS: A descriptive research design was utilized. Participants were 79 students in the clinical practicum. Participant consent was obtained for ethical protection. Data were collected from August to December 2007 using a semi-structured questionnaire. Content analysis was utilized for data analysis. RESULTS: Two categories and 5 themes were extracted from the data for 'difficult' and 'easy' clinical judgments. For the student category, the two themes were 'knowledge' and 'skill', while the three themes for the clinical education environment category were, 'judgment of clinical symptoms and signs', 'differences between theory and practice' and 'human relationships'. For coping, 2 categories and 5 themes were extracted for the difficult clinical judgment situation, while one category and one theme were found for the easy clinical judgment situation. CONCLUSION: To develop students' clinical judgment, there is need to develop the method of clinical skills using simulation in clinical teaching. For future research, a study on factors affecting clinical judgment of nursing students in hospitals is needed.