Does your course have a placement? Whether you’re a student who’s about to go on their first placement, or you’re thinking about taking a course with a placement, it can be a very daunting thought. Emma is a second year Nursing student, about to start her next placement at Ipswich Hospital. She’s been through it all already, and she had some great pointers for those of you who are about to start your first placement.
What does your placement involve?
All placements are different lengths, so for example, my next placement is on a ward. You’re paired with a mentor who you stay with about 40% of the time. They teach you most things, and it’s actually really good, because you build a good relationship with them. When you’re on placement, your hours have to add up to 37.5 a week, which is a normal working week in the NHS. For us students, that’s 3 long days a week.
On the days off, you just make the most of it, and get ready for any night shifts. They’re actually not too bad, because you can get a lot of your paperwork done. You could also be out in the community, which is more of a 9-5 job. You can be placed almost anywhere; I’ve had friends who’ve been placed at the prison, private hospitals, nursing homes, so you can go anywhere.
How do you prepare for placement?
Mentally, for me, my faith helps me a lot. Reading and praying with people helps a lot. Physically, I try to do exercise as well the day before just to switch my mind off. To help with getting things straight in my mind, I try to write down what I want to achieve on placement. We have to fill in documents anyway before you go on placement, so I always make sure I do actually fill them out and put outcomes of what I want to learn from it. Not everyone does this, but on my first placement, I went to the hospital and walked to the ward I would be on. I knew exactly where to go on my first day, and that calmed me down so much.
What’s a must-bring for you when you go on placement?
First one is always food; make sure you have a good amount of food with you. Remember that you could be there for 12 and a half hours depending on your placement, a bit of chocolate now and again always helps you get through it. I would also say a little notebook and a couple of pens to jot down any weird words you don’t understand. You can then ask your mentor after the handover about what it all means. You also have something called a “learning hour” where you can go to the hospital library and research something, so the notebook is helpful for that.
What do you do to recover after a shift?
First of all, I have a shower. You sweat so much on placement, so you feel a bit grubby. Then I have a proper cooked meal and then I watch a bit of TV and unwind, because even if you haven’t seen anything traumatic, patients still play on your mind, so it’s really important to have that time to switch off.
What support is there when you’re on placement?
We have link lecturers who come onto the ward and make sure we’re OK and everything’s going well. We also have clinical educators, who stay at the hospital and we can go to them and talk about things. On my first placement, I was a bit upset and so I went to them and they often can act as a voice for you. You can talk to your course reps, lecturers and friends are a really good one.
What advice would you give to a student about to go on their first placement?
Read the placement pack! They have some reading you can do or key conditions you might come across. You only have a base knowledge. It sounds a bit clichéd but ask questions. No question is stupid, and just remember you’re there to learn as well, so use the opportunities you’ve been given and take extra learning experiences if you’re not tied down to a ward.
It’s daunting the first day, but once you’ve been there half an hour, you’ll feel fine. Everyone knows you’re there to learn, so don’t worry about that. And get some comfy shoes!