First, find out exactly what kind of ward you’re going to, what duties are involved, and the disorders, age and gender of patients you will be seeing.
A week in advance, make the effort to go up and introduce yourself to the ward team and familiarise yourself with the environment. A visit will provide you with more information than a mere phone call. It will also help you to judge your travelling time – a common source of stress to nervous students. If possible, meet your mentor on that occasion. As first impressions stick, remember that neatness, courtesy and enthusiasm are key.
You may be swayed by negative opinions of a ward from students and lecturers before you see it. Resist this, judge for yourself. Even if – as can happen – it is not exactly to your liking, throw yourself in with enthusiasm. In your first week, get together with your mentor to set out your learning agreement. Consider the ward’s goals and your own, and arrange an interim assessment to identify and correct problems before they become serious.
Ideally, you should try to merge theory with practice, so fit in some background reading and relate it to what you do and see – the more the better.
Most important of all, try to arrange things so that you can trace a patient’s care from first to last, through admission, care planning, observations, investigations, multidisciplinary team involvement – including your own participation – procedures such
as surgery, and discharge planning. This will familiarise you with the way holistic procedure works in practice.
The list is not exhaustive but it should help towards a successful placement for all involved.
Lesley McHarg is a third-year student nurse in Scotland