Placements are where theory is put into practice on real patients, not your colleague in the skills laboratory.
Before I go onto placement I always ring up and introduce myself. I usually do this one week before I am due to start. On placement we, as students, are allocated a mentor - a qualified nurse who is responsible for signing our practice documents. They will have completed a mentorship course and this will need to be in date for your document to be accepted when being verified. The mentor will have a responsibility to support and enhance your learning experience; however, as a student we also have a responsibility to assert and initiate learning also.
To identify what my learning needs are I look in the practice document - at the outcomes, familiarising myself with what is required. I make a list and try to associate the essential skills with practice. I will discuss this with my mentor so that when the opportunity arises they can support me in achieving this.
We, as students, are always encouraged to follow the patient and their journey from admission to discharge, and this may include theatre! This enables us to understand the care that is delivered in a holistic way. This is also a prime opportunity to work alongside all members of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) to enable us to understand their roles and responsibilities in practice.
I think it is important to remember that every placement is different and will deliver different things in a variety of ways. Every student will have a different mentor; therefore every student will have different learning opportunities. So don’t be disappointed when you have not had the same opportunities as other students.
It is important to remember that we are only in training for three years, and as I go into my third year, trust me when I say that it flies by.
My advice for placement is common sense really: arrive on time, show an interest in what you are doing, and ask questions. Most importantly, never be afraid to say that you are unsure of something, always ask for help if you need it and ensure you don’t struggle on your own - you are working in a team. Also, know your limitations.
I find that writing a SWOT analysis helps as it makes me identify what I need to improve on in terms of self-development.
Another important point is reflection; whatever the experience - good or bad - it is important to reflect on it if it has been significant to you. This will help you to develop in practice and will enable you to think about the rationale behind what you did and why you did it.
Remember, if things are not going to plan on your placement and you are not having a good experience then speak to your mentor and express your worries and concerns. If you are unsuccessful, speak to the practice managers as they can help and will support you when in practice.
Nikki Pountrey is a student nurse.