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How to get the most out of your first placement

Your first placement can be a fairly daunting prospect, but it’s your chance to experience the real life of nursing, to put all of that theory and simulation into practice.

You may not be given a great deal of notice about where you will undertake your placement. As soon as you do find out, however, start researching. Gather as much information as you can about that particular area and the patients and issues you are likely to be dealing with. You can then begin your placement armed with knowledge, vocabulary and the correct spelling of those long drug names. If you have issues with note-taking or calculations, practise beforehand and make yourself a pocket pack – vocab cards, an electronic dictionary and coloured overlays to help with reading perhaps.

Placement is a learning opportunity you have to grab with both hands. Accept that you are beginning at the beginning, as a novice who doesn’t know much at all, and ask lots of questions. The staff you work alongside won’t be expecting you to be an expert and if you are unsure of anything, say so. Be confident, even if you don’t really feel it, and take advantage of anything that comes your way. If you’re offered the chance to visit another area, go along.

If you do experience any issues on placement it’s really important that you speak to someone – your mentor or a member of staff from university. The sooner you address the problem the sooner it can be resolved. It’s also a good idea to approach staff in a constructive way. So, if you are having trouble with one particular clinical skill, perhaps go to your mentor with some ideas of how you might get more opportunities to practise it together, rather than just telling them about the problem.

Practical tips for your placement

  • Find out as much as you can about the particular clinical area beforehand
  • Remember that you are there to learn; you aren’t expected to know it all already
  • Take every opportunity open to you
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Deal with any issues quickly and constructively

This article was taken from the book ‘Getting Ready for Your Nursing Degree’ by Dr Stephanie McKendry. She has worked in higher education for nearly ten years, spending the last five providing learning development support to nursing and healthcare students at Glasgow Caledonian University. As well as lecturing and teaching academic skills she has researched and published on the student experience and widening participation.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am student nurse and I want to a paediatric nurse. It has been 2 weeks but I am having great time and exciting to work in a clinical setting.

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