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How to make a good impression on placement

Don’t forget your ps and qs! This may seem obvious, but it really is the small things that count in making a good impression on placement.

As a student nurse you will be sent on two to three placements a year where you will be assessed and signed off as competent and fit to practice so making a good first impression counts.

You may be very academic, have a wealth of experience or feel very confident about your abilities. But it’s often how you demonstrate and practice these qualities that will be recognised the most by those who work alongside you.

First things first, it’s always a good idea to make eye contact with people. Whether you are listening to your mentor, talking to relatives or taking advice from another colleague, always keep good eye contact. This shows that you are listening to what is being said, and it shows that you are interested and switched on.

On my first placement, I was required to “admit” patients to the ward, which involved taking notes and asking a lot of personal questions. On one occasion in particular, I remember needing to have a translator so I could communicate with the family and the young child, as English was not their native language. Part of the admission process involved gaining consent from the family. It was also hugely important that the family fully understand what is going to happen to their child while they are in hospital, and they are comfortable with everything that is going to happen. As I explained the plan of care for the child, I made sure I kept eye contact with every single member of the family, allowing my eyes to meet with each of theirs as I spoke. I finished each explanation with a small smile and let me eyes lock with each family member’s eyes just for a split second, as I let the translator relay the information back to them.

At the end of the day, when I was discharging the patient, the father took me aside and thanked me for being thorough and the whole family had felt included. As long as the family and child are happy to have everyone included in what is going to happen in the patient’s care, make sure you do as it can make a big difference to how the family may be feeling. It must be hard enough handing your child over to strangers in odd hospital uniforms without being forgotten about and kept out of the loop of what is going to happen to them!

The next may seem like another obvious one, but when you meet people for the first time and find yourself shaking hands it is a known fact that a firm handshake is linked to making a good first impression. If you are shaking hands with family members it comes across that you are confident, sure of yourself and strong when you are firm with your shake. When I shake someone’s hand and it is strong and firm, I feel a sense of strength and confidence emanating from them and I instantly know they mean business! It is a misconception that this is a quality that only applies to males, but this could not be further from the truth. The next person you meet, make a point of shaking hands extra firmly. They will respect you and know that you are sure of yourself and an air of authority. Just try it!

Mikey Whitehead is the child branch student nurse editor of studentnursingtimes.net.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Michael Whitehead

    I really do believe these are traits worth displaying on placement and I would wager a lot of money on them paying off, I really would.

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  • My only issue with this advice is the importance of demonstrating cultural sensitivity. Some cultures deem it respectful to not give full eye contact, so this must not be misconstrued negatively or attributed to shyness.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    @katie,
    This is an interesting point Katie. I have gone to shake the hands of a female and been told she does not touch men due to her cultural beliefs. I think this is definitely something to be mindful of, but to not be deterred from keeping good eye contact initially when meeting people.

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  • l do agree with being sensitive to cultural differences, for instance in my culture it is regarded as rude and inappropriate to look in the eyes of female, unless you are married to her, so as much as it is important, always be aware of these differences.

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