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'Your placements are the time to make mistakes'

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Is there anything in the world more terrifying? Your first placement is a bit like visiting the dentist …

Preparation leading up to your first day is crucial

You will remain absolutely terrified right up until you’re called in to face the music, but when you are, it isn’t half as bad as you had imagined. In fact, you’ll probably love it.

Preparation leading up to your first day is crucial. I would suggest in-depth reading on the chosen field of health you are about to go into, this is a must. For example, if you are about to start a placement on a theatre unit that specialises in urology, try and get to grips with as many conditions and surgeries that are prevalent in that field. If you’ve done your reading you’ll show your mentor that you are keen and ready to learn.

Be a spendthrift and get to a decent shoe and stationary shop. You are always told not to wear anything open toed, but the best piece of advice you will get is to buy a comfortable shoe. Try them on, but make sure they can be wiped as they will almost certainly come into contact with some form of bodily fluid. Also, buy a good hand cream. I always have one on me, not for vanity but because I don’t like having dry and crusty hands from all that hand washing.

There is nothing worse than a student nurse just standing around

I’d also encourage you to ask plenty of questions. Don’t feel like you’re harassing the staff, it is their job to teach you. In fact, some staff rather enjoy the opportunity to share their wisdom. Also, if you find yourself standing around waiting for something to do – don’t. There is nothing worse than a student nurse just standing around, waiting to be told what to do. Make a bed, clean the surface tops, rearrange the cupboard - anything to keep busy and lend a hand, as there is always something that needs doing.

“A good student makes lots of tea and empties catheter bags” this is true, but don’t be scared to get involved with new and more difficult thingst to really test yourself. I always made sure I try something new each day on placement, no matter how scary it seems (with the approval of my mentor).

This is the time to make small mistakes, errors and dodgy judgements, providing it’s rectifiable. When you are qualified, there will not be a mentor to turn to in the event of a mistake. You can’t blame it on “no one told me!” as you will be held accountable for your actions.

Make the most of your first placement, you will never have a learning opportunity like it.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Michelle Parker

    Totally agree with the advice given to invest in a decent pair of comfortable shoes. I have the ugliest pair of placement shoes which my teens hate, but after a 12 hour long day I could kiss them. Top tip keep an eye one Clarkes for their half price offer and investin two pairs.

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  • I also agree with the writers view, good comfy shoes, (mine are kickers) you can wipe off any body fluids, good pocket size hand cream, you will never of washed your hands so much in your whole life. Never stand around, talk to the patients, help them to drink or eat, or go and clean something, there are always patients to talk to or things to clean and label. And above all smile... Oh and one other thing, every one on that placement has knowledge that you will never learn elsewhere, so talk to everyone, from patients, Tea ladies, HCA's and then all the nurses and specialists.

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  • Missy01

    Brilliant advice there!

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