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How to make the most of your insight placement

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Trainee nurse Claire Aubrey believes that Insight placements can be rewarding if you know how …

I must admit, as a general nursing student, the thought of a mental health insight placement for ten weeks initially filled me with dread. Especially as it was going to be my first summative placement, and therefore, a very big deal. Although I have always made the most of every placement, I had heard tales from other students of endless sitting around and daily boredom, as there were not the same opportunities to do things on the ward. I have also seen many posts on student nurse forums deploring the fact that they have been sent to a ward that is not their branch and therefore, not worth their time. Despite this, I found my insight placement to be thoroughly enjoyable. I attacked it with the same enthusiasm I have shown in any other placement. So I thought it might be worth sharing a few ideas on how to get the most out of an insight placement.

  • Read up

I found that the more I knew about mental health before I actually got on the ward, the more interested I was in it as I had a point of reference for everything and people’s conditions made so much more sense. This can also give you a gateway into conversation with other staff so that you feel more a part of the team. I have spent many a time in discussion with various nurses about how patient’s symptoms present themselves and the variety of dementias that can occur. One particular notable one was about a man with schizophrenia who believed aliens visited him every night. We discussed delusions and hallucinations, the difference between delusions and fabrications, all things that may not have arisen without me being able to start a conversation about mental health.

  • Stay busy

To be honest, and I do not like saying it, I think it would be quite easy to not get involved in this placement and perhaps it is fair to say that when some nurses know you are from a different branch, they may not push you as much to be involved either. I say this based on reports from staff from various places who tell of students who just do not make the effort and seem to try to coast through the placement just to get to the end. In this case I would recommend staying busy and finding things to do. I am sure I must get annoying sometimes as I am constantly looking for jobs to do and if there seems to be nothing, I will find things to do. I have cleaned equipment, read patient notes to become more familiar with them and practised writing assessments, even if they do not get used eventually – it all helps me develop.

  • Go wide

Some of my best experiences whilst on placement have been due to moving out of my comfort zone and working with others, not necessarily linked to the placement. I have been to spend time with the pharmacist at the hospital. Recently I spent a day with the doctor, which was fascinating as it gave me a real insight into how the nursing care translated into information the doctor needed and vice versa. Also, assisting the doctor made me feel like a qualified nurse for a while and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I knew and how much more confident I had become since the start of the course. I spent a day with the mental health liaison nurse, as well as the nurse practitioner, which were both great days and very insightful. These days out were not necessarily linked to my placement but, as staff keep telling me, there will be very little opportunity in the future to spend time with these other areas and so I should make the most of it while I can. And do not forget your testimony!

  • Get trained

Another tip linked to the previous suggestion is to go to training – I have been trained in so many areas while on placement just from asking if I could go along. I figure the worst that can happen is they say no, which is not so bad. I have trained in defibrillation, male catheterisation, moving and handling and more, and have been able to use these towards my learning outcomes as support, so it really does pay to go along if possible. It is also great for becoming part of the team, as you feel like you are involved in all aspects of the ward development.

  • Think branch

Finally, I think it is worth thinking about the relevance of the insight placement to your own branch. I have found this particular placement of immense relevance, which was really brought home to me when a gentleman I had worked with on CCU turned up on this ward. I realised that the gap is not so great as I thought and that mental health comes into any area of nursing, especially with the aging population that we now face. Likewise, we have several generally trained nurses on our ward who provide great support to complement the mental health nurses. It is great to see them all working together. Of course, I have mentioned these two as I have had experience in them but I am sure it is evident how children’s nursing and learning disabilities also cross over into other areas as well.

I have made the most of this placement by not regarding it as a chore or something irrelevant to me, but as an opportunity in itself to learn about something new. I could not have had a better experience. Once I threw myself into the placement, it was not clear that I was actually training in general nursing and so I fitted in with the team and have made seemingly good progress over the few months. Because of that, I have enjoyed it more and it has felt like a job to me that I could quite happily do – I suppose at the end of the day we all do the same job and that is to care.

Good luck on your insight placement if you are lucky enough to have one!

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