Nursing students who suggest they are not anxious about placement are either not being truthful or extremely resilient. Starting placement as a nursing student can be extremely daunting and I take my hat off to the students who join the course straight from school, some of them having no experience of healthcare environments.
Anxiety is a natural response to many things and is a healthy feeling for us to have as humans, in moderation of course. I had five years’ experience of healthcare employment before starting my nurse training and even I was very anxious about going on placement for the first time as a student.
Meeting your mentor and the rest of the nursing team, finding the department or even the building, where do you get ready and “where do I put my cheese and ham sandwich?” are all things that went through my head the night before my first placement.
Informal visits; in my mind, essential. What are these? Well they are what they say on the tin. Arrange with your placement to go in and have a tour – from your mentor is even better.
Ask if you can be shown essentials, such as fire exits, where the bathroom is and where you can put your belongings at the start of the shift. This takes away the need to ask on your first day of placement. You won’t remember everything, but at least you can remember some of it. It might be the case that you then do not need an orientation on your first day, when usually everything else is going on.
“It is important to be aware that sometimes you might have a negative experience on practice placement”
Unfortunately, as students, we are entering an already established team, or “tribe” if you like. This can go one way or the other – even both. You can either be looked upon as hinderance or a great asset.
All of my placements have so far have been positive, but I have peers who would not be able to say the same, which is sad to hear. Often universities might tell students that placements are great, that you will love it, that the mentors are amazing, but this is not always the case and it is important to be aware that sometimes you might have a negative experience on practice placement.
“Talk to your mentor” is often the suggested solution to many issues, however what if your mentor is the issue? What if you do not have the confidence to raise it to someone above your mentor? My advice for anyone who is having a difficult time on placement would be to talk to the practice education facilitator for the department. They are not part of your university and not part of your placement, meaning they are non-biased and there for you. These are the people you should go to if you’re having issues with staff from a placement, your mentor or perhaps even staff from your university.
It is important to remember that you are there to learn. You are there to be part of the team, so try to make the most of your placement. If you do have a negative experience overall, try to think of what you have learnt and what you would do differently on your next placement. Will you speak up and let the team know you are not having a positive time? it is important to realise that bullying is not acceptable from staff at any level.
A practice placement is your opportunity to shine, to see if nursing is for you and to show departments what you have. Try to think of each placement as a place where one day you might end up working as a trained nurse. Make the most of it and do not let opportunities pass you by.
If you get an opportunity to do something, do not turn it down as you might not get the opportunity again.
Brian Webster is a first-year adult nursing student and school president, University of Dundee