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'Ask as many questions as you like but take the initiative too'

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“Does this uniform make my bum look big? Where can I find the smoking area?”

Important questions all the same but none that I would recommend you ask while on your placement. The common belief among student nurses is that asking too many questions will aggravate your mentor and colleagues to the point they will just ignore you.

The truth is, most nurses love to share their knowledge and wisdom about anything work related (and non-work related at times, too) and love an excuse to be able to do so. It is a misconception that you should keep questions to yourself as mentors get annoyed with students. Before you do this just remember that every mentor you meet will have been in your position at some point, and you will often find many nurses opt to take on the role of mentor as they enjoy teaching.

On my first day of placement, I obviously wanted to make a good first impression. I also wanted to get to grips with things so I could get stuck in, and so wanted to find out as much information as I could.

It is important to remember that a lot of what you will learn as a student, you will learn as you progress rather than someone telling you how to do it. It is important to use your common sense and your eyes. You’d be surprised how many questions about the ward or department can be answered by having a look round and observing.

I also work as a bank HCA in a different hospital to the one where I attend my university placements. I found that I would often get a more positive response from staff when I would attempt to do something using my common sense, even if it wasn’t 100% accurate e.g. using a dopplar scanner for the first time to read a patient’s blood pressure.

It is important that you do ask questions to show that you are keen, but it is also important show that you are able to your common sense and get a bit stuck in (at the right time - there will be times when you will need to stand back and take a lot of mental notes).

Around half of the questions I asked as a bank HCA I could have found the answer to by observing and using my common sense. I emphasize the importance of this as mentors and staff on your placement will love for you to actively use common sense and your initiative, as well as asking questions. 

Just be careful that you do not try to “blag” your way through anything. If you’re not sure: simply ask. However, if you’re not sure when the next staff party or night out is and feel really compelled to find out, wait until lunch time and you’re in the staff room! Practice trying to find the right balance, bearing in mind that you are there to learn.

As a first year student nurse going into placement, more often than not you will be looked after by your seniors. A second year student will be expected to work independently and use initiative in certain situations. They will expect you to be a little bit more independent, (remembering that nurses never stop learning, with policies and guidelines changing on a regular basis) but not too independent you think you know everything, as even a band seven sister with 40 years of experience will never know it all!

Maybe this will help, a quote that has stayed with me as a child health student nurse:

“The only silly question is the one that wasn’t asked!”



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