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Back in September...

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Back in September when I started my nursing degree, going on placement seemed so far away and I could not wait to get stuck in.

I enjoyed lectures, workshops and getting to know my colleagues but going out into a practice setting is the reason why we all applied for the course in the first place.

I have been on placement for two weeks now and despite being nervous to the point where I felt physically sick on the first day, I already feel like I have learnt so much.

1. Be proactive. This was the first piece of advice given to me by my mentor. The nurses are there to accommodate your learning but they are often so rushed off their feet that you need to make an effort to get involved. Ask if you can observe clinical procedures and sit in on meetings. Offer to help out if you see any member of staff doing something. This is the best way to learn and reflects your keenness to get involved.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of my colleagues have said they felt nervous about asking their mentors too many questions, but my mentor and other members of staff have been very supportive and encouraged me to ask if I don’t understand something or want to know more. Again, this shows your enthusiasm and willingness to learn about things which is, after all, what you are there to do.

3. Make the most of every learning opportunity. Being a student nurse is a privileged position. Since you are supernumerary you are able to observe other professionals’ practice and when you qualify it will be you who will be rushing around instead. Talk to your mentors ask tutors about things you can do to enhance your learning experience. Spend time with other professionals to observe their practice as well. When my mentor has been busy I have spent time with the HCAs which I have found very helpful.

4. There is always something to do. Obviously each placement varies in terms of how busy the staff are. I have found that in the mornings I have lots of things to do and by the afternoon it has quietened down a bit. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing for me to do. There are always other members of staff to observe, policies to read or patients to talk to. If it is really quiet then I go and do some reading around the things I have learnt to enhance the clinical skills that I have practiced that day.

5. Keep a journal. At the end of a shift I find that sometimes so much has happened I cannot remember it all. When I have a spare moment I jot down things I’ve done during the shift and write about how I felt and what I could do next time. Reflective practice is an important part of nursing, and the sooner you harness this the better. Plus, when you come to going through your portfolio and completing assignments based on your placement, you’ll be able to look back at everything you have done.

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