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Community placements: What to do when the inevitable happens

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What do you do when your placement has no work for you? Student nurse Abbie shares her tips for making the most of your placement downtime

As a paediatric student nurse, it was no surprise that I found myself with an abundance of community placements within my first two years of nursing college. 




These varied from community nursing to school nursing and I came to discover a common theme amongst these.

I always had so much “free” time! Now by free I don’t mean time to do what ever I please, such as online shopping, I mean time where you may not necessarily be doing the so called ‘real’ nursing care that we all crave.

 This left me with the feeling that my placement involved just me sitting at a desk doing as much research into different illnesses as my brain could handle, until it couldn’t take it anymore. As valuable and interesting as this was, I would end the days with the feeling that I didn’t gain much experience from the placement. 

Due to community nursing involving a lot of phone calls and note writing, it was inevitable that I would have periods of time spent “in the office”.  My third community placement in and I started to feel that nursing wasn’t really for me. That was until I had a stern word with myself and came up with these top tips for when you’re, lets face it, bored and sitting in an office. 

  1. Plan your days in advance. By this I mean, make sure you have a rough schedule of what is going to happen during the week.  As always, this can change but having a schedule is so helpful when you suddenly find yourself with nothing to do as your visit has been moved or cancelled.
  2. Ask your mentor if you can have contact details of other professionals he or she works with. During any spare time take the opportunity to ring around and ask to spend a day with specialists or at clinics (with your mentor’s permission of course). 
  3. Pick some skills that you have witnessed in your first week and work to learn all you can about it and try to find opportunities to practise it (with another student or alone). For example, noting manual blood pressure. 
  4. Write an article or blog reflecting on your placement experience, pick a situation that you have seen and based on any reflection model write a detailed reflective piece. Not only is this good practice, but its also great for portfolios. 
  5. Ask members of staff if you can observe their note writing or help them do so. Despite seeming an easy task, when you will have to write notes for the first time, you will be terrified of making mistakes. So, observe how the nurses write notes and jot down what information they include. Then, practise writing notes after visits. 
  6. Make phone calls. Believe me, I know it’s terrifying, my hands were shaking so much during my first phone call with a parent; what if I was asked something I couldn’t answer? Ask your mentor if you can make a simple phone call, you can always pass over the phone if you can’t answer the question. No one expects you to know it all! But practise does make perfect. 
  7. Ask questions! Question anything you don’t understand; don’t worry they’ve all been where you are, they will enjoy passing on their knowledge. 
  8. Stay positive, things can get rough in any type of placement and you might start questioning why you’re doing nursing at all. Keep an optimistic approach and it will pay off!

There you go! I’m sure over time you’ll discover your own preferred ways and tips that work for you. Remember it will all be worth it in the end.

Abbie Jobbling is currently in her second year studying children’s nursing at the University of Hertfordshire

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