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Every student nurse placement is a learning experience


There are good placements and there are bad, explains student editor Rachael Starkey, and both can be equally educational!

Rachael Starkey Student Nursing Times editor

Once I qualify, there won’t be someone stood next to me asking what my learning objectives are

Placements are by far the most exciting things about this course for me - the chance to see different areas of nursing, learn new skills, put all my theory into practice. So recently, when I went on a placement and was greeted by a mentor who’s first sentence was “I’m very busy this week so try not to get in the way”, I was pretty stumped!

I had kind of assumed that everyone was as enthusiastic as I am about all things nursing and I didn’t really know what to do when faced with someone who wasn’t. It got worse. This mentor didn’t want to see my learning contract, didn’t want to hear what I was hoping to get out of the placement and certainly wasn’t interested in discussing what I needed to get signed off. She told me that because this wasn’t going to be my area of nursing (it was a spoke placement), there was little point in training me as it was a waste of her time.

I went home that evening feeling pretty despondent, and sat and moaned at my partner until he was bored of hearing about her. He eventually pointed out (quite rightly!) that I am in fact a grown up and shouldn’t really need someone to hold my hand throughout the placement. I realised that once I qualify, there won’t be someone stood next to me asking what my learning objectives are, but that I definitely would still need to have some in every job I go into.

Being assigned a mentor who has no interest in your learning contract is when you need to step up and take that on yourself. I saw that mentor as an exercise in people management - I needed to get certain things from my placement and had to figure out a way of doing that for myself. I spent the rest of the placement researching, asking questions, spending time with other members of the team and generally not trying to “keep out of the way” at all.

Every night I went home and wrote up what I’d done that day so that I could prove my achievements when it came to getting them signed off. I decided not to trouble myself with someone else’s bad attitude, but to go ahead and make it a good placement anyway.

The good placements and mentors will teach us how to do things well, will teach us why we do those things and will enable us to become an excellent nurses. And we as students need good mentors to get us through our studies. But the odd bad one can teach us just as much.

I learnt a lot about people management and about how to take responsibility for my own learning. Both skills I will need when I qualify, and both things you can’t really learn from a textbook. It also made me start thinking about the kind of mentor I want to be when I have students of my own, and I definitely realised that I am in charge of my own future.

I want to learn, and nothing or no-one will stop me!

Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times’ children’s branch student editor


Readers' comments (2)

  • I think you really did well to make the most of the opportunities. I do hope you said something to your link tutor so that the mentor could be 'supported to develop' in the first instance and 'performance managed' if not responsive. It is part of a mentors role to do the job well or inform their manager if unable to.

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  • I am in the UK visiting my son and his family, and as a Clinical Facilitator in Australia I am disappointed to read about your experience. I am the "go to" person for my groups of students on placement but they each have a "buddy nurse" on shift. Those nurses are professionally bound to assist students in a collegiate manner, as they are their fellow colleagues, and it is to be viewed as unprofessional conduct should they abandon that responsibility. I am the one who discusses goals at the start of the placement and then facilitates learning experiences based on those goals in conjunction with the "buddies". You have every right to expect that albeit busy nurses help nurture their future colleagues. Good luck!

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