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First nursing placement? Here's what mine taught me

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Student nurse, Louisa, shares her seven key learnings from her nursing placement

I have just spent eight weeks in an outpatients department at a large children’s hospital, with my main hub in ENT. It was my first placement so despite being ridiculously nervous before starting (I couldn’t sleep the night before!), I thoroughly enjoyed my placement and getting a taste of what I’ll be doing once I’ve qualified.

I learnt a lot during my placement, but my seven crucial lessons were:

  1. Stickers are everything when you’re working with children. Getting children to comply with treatment often involves bribery and your top negotiation skills, and stickers are an excellent incentive for good behaviour when you’re 5 years old!
  2. Don’t be afraid to say you’re not comfortable doing something. There were a few times during my placement when I was asked to do something that I didn’t feel I could do, for example, taking a boy’s head dressing off without supervision when I had never taken a dressing off before. Remember you are there to learn and be taught so don’t beat yourself up; just try to absorb as much information as possible from the qualified members of staff. Practice makes perfect.
  3. Take as many short visits as possible. Although it’s good to get comfortable in your own department, it’s also a good idea to see as many other relevant things as possible. Not only does this increase your awareness and understanding, it also enables you to network and make connections with a range of staff. Which brings me to my next point…
  4. …Be friendly and polite to everyone, because you never know whose help you might need or what you might learn from them. Don’t think that qualified nurses are the only people you will learn from, all members of multidisciplinary teams will have something to teach you.
  5. Learn how to stand your ground with aggressive patients. Unfortunately, not all parts of the job are enjoyable and I found dealing with angry and agitated parents was one of the worst, but unavoidable, parts of nursing. Never let anyone intimidate you. You are there to help people and it is not your fault if waiting times are long, for example. All you can do is apologise and treat the patient with respect at all times.
  6. Similarly, if a member of staff isn’t friendly, don’t take it personally. You will not necessarily get on with everyone you work with. But that’s OK. Learning to deal with different personalities is valuable. If you feel someone is being off with you, just smile and make an extra special effort to get along with that person.
  7. Don’t get too emotionally involved. The people you meet and stories you hear will be upsetting sometimes. If you only focus on these, the job will be a very depressing one. Instead, I found it useful to think about how well people and families cope with in such hard circumstances. It’s very inspirational.

Louisa Davies


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