Student nurse Cassandra explains how much she learnt on her different placements
Luck. Some say certain people are just ‘born lucky’. I beg to differ. During my years as a student nurse, I have come to realise that being open to every opportunity brings on these so-called ‘lucky’ moments. The placements offered at my university have ranged from a ward for the elderly to outpatient, acute and community settings. Whether I was 100% keen or not, I have tried to embrace each one of them.
On the ward for the elderly, I checked out other services relevant to the placement, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pain and tissue viability. I knew I probably would not want to join those teams in the future, but I was also aware that understanding the role of these important members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) would allow me to know who to refer patients to, and reassure them when they would ask me questions about these services.
With the outpatient placement, some fellow students laughed when I told them where I was going. They weren’t laughing though when I told them about the opportunities my colleague and I had had. Working closely with our mentors, we made the best out of our placement and gained a chance to join urology, neurology, oncology, gastroenterology, cardiology, ENT, the chest clinic, operating theatres … the list went on and on. We learnt and experienced so much, and even followed patients’ journeys by attending MDT meetings.
On the acute ward, I was unsure whether the placement would actually be helpful for my learning, but working with an extremely knowledgeable team – including my mentor – meant I actually did learn an awful lot. Soon I was able to do pre-assessments and be present during surgery and recovery. Following somebody’s journey is amazing, not only learning the technical stuff, but being there with a person going through a rollercoaster of emotions. This is a luxury that we, as students, need to make the most of. (I actually think some patients open up more to students, as they see us as less ‘official’.)
My community placement offered a different type of nursing. Again, I worked closely with my mentor (another fountain of knowledge) who also guided me towards other agencies. I joined the area’s enhanced services, the Macmillan team and a local health centre – a move that confirmed where my heart laid.
Then an elective opportunity came up and I was straight on the case. I contacted the team at the health centre where I had spent a few days during my community placement, and they agreed to have me for a couple of weeks. I was hooked!
Now I find myself being the first student in Bedfordshire to have a sign-off placement in a GP surgery. I’m surrounded by yet another amazing team, learning another style of nursing and taking up every opportunity. Working, again, with a brilliant mentor on top of her game, I have joined the community worker, the health visitors, and next week I’m going out with the speech and language therapist. Thanks to the knowledge gained through all my experiences, past and present, I’m running my own clinics under my mentor’s guidance.
I know I want to go into practice nursing, but my experiences in other areas will be invaluable. I don’t think I’ve just ‘been lucky’. Making good use of every opportunity, and using negative aspects as a motivation to find solutions, has given me three brilliant years. My advice? Make yourself ‘lucky’ by grabbing every opportunity coming your way.
Cassandra Pinner is in her third year studying adult nursing at the University of Bedfordshire