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How to make the most of your community placement

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As a student mental health nurse, it’s inevitable that a lot of your placements will be based in a community mental health team (CMHT) as this is where the majority of mental health care takes place.

At first consideration, a CMHT placement can seem relatively tame compared to the fast-paced acute ward environment, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t lots to learn in the team.

CMHTs are large multi-disciplinary teams and you will have the opportunity to work with different professions. As well as working with the nurses I was able to go to assessments with an occupational therapist, visit patients with a support worker, complete funding forms with social workers and assess new patients with the consultant. Talk with your mentor and different members of the team to see if they have patients you could observe them working with. Understanding how different professions work with nurses is really beneficial for your practice as you can get different perspectives on how you can help your patients. If you understand how the team works, you can understand your own role better.

There are other services that the CMHT will work closely with such as home treatment teams, wards and voluntary agencies. Organising visits and spending time in these services will help you understand the referral process and how different services work with each other. It may be that you’ll have a placement in these services at some point, so set a learning objective before you go that relates to how the services works with the community team.

A lot of students seem to think that it’s difficult to practice your clinical skills in a community setting but assessment, care planning and discharge planning are all fundamental nursing skills that you’ll need to use in any environment. This is where the relatively slower pace of a community placement is a huge advantage, as you’re more likely to have time to sit down to really get to grips with these skills. There is also the opportunity to develop clinical practical skills such as administering depots and taking blood pressure, but if you’re worried you don’t have much time to do this then discuss with your mentor organising a visit to do this.

As with any placement, the key to doing well and learning lots is by making the most of the opportunities you are given. I was apprehensive about my community placement and could never picture myself working there once I qualified, but found that I really enjoyed it. Hopefully you will too!

Natalie Moore is the mental health branch student nurse editor for Student Nursing Times.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Michelle

    I loved my CMHT experience. It was there that I began to have my own caseload (albeit it was just a small handful, but still useful), felt more confident about seeing clients on my own (as a 2nd year) and learnt a lot more about anti-psychotics, depots and denzapine/clozapine clinics.

    I think having a community-based placement is great as it's another side to MH. Instead of the common perception and experience of inpatient settings, community teams offer a chance to see the potential that service users can reach with adequate support. You see a whole other side to people. :)

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