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'I failed my placement and had to pick myself up again'

  • Comments (12)

So, when I thought about what I could offer in this time of excitement and uncertainty, I wanted to give an honest representation of something that can be quite distressing and humiliating: what happens when you fail - and, more importantly, how do you pick yourself back up again?

I was placed on a ward in a hospital in my region; it was a busy ward but I thought everything was going well.

I was approaching the last day of my placement without having my final assessment completed. I was nervous, but was assured by my mentor that there was still time to get everything done. However, a bout of sickness meant that I went through my last day of practice without my book being completed. I was obviously frustrated but took the only option I had - I left my practice document on the ward with the intention of coming back to pick it up before handing it in to the university.

On my return to the ward I found that my practice document was waiting for me, but when I opened it I was stunned to see that I had been failed!

I instantly started to panic, looking around for my mentor; she wasn’t there. I asked the other staff what I should do because the things written in my book I didn’t agree with; they looked at me with sympathy - what else could they do?

They suggested I call my mentor and handed me the phone. On speaking to her she said that she had some concerns with me and that these had to be reflected in her assessment.

I had run out of time - I had to hand in the practice document the next day and accept the failure. There were some people that told me not to worry as you get a second attempt. While that is true, I couldn’t take myself away from the despair.

I wanted to use my experience to offer some short advice:

  • Firstly, make sure that problems are identified quickly. If you don’t get on with your mentor or there are other problems then don’t bottle it up or think that you can solve it on your own. I made that mistake and it was to my detriment. Think of your university training as your patient. If you could see your patient deteriorating, you wouldn’t watch and hope that the patient would get better. Of course not - you would tell someone. In a similar way, you wouldn’t want your academic success jeopardised because you didn’t progress things further.
  • Secondly, never leave your practice document anywhere. Letting it leave your sight is a recipe for disaster. Don’t rely on others to look after the most important thing you will own for the duration of your three-year course.
  • Thirdly, don’t leave things to the last minute. My mistake was that I wasn’t assertive enough to get my practice document filled in at regular intervals. If I had, then problems could have been identified earlier and I could have been present when my mentor wrote her final assessment. As a sub-point, you should always be present when your mentor writes in your book.
  • Finally, keep perspective; I was mortified when I failed because the prospect had never occurred to me. I felt worthless and humiliated at the thought of having this stain on my record. However, if I hadn’t been so melodramatic at the time then the run-up to my next placement area might not have been so full of anxiety. A lot of nurses have had to use a second attempt at some point in their training.

Getting a fail and coming back determined to do better says a lot about your character.

As Randy Pausch, a great lecturer said: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough”.

Adam Roxby is Student Editor of Student Nursing Times. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRoxby

  • Comments (12)

Readers' comments (12)

  • Hi, I did experienced something very similar, albeit my "assessment" was listed more as a student evaluation. I also tout I did well in my placement, I was quite happy and confident in what I learnt. I did get a very public dressing down for something I never knew about (and admitted to) but I went with the flow, accepted it, learnt and moved on.

    So, imagine my surprise when I was listed as "unprofessional", "provided inaccurated and incomplete information to patients" and more damaging remarks. As this was the first time that ward took students from my school, it wasn't favorable for me and I almost got the boot from the course.

    All those thoughts, plus my then situation really brought me down. I was wary to even go to class, much less think about placement. But, my next placement made me rethink all that (and I hope it's not too late to save myself, yet again).

    The moral of this long story is: learn and move on quick. You won't have the time to dally on the failings of anyone. Much like any job people will walk into, you will find that you can't please anyone.

    Thanks so much for this Adam, I wish I had read this earlier.

    And for the record... They just wanted to "bring me down a peg"

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Shazz
    Im glad you found the article useful, if only as a way of getting out your emotions.
    I think it is important for students to have a place where they can exorcise demons from practice and then become better in the process.
    In relation to your other point, I also felt really ashamed to tell my other student friends. Especially when they were talking about all the fun they had during there time in practice. I knew they would find out at some point so I had to be honest.
    In retrospect I needn't have worried as they were all supportive and encouraged me.
    So thinking about it, the whole experience has made me better and also made my bond with other students stronger.
    Thanks once again for your comment.

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  • eileen shepherd

    Hi Adam
    Thank you for writing this blog. I think it takes a lot of courage to share this experience but I know it will be really helpful to other students who may face the same problems as well as mentors involved in student assessment.

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  • Anonymous

    I wish I had access to this a few months back! I went through the same problem and had an horrendous placement. I pretty much bottled all my feelings up for weeks but luckily with my father having a complete arthoscopy over the summer I was able to care for him and it snapped me out of my depression. I did have very high levels of anxiety leading to my second attempt and also at times thinking of self harm. My mentor in my second attempt though was tremendous a really great guy and a fantastic Nurse. He got me through it and brought my confidence back up.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi i am a mentor for student nurses and i hope i am correct in saying that there are strict time lines in our trust Buckinghamshire for completing assessments

    and if problems are identified the student nurse is made aware well before completion of placement and plan of action that will have been agreed with the student, mentor, and the nursing school
    obviously i do not know your trust but you most certainly identified several areas i e time scales, your document etc
    i beleive your mentor should also have met these time scales
    it is not a one way learning experience it is the duty of mentor to facilitate there student and if you had problems that were not identified, then the nursing school should most certainly be looking at why they were not identified by your mentor and why a
    a meeting was not arranged to discuss the said problems and how to resolve them.

    how can you put something right if you do not know what you are doing wrong

    i am pleased you managed to work thrugh this and pass, it will hopefully make you a more sympathetic mentor when the time comes good luck

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  • Good article Adam!

    I am a nurse mentor in Malta. We have a tripartite system of assessment locally which i cannot really explain here.

    What I want to point out is that as a mentor I give continuous feedback to my students throughout the 150 hours of their clinical placement in my unit. What I find useful though (although many do not agree for various reasons) is the 'mid placement feedback' whereby I point out the major strengths of the student together with the major faults. I emphasize that the mark will reflect these faults and make it clear where they stand. This gives a student a good 6-9 shifts of practice where s/he can work upon them and improve. The majority improve but having said this, I did have to fail a couple of students or award a very low mark because sometimes things did not change much.

    I also hope that my mentees eventually understand how and why I did score them that way and that they understand the role of the mentor later on when they graduate.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello all

    Time for me to respond again, which happens to be one of my favourite tasks in writing these articles.

    Eileen - I did wonder if I was doing the right thing in writing about these experiences so soon after the event and in such a public manner but on reflection I think I made the right choice.

    Anonymous - Im sorry to hear about your troubles in placement. Nothing should make you feel so bad that you want to take action to harm yourself. Im sure you know that there are services available to you should you feel that way again. I have personally used ‘The Samaritans’ and have felt them to be very helpful. Otherwise, then continue to use the Student Nursing Times and the community we have here. Im glad your second attempt went well and that you are getting on in your training.

    Anonymous 2 - I think it is a fairly standard procedure across all Universities to have points along the assessment process to highlight any concerns so they can be raised early. That way it doesn’t become a surprise to any student on the last day that they have failed.
    I actually hadn’t considered that one day I might be in the position to have to assess students in the future. It’s a scary thought but I hope I can be the mentor I want to meet along my training.

    Kjholmes - It sounds like you have the right idea. There are obviously cases where you have to do what is right for the patients and if that means that a student needs to be failed then so be it.

    Thanks to everyone for their comments, Im glad the article has helped.
    See you next time.

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  • Anonymous

    so happy to see this I have had a horrific placement and been failed on one competency in regards to getting upset after a nurse shouted at me and im really gutted but all I can do is dust myself off and try again really gutted this happened but I can only try and do my best to pass

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  • Anonymous

    I'm afraid not all mentors provide a supportive learning environment. More should be done to support students and retain student nurses not kick them off the course at first hurdle

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  • Anonymous

    I know this is an old post but I wanted to give my input, in case anyone comes along this...

    I am a MH nursing student, and have just failed my first, third year placement.

    It may sound harsh, and please bear with me, but...
    My advise is; if there are any concerns, DO NOT TRUST YOUR MENTOR. Report any concerns immediately IN WRITING, to your mentor and university advisors. And INSIST on a tripartite meeting to document S.M.A.R.T. areas of improvement in your Practice Assessment Tool. That way everybody is aware of the situation and you know what is expected of you, and where you need to improve. And remember, although there should be: initial, mid and final interviews, you can ask for a meeting at any time.

    Sometimes things will not go as smoothly as hoped for. Whether it's unexpected sickness, a placement that doesn't suit your style, difficulties applying knowledge or even a clash in personalities - YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED.

    I made a mistake. I realised straight away, I clashed with my mentor. In fact, I'd say I felt bullied within two weeks on placement. I spoke to my university advisor, who suggested I talk to my mentor about my concerns. I did, and it cost me.
    After raising my concerns and by his own admission, my mentor "left [me] alone" and "wasn't as supportive as [he] could have been" for the remainder of my 5 week placement. Not only that, but, as I had had a break from studies, I asked for a mid interview and to document any areas for improvement. I was told "not to worry" as my mentor would "tell me if there was a problem". I took him at his word, after all, he was a band 6 team leader, mental health nurse and mentor. That was another mistake.

    During my final interview, 2 days before the end of placement, my mentor told me he wasn't going to sign me off. And commented that I should redo the placement in another area. It came as a total surprise. Apparently I wasn't at third year student standard. I reminded him I had had time off and was returning to an immediate 5 week placement. But was told that "wasn't his problem".

    To cut a long story short, I got a tripartite meeting on my final day of placement. It was a gruelling 2.5 hours. And with support from my university advisor I got 42% for 1 competency, and

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