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Never judge a placement by its cover

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Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you’ve seen where your next placement will be?

A few months ago I was excitingly waiting to be told where my first placement of third year would be. I was expecting a placement that would challenge me and prepare me for the real world of being a newly qualified nurse.

Imagine me waiting, constantly refreshing my emails full of excitement that I would be getting the most amazing placement in my inbox any minute now, and then imagine my disappointment when it came up as Renal Dialysis unit…

Not the big unit that sees all the critically ill patients but the satellite unit that takes the stable patients for their regular dialysis.

Cue major disappointment and a lot of foot stamping in the fashion of my four-year-old daughter. What on earth could this placement offer me?

“I just couldn’t shake that niggling doubt that I would not benefit from this placement”

After being calmed down by my fellow students I tried to see the positive. I got in contact with the unit and went to visit the training sister where she informed me off all the learning opportunities that were available to me, as well as sending me away with some pre-reading to do before starting.

So my first day arrived and I had the usual nervous butterflies that I get every time I start a new placement (will that feeling ever go away?). I had prepared the information they wanted in the hope that this would impress my mentor. I just couldn’t shake that niggling doubt that I would not benefit from this placement.

The first day was manic, all I seem to be doing was taking observations as they were a bit short staffed and I was unable to use the dialysis machines yet. I was happy to volunteer to do what I was comfortable with, this also allowed me to get to know the patients as for the next eight weeks I would be seeing them two or three times a week.

The first couple of days passed in a blur of which buttons to press on the machine, how to line them and what to do if a patient says that they feel a little strange.

Then, the placement started to pick up.

I was allowed to participate in meetings where we discussed how the treatments were working, I was taught the impact that renal failure has on the body (a major impact – look after those little beauts) and the various treatments that are required to give dialysis patients a good quality of life.

I was also challenged to manage my own group of patients – I never thought that a renal outpatient’s service would give me much opportunity to develop my management skills, but it did.

“I never thought that a renal outpatient’s service would give me much opportunity to develop my management skills”

During the last half of the placement my mentor allowed me to take charge of the patients that we put on that shift. Sometimes this only really involved talking to the patient and finding out how they were coping and working out if they were showing any signs that they may be becoming fluid overloaded, other times it was assessing other needs and referring on to other specialities, for example district nurses for wound care.

So, the placement that I thought I would get nothing out of actually helped me develop my management skills and clinical judgement. I am now an expert on the renal system (go on, ask me a anything!) and feel a little bit more confident in going into my final sign off placement! Eep!


Moral of the story: Any placement can provide you with what you need, so make the most out of it.


Rachel Fairbanks is in her 3rd year studying Adult Nursing at Staffordshire University



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