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Placements are a cavern of learning opportunities

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I was unprepared for my medical placement, but by the end I realised I’d found my specialty

When I initially started my nurse training last year I was sure that theatre nursing was for me. I had previous experience of working in theatres and I really enjoyed actually seeing how the body works.

Going into my first placement on a medical ward was a big shock. Not only was I unprepared for the vast array of long-term medical conditions, I was also unprepared for the emotional turmoil that I would go through. And my eventual change in area of speciality.

It may sound terrifying, but in fact it was just the opposite.

Over the year I spent on my hub placement I learnt essential skills of caring for an ageing population. I found out about long-term conditions such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s to name just a few. I became fascinated by how nurses cared for these patients so effectively and compassionately.

I felt a real tug at my heart for this area of nursing and realised I would love to be able to experience more of it during my training.

Various other smaller placements (spokes) enabled me to see other areas of nursing such as surgical, community and mental health nursing. Some of these placements were certainly not an area I wanted to go into once qualifying, but were far from wasted as I gained so many positive experiences from all the staff I worked with. Nurses, orthotics, dental nurses and speciality nurses such as dementia nurses, diabetes nurses, lung-specialists were all a fountain of knowledge and keen to help me experience their area of expertise.

What I am trying to portray to any new students is: don’t go into a placement with a negative attitude. If it is not an area you’re particularly interested in then make it interesting, work with your mentor to develop a learning plan that will assist you both in accomplishing your goals and expectations.

Every single placement is a learning opportunity - grab them with both hands!

I now know that I want to work in elderly care, an area I would not of dreamt of working in initially, specifically the care of dementia patients.

You are in control of your learning. Collaborate with mentors and staff on your placements and you will be pleasantly surprised at what can be achieved. Ask to have short day pathways with physiotherapists and dieticians, seeing how the multidisciplinary team works together is fascinating. If you can, follow a patient from pre-op through to discharge, this enables you to have contact with an array of different nurses and areas of expertise.

Above all, reflect on each experience. You will see how much you have gained in such a short space of time, and you may find your niche in an area you never thought!


Louise Goodyear is the Student Nursing Times Adult branch editor

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