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Preparing for a daunting placement

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Nervous about starting a placement? A student nurse shares her top tips to prepare for a disconcerting placement

Waiting for and receiving your placement allocation is always a daunting time for any student nurse. Recently, I received an allocation for an area of nursing completely new to me - adolescent mental health. My initial reaction was one of fear, as my previous experience has been with babies and children with severe learning disabilities; mostly non-verbal. This is my strength and my comfort zone and the knowledge that I was soon to be pushed to the opposite end of my comfort zone was frankly terrifying. However, I have been aware for some time that I need to experience working with teenagers and was looking to do so over the summer break, so in a way I was ready for this challenge.

I allowed myself one day of worry, and then decided to pull myself together and prepare for it proactively. Knowledge is power so they say! I began to do some research, looking at journal articles and publications. I also searched on the internet for personal blogs on mental health services. I spoke to other students, my best form of support throughout the course. I shared my concerns, and listened to their advice and encouragement. Some of the students had been to the placement before and reassured me that it was an extremely supportive environment. 

Now as I enter the final weeks before the start of the placement, I am still preparing myself for the experience. However, my fear has begun to turn to simple nervousness and even excitement. Reflecting on my previous life as a special needs teaching assistant and carer, I know that I do tend to thrive on being pushed in at the deep end (however difficult the first few days are!). I hope that this will be a similar experience and that I will learn a lot about this field, my nursing skills and also about myself. 

It is important to have a support network. My family, colleagues and personal tutors are all aware that this is a placement I am nervous about, and I know that they will all be there throughout, offering words of encouragement and enjoying seeing my growth.

Finally, mental health is an extremely important area of health; and one which is often overlooked. Therefore, I am excited to develop my knowledge and skills in order to support the most important people in nursing, the patients and their families.

So my top tips for an approaching placement which is outside of your comfort zone? Do your research, use your support network, and remember that within us all are skills and strengths we might not know we have!

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