How to cope with being allocated a placement miles away from home
Many of us are currently checking our placement allocations with bated breath. Some of you may already be out on practice and reading this from the comfort of your student digs or from some form of ‘nurses’ quarters’ miles away from your university town.
For my first placement, I got the dreaded ‘Far Placement’.
Postcode to postcode, I was 46 miles away from the peculiar civilisation we call ‘university’. Therefore it was prerequisite for me to move to the nurses’ accommodation within the hospital site.
Handy in terms of being a stones throw away from my placement area, but over an hour away from any university-based tutorials or social occasions.
“I packed my bags, boarded the train and tootled off into the ‘Shire”
Still, armed with the zeal only associated with a first year student nurse, I packed my bags, boarded the train and tootled off into the ‘Shire.
Hospital accommodation is a strange place. I’d potter from the flat kitchen to my room, hoping to meet another soul but alas, shift workers and locums are notoriously hard to locate. There was an “eat, sleep, shift, repeat” mentality that permeated the walls.
Soon, I became accustomed to the sound of silence. On one hand it was nice, peaceful and serene. On the other, I was going stir crazy, wishing for the familiar; socials for university students to attend, the hustle and bustle of a full house, a duvet (my accommodation was equipped with the finest hospital issue “two sheets and two blankets” ration).
“There was an “eat, sleep, shift, repeat” mentality that permeated the walls”
Luckily I thoroughly enjoyed my placement area. Eager to learn, my mentors and the MDT were eager to share and teach. I became a part of the team, able to care for children and their families from all walks of life and I thrived within the realms of responsibility.
But when the elements of nursing that are sent to test us occurred: those heart-wrenching circumstances, emotional diagnoses – the hard, gritty reality of what it means to be a nurse, I became all the more aware of my solitude. The sentiments our vocation can evoke sometimes hit close to home.
After an emotional shift, the silence I went back to in my flat became eeriness. I had no social life, no distractions other than my thoughts. I began to feel completely overwhelmed and isolated.
As student nurses, we are expected to go above and beyond the standard ‘student living’ and adapt to a very specific lifestyle - dissimilar to those partaking in other degrees. Sometimes this can mean packing your suitcase and travelling relatively far away from campus, more often than not alone.
“Although we know what we sign up for, it does not make the process any less difficult!”
Although we know what we sign up for, it does not make the process any less difficult!
Nevertheless, I believe we can get through the refining fire that is ‘The Far Placement’ and emerge confident, challenged and clinically skilled, as well as equipped with a streak of strength in our character that only braving ‘The Far Placement’ produces.
As student nurses, we are excellent at responding to the holistic needs of our patients but at times put our own holistic needs on the backburner. Eager to please, with the pressure of hours to fulfil and assignments to write we too often embed ourselves in the role of ‘the nurse’ and forget to take care of ourselves. In ‘The Far Placement’ we are also at risk of becoming isolated.
I believe solitude is healthy and enjoyable. Time spent in solitude gives one ample time to study, reflect and quite frankly unashamedly be yourself.
Conversely, isolation (whether physical, emotional or mental) can be the beginning of a spiral that can lead to low mood and feelings of depression. Our call to look after others begins with looking after ourselves.
“Our call to look after others begins with looking after ourselves”
Although at times it seems impossible to fit it all in, we all need a work-life balance that includes a support network, social circle and a creative output. Being a student nurse is like an endurance test- we graduate ready for the highs and stressors of our budding nursing careers. We can learn resilience, the art of compartmentalising and coping skills.
So, back to eagerly checking our placement allocations.
If you see ‘The Far Placement’- do not panic (excessively) but plan! Whether you organise visits to see family, meet ups with friends or simply an afternoon where you venture out and explore the area. Find out which staff members and tutors can support you in any way shape or form.
Ensure being away from base does not become all consuming.
Danielle Garrington-Miller is in her second year studying Childrens’ Nursing at University of Nottingham