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STUDENT LIFE

So, you’ve got the ‘Far Placement’

  • 6 Comments

How to cope with being allocated a placement miles away from home

Danielle Garrington-Miller

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

 

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • Fantastic well executed blog, I am sure many will relate, great advice a must read for student nurses

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  • Rebecca Kidman

    Thank you for this Danielle. I was wondering - did you have to pay additionally for the accommodation or was this provided for you? I personally would've loved the silence but then I'm quite happy living in solitude and I've done student living the first time round and wouldn't want it again. I'm guessing the internet would've been reasonable speed too to try contact people on social media for support (though face to face and phone is best) I know in our placements that accommodation would not be provided and we would have been expected to travel the mileage each way and pay for it, which with 13hr shifts, is pretty awful. I am quite jealous that you would have accommodation for a placement which is why I'm keen to find out if and how much you had to pay for this?

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  • Interesting, thank you. I have been given a far away placement, 60 miles from where I live. Although I appreciate that I knew this could be a possibility before I started this course, It's very difficult for me as I have 3 young children at home. I don't want to stay in the placement area as it's community based and Monday-Friday, my youngest child is 2 and needs her mum.  I'm left with no option but to have to travel on a daily basis. It's going to be 12 hour days 5 days a week. Not to mention the extra hassle and expense.with trying to arrange extra childcare. My university couldn't care less ??. What can I do?

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  • I unfortunately have a placement 53 miles from home as I do not stay at uni and it is probably the closest I get from home.. I am so missing my kids and husband and spending time alone in my hotel room alone makes me consider that if this the next 3 years am I doing the right thing. I do not get fuel or accommodation reimbursed I am not sure I can afford this and uni says you knew it was going to be hard when you signed up. feeling down

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  • Hi Everyone, Danielle here

    Firstly I would like to apologize for not responding! Sadly, as Guest Editor I do not get any kind of automatic update as to when comments are posted, so I have been unable to keep my finger on the pulse (excuse the pun) of this article.
    @Anna Price, thank you very much for your kind words. It is always nerve-wracking baring your soul on paper. You have really blessed and encouraged me with your words! :)
    @Rebecca Kidman. You are welcome, fortunately my Uni offers a slightly complex system whereupon they pay for your accommodation (there are limits on costs, max £55/night private £22/night nurses/ hospital accom), send me an invoice, which i then have to send to the NHS who pay me the money which i then have to repay the uni! Unfortunately I spent time between b&b's due to lack of accom with no internet and when I did move into nurses accom you had to pay quite a lot (can't remember the exact number now) but I vividly remember balking at the cost which meant I had to limit my usage of the internet to my phone and within my data allowance.
    I am unsure of your Uni's specific policy but we can claim back travel expenses and a % of fuel allowance from the NHS using their placement expenses form, please look into this in case it is available (if you haven't already, they can backdate up to 6 months). However initial travel expenses came directly from my pocket, I received my expenses back within 6 months.
    @Anonymous1 again, i am sorry as I am now too late to help you. I do not have children and struggle with the demands of the course as it is so I really applaud you. I would be interested to know how you got on? At my uni we do have an Extenuating Circumstances form available, maybe you could consider this for next academic year? These forms can allow you specific close allocations, although i doubt you will be sent to Timbuktu two years running!
    @Anonymous2 I am so sorry I did not respond to you when you posted, how are you doing now? Again I do not have the responsibility of children and a partner but I have my own stressors which make me wonder what on earth I have signed up to most weeks.
    DO
    NOT
    QUIT
    The fact that you even got onto this course tells me that you CAN do it, despite the financial problems, isolation and time away from your family. As mentioned above I doubt you will be sent so far again.
    When I feel low and down I ask myself why I wanted to become a nurse.
    In my interview I distinctly remember answering 'i would be fufilled'. That's my mantra- find yours.
    Remember why you applied and how hard you have worked and how dedicated you have been so far to even get on the course in the first place. I congratulate you, daily congratulate yourself.
    Unfortunately I cannot give much advice regarding your personal finances and family situation but I would recommend:
    -Speaking to your student Union about financial help
    -Seeing your GP if the stress becomes too much (they can write you supporting evidence if you need to apply for the aforementioned extenuating circumstances form)
    -Talk to me! I promise to reply on time in future
    -Being firm and not being afraid to say 'this travel is killing me, I need to change placement.

    To all of you, it can feel like Uni don't care, you have to care for yourself. Push and plan for what you need to succeed and be happy on placement. Shout if no body is listening and find ways round the difficulties if you need to. Reach for any and all help and support that is offered.

    Thank you all for supporting me in my writing, I hope to hear from you.

    Danielle xx

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  • Yes I remember it well..of to the cow fields of Devon . An exhausting escapade with no car ,just buses at 5 am to get to a sweet rural placement.
    Now there is down right "you know it was going to be hard versus brutality and inconsideration" . If you have children why cant university have a facility to be flexible and family friendly . No wonder we are losing our nurses

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