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The first week on a new placement

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Starting a new placement is probably the scariest, yet most exciting, part of the student nursing calendar

Alice Donnelly_SNT

Alice Donnelly is studying children’s nursing



As a student paediatric nurse, all my placements are child specific and the one I’m starting today is with the children’s community nurses. I’m always nervous about making a good first impression to my mentor and this time was no different. Walking in, I have a tight knot in my stomach but this soon unravels as I’m introduced to the friendly team and made to feel welcome. My mentors don’t seem too scary either!

  • Student nurse tip: Good time management and a warm smile always helps!



Today was busy. I was constantly on visits and observed IV antibiotics, wound dressings and a naso-gastric tube insertion. I love all this hands-on stuff!

That said, getting my hands on a perianal abscess was not exactly what I had in mind…

On top of the stress of placement and getting those “sacred” portfolios signed off, I also have three essays to complete and an OSCE to panic revise for. But after today, I’m one essay down, two to go.

  • Student nurse tip: Plan, plan, plan! Have your tasks written down somewhere obvious to remind you (not that you will forget)



What I love about nursing is working with such a variety of cultures. Today opened my eyes to the different rituals people have in their homes, such as taking your shoes off at the door. At the time, all I could think was how glad I was to have worn socks, but on reflection it’s makes you realise how everyone has their own way of doing things and how important it is to respect this when visiting someone’s home. We have to respect others’ ways of doing things so we can help the child (or adult) to live a life that is as normal as possible to them with or after their condition.

Cultural awareness and understanding are key nursing skills. Today taught me that I need to learn more about languages. I wrote in a patient’s notes that their first language was “Tea”. I have never heard of “Twi”, but my colleagues will make sure I never forget it!

  • Student nurse tip: Be respectful to people, even if they aren’t to you. Remember, they may just be having a bad day.



I am shattered. I definitely need an extra sugar in my tea this morning…Zzz…

But I have really enjoyed the first week. I have already done so much and it has made me more excited to start working as a qualified nurse. All of my outcomes for the year have been signed off (after doing most of them on the ward), so now I just need to make sure my hours and interviews are completed. Phew!

  • Student nurse tip: Pester your mentors until you’re blue in the face to get learning outcomes signed off. You may feel like you’re being a pain but at the end of the day, it is your degree in their hands.



What I love about children is their curiosity.

Today I was dressing a child’s arm after he had accidentally poured boiling water over himself (typical toddler tale). I needed to keep him distracted so while I was cleaning the area, I got him to “help me out” by squeezing my thumb while I used the other hand to clean. He was so fascinated by what I was doing that by the time I’d finished he had forgotten to cry… Of course he then made up for that by crying when I had dressed and bandaged him up!

Before starting nursing you really need to have an understanding of what your branch involves. It might seem obvious but there is a reason different branches are becoming more defined. In my case, I had to understand that children are individuals in their own right and not just mini adults.

  • Student nurse tip: Do your research. No one is expecting you to know you want to be a clinical nurse specialist in diabetes, just focus on the basics for now.



It’s the weekend! And of course this means two days off… Just kidding! I have a job outside of being a student to help me pay my rent (and other important student things like that dress I want from Topshop).

  • Student nurse tip: If you have work while doing your nursing course, be careful to follow the legal limit of working hours. You don’t want to get into trouble and you don’t want to exhaust yourself.



Remember those essays I told you about? Today, I can sit down and get on with them - procrastination is just not an option today. Call me a control freak but I like to get my work done well in advance.

What do you think about theory making up 50% of the course? Would you prefer more practice? I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Student nurse tip: There will be times in the course that will seem difficult, but just stick at it. Nursing is a vocation that needs patience and hard-work. Be determined and be the best nurse you can be.


Alice Donnelly is in her 2nd year studying children’s branch at City University, London

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Loved reading this, I start in September, all the madness sounds so rewarding! I am worried about keeping up with essays and what not even though I've already got one degree under my belt already that had its share of essays, but I'll definitely keep a plan! 100% practice would be lovely haha! Just kidding! 50 50 weighting means you get a good balance of both areas, which are both equally important!

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