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What to expect from your student nursing placements


Over the course of your education you will be placed in a variety of different areas and specialisms. Each will have its own unique opportunities for learning and development …

Every university and branch of nursing is different but here’s what you can expect in general from placments on an adult nursing course.

Care of the elderly placement

  • How can I prepare? As with all placements, it is good to ring up before your due to start your first day. Normally one to two weeks before is a good idea in order to find out your shifts, ward location and other things that might be useful to know before you arrive.
  • What can I learn? The elderly generally have a lot of interacting medical conditions and quite often are on a lot of medication. There will be chances to consider how all these different factors are taken into account when caring for patients.

Acute placement

  • How can I prepare? As before, ring in advance of your shift because by their very nature these placements can be very busy and if you can arrive prepared then it’s a big help for everyone involved.
  • What can I learn? On an acute placement you will have the chance to see the treatment of patients with serious conditions. This could be through a ward like A&E where you will learn how to react quickly or in a placement like ICU (Intensive Care Unit) where you can see how patients with serious conditions are cared for over longer periods of time.

Mental health placement

  • How can I prepare? When you ring up, one thing to check is uniform. A lot of mental health placements don’t wear uniforms and it would help your preparation to find out what’s appropriate.
  • What can I learn? There are many things to learn in a mental health placement but key is communication. The nurses on this placement may use their communication (verbal and other) in different ways than other placements and observing this can be a great learning opportunity.

Community placement

  • How can I prepare? Obviously the biggest difference is that you will be caring for people in their own homes so it’s an environment that is outside of your control. So if you have an allergy to pets or a greater sensitivity to cigarette smoke, let your placement know before you arrive.
  • What can I learn? The care that patients will receive might be similar to what you see in a hospital setting but in general community nurses look after patients with more long-term health conditions. These may include leg ulcers, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and kidney failure.

Negotiated placement

  • How can I prepare? This is the placement that you have to organise, so you may want to end up nursing in an exotic country but have to get there and stay there using your money. Also, be sure to arrange your negotiated placement sooner rather than later.
  • What can I learn? The opportunities can vary but the main purpose is to try and pick a placement that you wouldn’t ordinarily get or pick somewhere you might want to work when you qualify.

Management placement

  • How can I prepare? This will be your last placement so you should have honed your new placement preparation skills. One thing to keep in mind, you might be offered a job at the end of your placement so first impressions count (as always).
  • What can I learn? This placement is designed to teach you about the running of a ward and about how to deal with the more non-medical side of nursing. You have spent 3 years learning about how to care for a variety of different patients and now you have to understand how to fully interact with the many staff that a nurse has contact with.

Readers' comments (2)

  • It's shocking how many of my fellow students never call their placement in advance (before starting) to get their shifts or find out details simply because they lack the confidence to do so. I personally feel if individual's know they lack confidence they should tackle this because they will need it someday!

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  • Rachel Coyle

    I am extremely excited about starting my first placement. I feel that any lack of confidence comes from the unknown. Therefore, I shall be ringing my placement ASAP to find out my shift pattern and requesting a meet and greet, tour, etc prior to my placement to remove any anxieties I may have when starting my placement. I will be going into my first placement as a blank canvas and I am looking forward to filling it.

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