What to take on your first ever day of placement

Planning for placement can be tricky when going for the first time. Having had no healthcare experience prior to my first placement on an elderly medical ward, I had no idea what to expect or what I might need to bring with me for my first shift. Two years on, there are now staple items I never leave for placement without. Aside from the essential lip-balm and hand cream, here are my top tips on what to bring for your first shift:

Directions to placement google maps

Your first challenge of the day is to get to placement safely and on time, which could involve an early morning trek across Manchester. If you’re familiar with Manchester, or have had a test run, this should be a doddle, but if not, it’s a good idea to make sure you know the address of your placement as well as making a note of the bus times or directions – just to avoid a panicked Google search at 6am on your first day. I’d also make a note of the phone number of your placement, just in case you are delayed for any reason and need to let them know. Our Student Nurse Survival Pack has some helpful advice on planning your journey.

Pens, LOADS of pens! 

pexels-photo-261591.jpegAs you soon discover, pens are like precious gold-dust in the NHS. Everyone from nurses to patients will ask to borrow your pens and it’ll be a miracle if you ever see them again. Definitely don’t take your favourite fountain pen or any expensive stationary because it won’t hang around for long. My suggestion is to buy a big stash of cheap pens with the clicky tops that you can keep in your bag, so even if all yours go walkies, you’ll have a back-up. Alternatively, as every student or registered nurse knows, if you ever see free pens on offer TAKE AS MANY AS YOU CAN! They should always be black ink though, as it’s the only colour we can use to document in patient notes. I also chuck a highlighter or two into my pocket as I find this handy for highlighting key details on the handover sheet.

A pocket-sized notebook

A lovely friend who is already a registered nurse gave me this tip before my first placement: “make sure you take a notebook”. It is one of the best practical tips I’ve had as a student and I follow it to this day. So many things will crop up during a shift that you might want to look-up when you get home or remember, so it’s really handy having a notebook there to quickly jot down your thoughts to remind you later. I’ve also used mine to write reflections on the bus home or simply note down a set of observations or phone message if my handover sheet is covered in writing. I bought pack of small notepads and take a fresh one for each placement and they have been a godsend.

Fob watchfob watch

I’m sure you’re all sorted with this one already – the fob watch is one of the iconic pieces of nursing uniform – you’ll feel like a proper nurse when you pin it on for the first time! As well as making you look like a nurse, it is also an invaluable piece of nursing equipment that helps you measure vital signs like pulse and respiration rate as well as keep track of the time, a very important skill to master as you progress through your training. Whether you have an expensive fob watch given to you by friends and family or a freebie from the nursing fair, it doesn’t matter too much – you will use this every single shift and feel lost without it on days you might forget it. You’ll know you’ve starting to assimilate to the nursing life when you go to check your fob watch instead of wrist to tell the time outside of placement!

A diary

pexels-photo-733857.jpegA piece of advice from a chronically disorganised person approaching her thirtieth year on this planet: invest in a diary. Preferably in January.  As you may have already learnt, there is so much to juggle on a nursing degree – uni, assignment deadlines, exams, placement, family commitments, paid work, a social life (god forbid!) – meaning that things can come unstuck pretty fast without a bit of organisation. In first year it soon became clear that my usual ‘keep-things-in-my-head-and-pray-nothing-clashes’ approach was not going to work. A simple diary saved my sanity and probably a few friends who were sick of me double booking. The more tech-savvy among you will have this covered with phone calendars etc but I find a good old-fashioned hardback diary works best – I always take this with me to placement so I can plan my ‘off-duty‘ (nursing word for rota) with my mentor and spokes in advance, making sure this fits around uni and other commitments.

FOODpacked lunch

As someone who thinks about food almost all day, I can not emphasise this enough – take a packed lunch with you to placement! Breaks are often short (typically 30 minutes) and the last thing you want to do is run across a large hospital or find a nearby shop to buy an overpriced lunch which you have to wolf down on the way back. You’ll want to spend as much as your break as possible relaxing (ideally sitting down) and recharging for the next part of your shift, so it’s a good idea to bring something with you like a sandwich, last night’s leftovers or even a can of soup so that it’s one less thing to worry about. Most placement areas will have access to a microwave so you’ll be able to heat up something up, though this may be trickier for anyone on district/community placements where you might be out and about. It took me a good few months to get into the habit of packing my lunch, but it has saved me loads of money and hassle meaning I can now fully enjoy my breaks. Invest in a sturdy lunch box and large re-usable water bottle – it’s so easy to get dehydrated when you’re running around on a hot ward, but having a bottle there reminds you to drink. Our blog on healthy eating also has some good tips.

Identification and clinical skills training certificates

Some placements require you to bring along some kind of identification, like your student card, for your first shift. I had a placement in sexual health, for example, that needed to see my student ID on my first day as part of their confidentiality policy – while you might need it for other placements in order to be given a Trust ID badge. Your university name badge is also essential and will help staff and patients get to know you and remember your name – they’ll have no excuse for calling you ‘the student’! Our induction checks on PARE also require our mentor to see evidence of mandatory training like basic life support that you will have done in clinical skills, so it is a good idea to either bring these along or take pictures of them to show your mentor so that they can sign this off.

What NOT to take

As well as thinking about what to take on your first day, it’s also helpful to know what not to bring. The main thing here is any valuables like a purse or laptop. Some placement areas might be able to offer you a spare locker but many won’t and I’ve sadly heard of student nurses whose valuables have been stolen from communal changing/break rooms which can sometimes be left unlocked. While this is really rare, I wouldn’t take the risk – I leave my purse or any other valuables at home and just bring my bank card and a small amount of cash, which I keep with me in the top pocket of my uniform – just remember to take it out when you get home, so it doesn’t go in the wash! If you need to bring a tablet with you for completing your OnlinePARE for example, just let your mentor know and I’m sure they’ll be able to find a secure place to lock it away.

So there’s a run down of my top items to take on your first day of placement. Of course, as you progress through your training you’ll find that other items become handy in different placement areas – like alcohol gel in the community, a pen torch in A&E, a pair of blunt-ended scissors on wards or a stethoscope for wards that measure manual blood pressure – but these key items will help you start off on the right foot. With a little bit of pre-planning you can arrive at placement feeling totally prepared and ready to nurse – good luck!


Pearls of wisdom from the 2016 graduates!

It was great to meet so many of the third years at today’s employability conference and to the new cohort of first years a very warm welcome! We’ve been asking some of the BNurs 2016 graduates what they’ve been up to since graduation to help give you some inspiration, careers & studying advice and some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel!


Gina, Chemotherapy Nurse.

grad badge

I work on a nurse led chemotherapy unit, one of the most interesting things about my job is being able to assess patients and use my own clinical judgement in providing holistic care. Rather than task oriented nursing, you’re able to work more autonomously but there’s still a lot of support available from the rest of the team. We see patients from a variety of different disease groups with different chemotherapy and immunotherapy regimes so there’s been a lot to learn over this first year! There’s also exposure to higher acuity patients and oncological emergencies so there’s a variety of clinical skills.

I’d advise current final year students not to underestimate the benefits of a good preceptorship programme! Ask about what support and training trusts can offer you as a newly qualified member of staff and it’s also worth looking at how they score on recent CQC reports. Always have a few questions prepared to ask at the end of an interview to show your interest in the role and it’s well worth organising an informal visit or arranging a phone call with the ward manager to find out more information. They’ll remember you and if offered an interview you’ll have an advantage over other candidates who didn’t show the initiative!

For first years at the start of their nursing journey, make the most of what your placements have to offer and get involved with sports and societies while you’re at uni, sometime it can feel like a struggle to balance everything but it’s important to have variety and these things will help you unwind after a hectic shift! Always show interest on placements and ask lots of questions, make sure to go to your PEF or AA with any issues and they can support you through it and improve the placement for other students in the future.21952670_10155829453445820_863942415_o

One of my proudest achievements so far was presenting a piece of research I did at the RCN Centenary conference, it was quite daunting being a student at an international research conference but I’d definitely recommend applying for things like this, there’s so many amazing opportunities out there! I’m definitely interested in research career options for the future but I also enjoy the clinical side of nursing, I don’t have any set goals for the future as there’s so many fantastic career paths out there but I’m quite interested in becoming a nurse prescriber, I’ll just have to wait and see what pans out!

Chris, Cardiology Nurse.

The most interesting thing about my job is the procedures and interventions carried out on patients. I’m currently working towards mentorship and a link nurse role and in the long term a specialist nurse role. For current third years job hunting; choose an area you find interesting to work in (for myself it was cardiology). Ensure when you prepare to interview you show your passion or interest for that speciality or area. Demonstrate your knowledge!

Some advice for first year students would be, don’t be shy. Ask lots of questions and get stuck in as much as possible when on placement. I wish I had known more abbreviations of medical terms. Advice for final year students, get on top of your dissertation early. I can’t stress this enough!

Emily, RMN on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit.

I chose this job because I wanted a fast paced ward and it’s certainly that! It’s really interesting to see people come in very poorly but go back to acute wards much better. I see myself staying on this ward for the next 2 years or so, then hopefully moving into forensic services.

Some advice for third years’ looking for jobs is to go for something you know interests you, you’ll enjoy going to work then. Research the ward and trust before the interview, they’ll most likely ask you for evidence/scenarios to back up your answers.


Also, take time for yourself!! Although the course is full on you need to make sure you look after yourself, take the time to do it now because you won’t get it when you start work! Take it as it comes, get ahead with your dissertation, DON’T leave it until last minute. You will have enough stress in your final few months. And finally, enjoy your training, don’t let it get on top of you. It will go by quickly!

Liz, Staff Nurse on a General Surgical ward.

Something I wish I’d known when you started the course? I remember everyone complaining (including myself) how we felt like we only did obs for the first placement. This is an important skill the more you do the more efficient you become and the better you get at recognising deteriorating patients early!

Advice for current third years deciding where to work: Go to every interview you get offered they are good practice! And then if you get offered lots of jobs you have more choice.If you feel like it’s impossible or you don’t feel ready. You are ready and you can do this! There will come a time on your final placement when you wish you didn’t have to check the drug round e.t.c with someone every time. That’s when I realised I couldn’t wait to qualify!

I’m enjoying my new role, it’s very diverse and I get to use and perfect every clinical skill I could wish for, in a first job. In the future, I see myself working in the merchant navy and also on the bank in an NHS hospital. Moving from student to staff nurse is the most challenging and fun time. Enjoy it and remember to be nice to the students who, before you know it, will be your mentees!

Natalie, Surgical Triage Nurse.

I chose this area as I love Surgery and wanted to gain experience in Acute illness, emergency surgery and different surgical conditions not just one speciality.

Enjoy student life whilst you can as 2nd and 3rd year are intense. Spoke out as much as you can and make the most of the supernumerary status to learn. Make sure your work/placement/study/social life is well balanced. Seek advice where necessary.

Some interview tips for third years is to learn about policies in your chosen field, memorise the 6C’s,  and look at recent CQC reports to draw on points for why you chose their hospital/department.

Alyssa, Community Staff Nurse.

whitworth hallI am a community staff nurse, nursing patients with long term health conditions. The patients whom I care for can be under my care for years. The care that I deliver enables you to build a very strong therapeutic relationship with patients that you wouldn’t necessarily get in a hospital environment. In the future I see myself working in the community, hopefully as a district nurse.

Some tips for first years would be to follow your passion. Find something that you love and run with It! For me, that was community nursing. If you do what you love, this will show in the excellent care you give to your wonderful patients!

And for third years preparing for interviews; do lots of research about the trust you want to work at e.g. core values of the trust and the person specification for the role which you’re applying for. Phone your prospective ward prior to the interview and ask for an informal visit to get a feel for the ward/department.

Third year is tough. There will be a lot of blood sweat and tears during your final 12 months, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and if you work hard you’ll soon be wondering where your final year went! Your hard work and pure determination will pay off. Your patients will make you feel so blessed every day and I promise all your stress and worry is 1000% worth It!

Donna, ICU Nurse.

What made you choose this speciality to work in? What’s the most interesting thing about your role? I wanted to work in a dynamic and interesting area, seeing lots of different ailments and issues that people come into hospital with. I love being 1 to 1 with my patients and able to give all patient cares, being 100% involved. I get to be very involved in the patient journey and plans for their care and my opinions are respected and listened too.

Some tips for 1st year students, don’t leave everything til the last minute! 3 years might seem like a long time, but it flies by! In placement, there is something to be learnt in every situation that will develop you as a nurse and make you a safe but above all, caring practitioner.

Final year students, don’t get too wrapped up on knowing everything, no one expects you to know what you are doing when you qualify! You will get training and helped along the way by your peers! Enjoy your last few moments of student life, it’ll be over before you know it! Be proud of yourselves!

Placements aren’t the be all and end all. I did not have a placement in critical care, but still managed to get my dream job. Never let someone tell you that you can’t do it! If I can, anyone can. Whether you’re in the final phase or are just at the beginning of this journey, you have achieved something wonderful to come into this profession, especially at such an unstable time. I wish you all the best with your future endeavours, whatever they may be.

My proudest achievement so far is being able to actively be involved with my patients journey and care plan! When you start out as a fresh eyed newly qualified nurse you feel like a fish out of water, especially in such a highly specialist area as critical care! To be able to see yourself develop and be able to suggest or question a care plan with enough knowledge to back it up is a huge achievement. In the future, I’d like to progress in my role, maybe into a band 6? Who knows. But for now i’m happy to learn my specialisation and will start a level 7 course in critical care next year and begin my mentorship course!

Victoria, Critical Care Nurse in ICU & HDU.

The fast pace and quick thinking, variety of conditions I come across and complexity in illness, continuation of learning and developing new and old skills and knowledge, problem solving and the use of all my nursing skills attracted me to working in this speciality.

Some tips tips for 1st year students are to always ask and never be afraid to ask for help at any time..nurses are more willing yo help than you think, always reflect on your day it will help you throughout your career. If things get a bit too overwhelming stop, make sure you patient is safe and remove yourself from the situation and take a breather.

I’d advise third years to do what you enjoy because you’ll be passionate in providing great care to your patient. Relax and be yourself…yes, you are being interviewed, but so are your possible employers, so always go armed with questions yourself. Be organised and try to stay on to of your work. Time management is very important.

My proudest achievement so far is getting awarded a first class degree and getting the opportunities to carry on my learning to help others. In the future I’d see myself being an experienced critical care nurse and mentoring and supporting other newly qualified staff in the area to be fantastic nurses.

Enjoy every moment of your university time and career, the hard work will pay off and if you enjoy what you do it will translate in your work and the care you give your patients. Always smile, a smile goes along way and is noticed by all, patients included!

Holly, Staff Nurse in A&E.

Initially I wasn’t sure where to work and A&E provides such a variety of conditions. The most interesting part of my job is providing life saving care in resus. I want to work in A&E for a couple of years to build on my skills and confidence, but I’ve not thought past that yet!

For job hunting in third year, don’t stress about it! If you are a last minute kind of person, like myself, and your friends have all got a job lined up by December of 3rd year don’t let it panic you, I didn’t apply for jobs until the end of summer of 3rd year and still got a job well before graduation! Start the dissertation early, don’t leave it all till the last minute like I did, trust me it’s not worth the stress!

My proudest achievement so far is getting a first class degree, never thought it would happen but hard work definitely pays off. I was a mature student and found the financial side of being a student very difficult, going from working with a full time wage to do 4 years of study (I did the access course & degree) was a difficult decision and I can only imagine how hard it was for my colleagues with children, but it is so worth it. If you’re having a rough time at uni and really struggling, I used to think about my first months wages and think about what I’d treat myself to…only afforded something little after bills were paid but that felt amazing. Keep at it, 3 years seems like a long time but it goes so fast then you have a fulfilling career ahead of you.

Ellie, Mental Health Nurse in Acute CAMHS.

I chose this speciality as I really enjoy working with young people, it’s challenging at times working in an acute environment but really rewarding and enjoyable too.

I’m currently working towards becoming a student mentor as I’m still at a point where I remember how it felt to be a student, and also what it was like to have a bad mentor. I love working with students now. In the future I can see myself training to be a nurse therapist.whitworth hall (2)

Some advice for first years would be that confidence will come in time. Every skill the nurses have they learned somewhere, you can be a great nurse if you stick with it.
For current third years deciding where to work, don’t be disheartened by everyone else saying they have jobs (there’s lots of quiet people who don’t)! I felt like I was one of the last ones to get a job and I ended up getting one in my ideal speciality – it made me glad I got rejected for the ones I wasn’t actually too fussed about!

Do I have any advice for current students on managing their final year? It ends! Joking aside, it really does. You’ve got this guys. Honestly, finishing a nursing course at University of Manchester is one of my proudest achievements so far. It is genuinely one of the most academically rigorous courses out there.

Nina, Paediatric A&E Nurse.

I loved A&E since my third year placement.  The most interesting thing about my job is that I work in a major trauma centre in London and get to see a wide range for illnesses and injuries. In the future I can see myself doing a management role or being an Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

Some advice for new students would be to get stuck in with placement! Take opportunities and involve yourself. For current third years deciding where to work; pick somewhere you have a passion for or want to learn more about!

Julia, Community Dementia Nurse.

grad bannerPersonal experiences made me want to work in elderly and dementia care, I felt I had a basic understanding of what a patients family are going through and help me to support them better.

I’d advise current students to speak up on placement and be questioning… ask why was this or that done a certain way whilst on placement. For third years job hunting, go with something you feel slightly confident with. For managing your final year, stay organised till dissertation is done! Don’t be afraid to start from scratch again if needed.

My proudest achievement so far is making patients smile and getting thank you cards from families I’ve helped. In the future I see myself doing exactly what I’m doing now! Just more knowledgeable at it!

You never stop learning, transition isn’t that bad, but remember you are accountable which is scary but don’t let that stop you from holding hands up if something goes wrong. Support is out there. You learn from your mistakes.

If you graduated from the UoM BNurs cohort in 2016 and want to contribute your experiences of your first year since qualifying to this article please use the contact form below.

Likewise if you’re a current student and want to get involved with the placement peer support project or write a guest post on a particular placement or topic that interests you, please drop us a line! We’d love to hear from you!


The joy of community nursing

Community is often painted as marmite- you either love it or you hate it. But is that strictly true? Surely there is something about every placement that can be enjoyable, and not so enjoyable!  I will first admit that my heart lies in community. I knew within the first few days of my placement in first year that I wanted to work in the community. So I thought I’d make a little list about why it’s just so amazing. 

You have to expect the unexpected! You aren’t in the relatively controlled environment of the hospital, you’re in a patient’s home/room. Anything can happen, even trying to stop the pet dog from jumping on the bed during catheterisation!

It really is community based nursing. No matter what area you work in, you’ll know the people, their attitudes and the roads like the back of your hand. It’s really refreshing to be moving around constantly instead of endlessly walking around a ward or clinic.

Improvisation is key! Can’t find the correct wound dressing? Come across a new skin tear? Can’t access the patient’s house? Better make it up! I’ve seen some amazingly ingenious solutions which I’ve then stored in case I ever come across it again. It’s one of the best ways of learning!

Community nurses can be a lifeline. Many patients you will visit in the community are elderly, some of which are very isolated from society due to mobility issues, lack of family or the fact that they live in rural locations. Often, community nurses are the only people they interact with in the day, and they appreciate their presence immensely!

The patient-nurse relationship is very different! As soon as you enter someone’s home, you are entering their territory and you follow their rules. I feel that this allows patients to have a larger role in care decision-making. It is what holistic nursing is all about.

Community nursing is not for everyone, but never underestimate it’s ability to build up your skills!

If you’ve had a community placement, and you’re feeling creative, why not write us a blog post? Simply send us an email at enhancingplacement@gmail.com. We always welcome new content!

Top Tips for Your First Placement


There is only two weeks until the first year placements start!!! Not only has this made me super nostalgic (and panicky because I’m halfway through my degree now), but it gave me the idea to write down some top tips.

Be YOU. This may sound like the cheesiest advice ever, but it’s true. With every placement, I’ve started this year, I’ve been quiet and not myself at all for the first few weeks because I’m so nervous. But what I’ve (finally) learnt is that once I started acting like me, I felt so much more relaxed. Make jokes, smile, talk to your colleagues. The secret to making it through any shift, even when you’re not having a great day, is with the people you work with! PLUS, the more you act naturally on placement, the easier it will be to feel more and more like a proper nurse, not just some clown in a uniform.

Throw yourself into every opportunity (if you’re comfortable****). I made a habit of not saying no to any task that was handed to me, just so I could experience everything. Sure, I didn’t always want to walk down to the Pharmacy and ask (for the 8th time that day) where our medication was , but it helped! I got to know the hospital, understand the breadth of the role that the pharmacy has, and take a little breather from the business of the ward. Even boring tasks help you learn something, even if all you’ve learnt is I’m not a mad fan of this!

****Sometimes, you aren’t ready. There are times when you will be asked to do something (like giving an injection) and you might not feel ready. That is OKAY! Talk to your mentor, learn the methods and take some baby steps. You get to decide when you’re ready!

Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. They happen all the time. We are learning and working! You’ll do things wrong sometimes and that is okay. Whoever is teaching you should walk you through it anyway.

Talk about your day! One of my favorite times of day whilst on placement is going home and getting it all off my chest. Since I live with non-nurses, I often filter out the gory bits (bless them) but it really helps to process the day and reflect.

Get your paperwork sorted out on time! Both of my first-year placements involved me panicking because I didn’t talk to my mentor about paperwork. I thought it would make me look pushy. It doesn’t. 99.99% of the time, your mentor might have just forgotten or they might have a plan of their own. Just talk to them! If issues arise from there, talk to your PEF and AA.

And finally- GOOD LUCK! This journey is hard and can be frustrating, but there will be so many days when it’s so so worth it.

If anyone fancies trying their hand at blogging their experiences with placement, why not give us an email, a Facebook message or a tweet? We’re always on the lookout for more student nurse’s and midwives!



Ok…you first years are all starting to think about placement right? It’s about a month away for the student midwives so your uniforms will be arriving shortly if you don’t already have them and you will have your documentation staring out of wherever you have hidden it because, if you’re anything like me, the thought of even starting to read that huge PAD document thing on top of all the studying you have to do is so out of the question it’s unbelievable!

Well I am here to hopefully hold your virtual hand through the whole documentation experience and share my many mistakes so you don’t make them!

First of all let’s clarify the difference between your



PAD (Practice Assessment Document)……








……..and your white book (Record of Statutory Clinical Midwifery Experience).






You may not believe this but it took me a good couple of months to work out who can sign what and how equally important but different these two documents are!


So I’ll start with what I think is the easier one-the White Book. This will be held by you for the full 3 years then handed in at the end of your degree. Your AA will look through this during your individual meetings just to make sure you are ‘on track’.

The White book is where you record your statutory skills which every student midwife at every university will have to get signed off before they can qualify. You have the space in here to log your 40 births which seems to be the area of focus for a lot of students but there are A LOT more skills you need to achieve as well as delivering babies. For example, you need to record evidence of  antenatal examinations & care of 100 pregnant women and examinations & care of 100 postnatal women and their newborn babies.

In these midwifery areas any qualified midwife can sign off your evidence. They DO NOT need to be a mentor/sign off mentor. This is important because you will work with a lot of midwives when on placement and you may carry out a beautiful abdominal palpation and listen to the fetal heartbeat with a pinard whilst your mentor is on a break and you are working with another midwife…..WRITE IT IN YOUR WHITE BOOK AND GET IT SIGNED OFF! The white book just needs the woman’s hospital number, the date, what you did and the midwife’s signature. It can be written up in a couple of minutes and signed there and then! Otherwise you will get home, not written down half the hospital numbers for the women you have worked with that day, for the ones you have written down you’ll have forgotten what parity the woman was or the pregnancy gestation and for the ones you can remember you will realize the midwife who you worked with is now on maternity leave and so won’t be around to sign that evidence off (YES…ALL these have happened to me!!!-it’s gutting!).

There’s areas of the white book which can be signed off by qualified Healthcare professionals who work in other areas i.e. neonatal staff  or breastfeeding support  workers but the important thing to get into your heads about the white book is…





OKAY…..big, deep, breath…..THE PAD! Unlike the white book your PAD skills and interviews get handed in at the end of each academic year but you keep the folder (mine is already wrecked!). Your PAD skills are handed in through an official process where you are given a deadline (date & time) and you complete a front sheet for each set of skills and hand them into an exams officer (I point this out because this process was much more official than I expected it to be and it unnerved me a bit!). Your AA will probably take your interviews but this does depend  on the AA; I still have my complete set of first year interviews but I know a lot of my cohort have handed theirs in.

Signing stuff- this is a bit trickier than the white book as the people who can sign your skills off are limited. Let’s just talk about the actual documentation as an opener……..


Ideally, at the start, mid point and end of each placement you and your mentor need to sit down and do your interviews. These will be read and checked at your AA meetings and are important for all parties involved as they help you assess where you are up to and also help you gather your thoughts on whether you are getting what you need out of the placement and if not how you can be proactive in accessing more opportunities.

During your mid placement interview do not forget to get your mentor to sign the actual interview AND the mid placement interview section on the front sheet of the set of skills you are working on (i.e. in the community this may be ‘Midwifery Care Pregnancy & birth antenatal skills’ section of your PAD. If your mentor has students from different universities they may not be familiar with UoM paperwork as every uni is different so its your responsibility to ensure every thing is completed.

As an aside, I did not realize our skills directly related to the academic units we were doing until about 6 months in…..don’t judge me I was overwhelmed!!!

Also you will have your progression points at week 19 & week 52….these tend to coincide with final placement interviews but not always so stay on top of these dates….get them in your diaries as both your mentor and AA need to write comments and sign these.


The skills section of your PAD is divided into 4 sections. Familiarise yourself with the sections, notice which sections coincide with your academic units so you can use what you are learning in university to inform your practice and vice versa, then write them up! Sounds obvious but it isn’t always! For example, if you have been learning about abdominal palpation in university and you are out on practice in the community, tell your mentor you have had a session on abdominal palpation and the use of pinards. Let your mentor know that you would really like to practice this in clinical placement. Your mentor will support you in this (if the opportunity arises) then you can write this skill up using all the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills you gained then get your mentor to sign this skill off! This, I recognise, is an ideal world scenario but this is YOUR clinical placement….make it work for you. This is your opportunity to apply what you are learning in theory to your practice; it is NOT your mentors responsibility to work out which skills you need to practice and get signed off!

Mentor/sign off mentor/SIGNATURES

You will be assigned a mentor when you go on placement for every clinical area you will be working in. You need to find out if they are a sign off mentor (they are usually quite forthcoming with this information!). Only sign off mentors can sign your paperwork and assign you a grade. If your mentor is not a sign off mentor ensure you know who the sign off mentors are in that clinical area and try and work at least a couple of shifts with them. Your mentor can sign your skills but the sign off  mentor needs to countersign them. THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS YOUR WHITE BOOK ! So if your mentor signs off that you are amazing at communicating with women the sign off mentor needs to countersign and date this skill as well.

I am going to **star** and bold and italic this next sentence because this caught me out on my placement and meant I spent most of my last shift at my first year trust running around trying to find one member of staff and ringing my AA almost in tears……..


(i.e. if a sign off mentor countersigns a skill in the ‘intrapartum care’ section of your PAD and the ‘tackling health inequalities’ section of your PAD, THEY NEED TO SIGN THE SAMPLE SIGNATURE FOR EACH SET OF SKILLS.

Imagine the scenario….you are finishing a night shift on the midwifery-led birth centre and the midwife you worked with observed you support a couple during a lovely labour & delivery. You had the opportunity to write up the skills you demonstrated during this shift and you got your midwife mentor to sign these skills off and she quickly got the sign off mentor, who’d just come on an early shift to countersign them before both you and your mentor floated off home to sleep…… WITHOUT GETTING THE SAMPLE SIGNATURE SHEET SIGNED BY THE SIGN OFF MENTOR!!! YOU NEED TO GET THE SAMPLE SIGNATURE SHEET SIGNED (yes this is what happened to me!!!) If you don’t, as a first year your PAD will be referred and you will have to return to your old trust to track down the sign off mentor to sign the sample signature sheet and then resubmit the whole skill set. If you do not have all the signatures completed on the sample signature sheet in second and third year YOU WILL FAIL (this makes me feel sick!).

Another starred, bold, italic section coming up……………………….


A LOT of my cohort got our PAD skills returned to us because we hadn’t dated our signatures on our skills documents! We had ensured our mentors had dated everything but we actually hadn’t! There is no ‘date’ prompt next to the student signature section but you do need to date it! I cannot begin to tell you what a complete pain in the rear it is when you have finally tracked down the sign off mentor to sign your sample signature sheet, hobbled, exhausted and emotional to hand in the PAD documentation hoping you never have to see it again, only to get it ALL handed back as ALL my signatures needed dating! Literally, every single one of the 60 or so skills I needed to go through and date! DATE THEM!!! Believe me you will not want that PAD handed back to you! If you aren’t sure if something needs dating and signing do it anyway! I am very much ‘better to be safe than sorry’ …once bitten and all that!!!

Think that’s all the terrible tales I need to pass on about documentation!! I do wonder how I managed to even get on this degree as reading back over this makes me look a bit lacking but I blame sleep deprivation!

You will be getting your uniforms soon-empty all pockets before you take it off and buy a tub of vanish….white is a TERRIBLE colour! What were they thinking giving nervous, tired students white?!! One night shift my pen had leaked in my pocket and because I was on an antenatal ward and the women were sleeping, all the lights were dimmed ….by the time I realised my pen had leaked I had fingerprints on my uniform, on some lovely white sheets, on a couple of CTG monitors and on my face!

uniform I was very glad I had purchased a tub of vanish big enough to bath a baby in!

Good luck and DATE EVERYTHING!!!!






Tips for first year Student Midwives….


How are you all finding semester 1? Terrifying? Is life sciences sucking the life out of you? Have some lectures left you running for the hills crying into your pints at the SU? Have you actually got over the shock of being a student midwife yet and now the reality of being a student midwife is kicking in?


Ok…so as a second year the horrors of that first semester are still fresh enough in my mind that I get goosebumps at the thought of how I felt this time last year but I am also sat here having survived so feel it may be a good idea to share how I got through it! I will add that maybe not everyone finds this first semester as a student midwife hard but I did and a lot of my cohort did so here are some tips that got me through to semester 2 in one piece and nearly sane!

  1. Don’t look too far aheadby this I do not mean do not plan…planning is GOOD (see point 2!) but do not look at your timetable for 4 weeks time and think ‘how can I possibly manage to do ALL THAT WORK?” . Think about what you need to do today and what you need ready for tomorrow. Have an awareness of assignments whilst you are reading stuff but don’t be consumed by it! One day at a time…your knowledge is building up one brick at a time so if you look too far ahead you will overwhelm yourself and you cannot possibly know what you do not know so just be with what you need to do now, today.
  2. PLAN –  you need to be organised! USE the time allocated to you for Guided independent study and independent study. If the timetable says 3 hours do 3 hours! It sounds silly but this will help you ensure you are doing the right level of work. I have a list of studying to do which I add to and cross things off as necessary! It helps me sleep at night not worrying I may be missing something i need to be doing!images-1
  3. Do not over think it (at this stage!)  At the moment you are bombarded with information and, lets face it, you’ve been accepted onto a highly competitive midwifery degree because you LOVE it and want to read and research EVERYTHING around it but you WON’T HAVE TIME! This was a downfall for me! More than once drafts would be returned to me as ‘too complicated’, ‘too complex’ etc because I didn’t want to just read and write about a nice straightforward pregnancy I wanted to research why a perfectly straightforward pregnancy and labour could result in a retained placenta WHY??? Goddamn it!!!! This is not the time for that level of ‘reading around the subject’-read what you have been told to read at this stage as you will have little time to read around the subjects if you want to get through the massive amount of material you need to get through and your FIRST YEAR is focusing on normality do not confuse yourselves by needing to know about the complex stuff….yet! Imagine your knowledge is being built and you need to embed the foundations nice and solidly before branching out further into the more complex stuff!
  4. Use everybody who offers support we are not just being nice we want to help you! Your AA, your PASS leaders, your mentors, midwives on your placement, your lecturers, your PEFs, your ward managers, your PEERS! They are all there as support – support each other! Knowing you are not alone in the struggle is such a bonding experience! Tell people if you are finding something so hard you are questioning your decision to train as a midwife! Take time to check out within yourself how you are feeling and reach out when you are struggling-learning to reflect on your experiences is important on  a lot of levels so the sooner you start the better!
  5. Be kind….to yourselves and others– please be kind to yourselves! Give yourself time off; spend time with your family and friends! Do non-midwifery related stuff! It is EASY to be consumed by this degree but self care is fundamental to resilience and good health so start as you mean to go on! Sleep well, eat well and invest in ‘you’ time it will benefit everybody around you especially you! Look at your cohort-are some people struggling? Reach out to them-this is not a competition we really can ALL succeed but its much nicer if we all help each other along rather than revel when people fall! We are training in a compassionate profession this starts with how we treat each other!
  6. Attend revision lectures – that is it really! Attend them-they are important!
  7. Use social media sparingly– so you did well and got 110% on your first assignment….AMAZING!!! Well done! Please consider why you would put this on Facebook! It’s super you’ve done well and you should be proud of yourself but tell your folks, tell your friends, shout it from the rooftop but jusocial-medast ask yourself why you are sharing that somewhere so publicly when you know others in your cohort are going to read it and maybe might not have managed to get such a great result! We all have areas we are strong in and areas we are not so strong in-support each other and celebrate successes but be mindful of how your fabulous result may make somebody feel who only managed 35% this time.
  8. Enjoy it! You will be frantic at times and wonder how you are ever going to get through your life sciences exam as well as hand in your poster assignment draft, get that presentation ready, complete your placement documentation plus have any kind of extra curricular life! But enjoy being a first year student midwife! Take time to stand on the 4th floor of uni place looking down Oxford Road at the buildings and the hustle & bustle and remind yourself you are a student at MANCHESTER a highly prestigious university! Go to the library and breathe in the smell of ALL THOSE BOOKS embracing how far you have already come and that YOU GOT CHOSEN! Do not be so consumed by panic that you lose sight of why you want to be a midwife. Oh….and learn to scan read! An essential skill!!!


So What Kind of Nurse Are you?

As I started my first year at university to undertake my nursing degree in mental health nursing I looked around and thought – I don’t fit in!

What am I doing here – a 37 year old with a background in the travel industry?

bird odd image

Surrounded by a majority of people in their twenties who all seemed so knowledgeable on nursing I felt so behind and out of my depth! As the year passed and I overheard people talk about things they had done on placement or listened to them talk so informed in lectures etc. In honesty? –  I still felt I knew nothing compared to them.

penguin-153660_1280By second year however I had passed all my exams and placements and started to feel hang on I can do this I do know stuff – different stuff! Just because I can never remember which way round the sections are or if a medication is an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic straight off doesn’t not mean I wont make a good nurse. One staff nurse on placement gave me sound advice, she said you will learn what you need to learn for your job in your job as you will be seeing it every day. As a student we are bombarded with a constant changing supply of medications and illnesses and practices to learn, we cant remember it all!

Eventually I got the hang of the sections and most of the medications (although sometimes I still have to use the BNF.)The main thing I learned however from colleagues and other nurses on placement, but mainly through my own observations of these groups, was that it takes all sorts of nurses to make up good nursing care.

There are so many different branches of nursing, for example in mental health you have acute wards, recovery or assessment units, community teams such home treatment and crisis. There’s elderly care, CAMHS, eating disorders, early intervention… the list goes on. Each of these departments needs special skills and a special kind of person to do it. Then within that team each patient they see is an individual and will require or connect with a certain type of nurse.

We all have a role to play.star trek team

So no matter who you are or what your skills are you will find your niche in time. The beauty of the degree course these days is the mix of placements you get. I was luck as one placement just hit me and I knew where I wanted to work for sure, I’d had an idea I wanted to work with the elderly but my placements confirmed which area for me as some I loved and some I hated. I am pleased to say I am due to start my career with a Dementia Team this year and I’ve never been more excited as I know this is where I belong and I feel confident in my knowledge and skills to really make a go of this and look after the patients in my care with confidence.

You will learn what you need to learn in your time and in your own way throughout the three years of your training. What you will learn and experience in  this time will be unique to you  – but that’s what will make you the kind of nurse you want to be!