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!


Oops, my mistake!

I won’t lie, my first placement has been hard. I’m on a busy ward looking after elderly patients and most days I return home in a zombie-like state wondering whether I’m strong enough, physically and emotionally, to be a nurse. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from fear to blind panic, confusion to joy.

I’ve also made plenty of mistakes – though one in particular still fills me with dread. Shortly after arriving on a busy late shift, the senior nurse I was shadowing asked me to do the observations for a bay of patients. I picked up the iPad and wheeled the trolly over to the first patient in the bay.

15083417861_fa0698290d_bIt took me a little while to find her pulse, which was very faint, and I ended up taking her blood pressure three times to get an accurate reading. This made me anxious and I could feel my face burning up, conscious that I was taking far too long. When I got the reading, I took the remaining observations and saved the results on Patient Track before quickly moving on to the next patient. What I failed to spot was that my first patient was scoring a ‘3’ meaning that I should have alerted a senior nurse or doctor, so that she could be monitored more closely.

Later that night, I was heading to the linen cupboard when a nurse called me aside. She asked me why I hadn’t reported that the patient was scoring a three. I was horrified and admitted my mistake straight away. She was kind and told me not to worry, saying that the doctor was now with the patient who thankfully seemed to be fine – but I felt so guilty, worried that I’d put her in danger by not spotting something so obvious.

It feels horrible to make a mistake, especially one that could put someones life at risk. In my previous job, a colleague often used to say ‘it’s not life or death’ when something went wrong. It wasn’t then, but now it often pops into my mind, because as a nurse it could be!

When I got home that night, more exhausted then ever, I decided not to let it get to me. I’m sure this will be the first of many mistakes. In fact, I realised that I’m better off embracing failure – nursing is a complex, messy and confusing business, so it would be naive to think I could waltz in Florence Nightingale-style and do things perfectly first time round. Mistakes are often the best way to learn and there’s nothing quite like that feeling in the pit of your stomach for making you remember something – I know for sure that I’ll be checking and DOUBLE-checking the scores next time I do obs!

I think the trick is having the willingness to own up when something has gone wrong and do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again – but hey, there’s no guarantee. We’re only human, after all.