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!

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ATTENTION FIRST YEAR STUDENT MIDWIVES… Your PAD, White book and signatures!

I APOLOGISE AS THIS IS LONG…STICK WITH IT….. IT’S IMPORTANT INFORMATION;-)

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

 

PAD (Practice Assessment Document)……

 

 

 

 

white-book

 

 

……..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…

ANY QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CAN SIGN YOUR EVIDENCE FOR THE RELEVANT AREA YOU WERE IN WHEN YOU COMPLETED THE SKILL

AND

GET IT SIGNED THERE & THEN!

 

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……..

Interviews

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.

Skills

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……..

******AS SOON AS ANYONE SIGNS YOUR SKILLS IN YOUR PAD MAKE SURE THEY SIGN THE SAMPLE SIGNATURE SHEET FOR EACH SET OF SKILLS THEY HAVE SIGNED AND WRITES DOWN WHEN THEY LAST HAD A MENTOR UPDATE******

(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……………………….

****YOU NEED TO DATE EVERYTHING YOU SIGN****

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!!!!

 

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New Placement Resolutions

In late February I’m a bit slow off the mark for New Year’s Resolutions, but as us 3rd years start our Leadership & Management placement tomorrow I thought I’d write (in no particular order) about some ‘placement resolutions’ that I’d like to start doing  or things I already do that I need to keep up. For the more organised amongst you this is probably second nature but I feel like I would have appreciated these tips when I was in first year! I’m an Adult nurse but hopefully these things should be relevant to all fields so I hope you find this useful!

  1. Batch cook lunches for the week: I’m terrible for overeating when stressed or short of time and often find myself eating fas
    t food or ready made sandwiches on my break, leaving me feeling bloated and lethargic for the rest of my shift. This time around I’m going to make an effort to save money and stay healthy by pre-preparing food to bring with me to placement. It’s also a good idea to have some emergency cereal bars in your bag for a shift when you need an extra boost of energy!
  2. Pack your bag the night before: I’m really not a morning person, especially in winter when your alarm goes off at 5am in the dark and you feel like you don’t see daylight for weeks! Knowing that all my stuff is ready to go and all I have to do is fill a flabigger pocket gifsk and eat some toast like a zombie, makes it just that little bit easier to get out of bed. This sounds obvious but I try and put all my placement bits and bobs in a box all together- it’s brilliant to avoid rushing in the morning when the night before you’ve come home from a long day and thrown your name badge, ID card, fob watch, bus pass etc.. on the floor with your uniform!                                                                                                           Ps. Invest in a good travel mug! It’s the most useful thing I bought in 1st year!  Kim also has a great blog on preparing for placements (‘Pre-placement necessities’
  3. Always double check your PADIt’s actually embarrassing how many times I’ve had to go back to placement after finishing to collect a missing signature. Save yourself a trip and learn from my mistakes!
  4. Speak up sooner with problems: On a previous placement I had an issue, I raised this on the ward and also with the PEF, but unfortunately it wasn’t dealt with in the way I’d hoped and started to affect how I felt about going to that ward and was really getting me down. It took me a while to bring this up again with my AA, and realise that it wasn’t a satisfactory solution to the ward problems. Remember if you’re unhappy on placement and need to resolve an issue, don’t hesitate to ask! Usually PEFs are fantastic and your AA will always be supportive but if they don’t know about the problem, they can’t help you! If you need more information about where you can go to for Support on Placement check out the Placement Survival Pack.11535296_10153989835585820_926530824_o
  5. Take notes: I try and jot down things I’m not sure about to look up later, for example; a new acronym or a condition I’ve not heard of before. Then it reminds me to look it up later and jot it down in a pocket notebook. It’s also really handy to keep a list of useful numbers in.
  6. Background reading: If I’ve been allocated to a ward with a speciality I’m not familiar with I always try and read a bit more around the subject for example; common conditions, A&P/pathology behind it, main drugs I’m likely to see on this ward etc.. However if I’ve done this in some free time around allocation day it might be a long time before I actually start there so I’ve also started jotting these down in my notebook.
  7. Make a timetable: One of the hardest things about nursing degrees is balancing your time when you have so many extra things to do whilst you’re on placement. When you’re working you can just come home and that’s the end of your day, you don’t need to worry about working on that essay or writing some reflections when all you want to do is collapse in a heap on the sofa! I’ve tried to make myself a timetable as soon as I get my off duty, to try and organise my time around shifts so I don’t leave everything last minute- sticking to this however is another matter! I’d also say that if you feel your workload is too much, you’re not coping or there’s other things going on in your life that’s affecting how you feel- go and speak to your AA about it, don’t struggle on alone!

I hope you find some of these tips useful, got any of your own you’d like to share or suggestions for new posts? Please get in touch below!