How to Cope on Nursing Placements

Original thread: Thankyou to Cup of Inspiration for all of her tips.


Surviving a placement on Adult Nursing

1. Be prepared, one week before you're due to start come and introduce yourself- find out shift times of at least 2 weeks, and make sure you know what to do when you arrive for your first shift. Also, for brownie points if its a specialist ward, ask if there is any reading you can do to prepare?

2. Always ask questions- even if you think they're stupid

3. Don't always rely on your mentor- other members of staff enjoy teaching too, use the team on the ward, doctors, OT's, physio's if you're stuck!

4. Never undermine HCA's- always be friendly with them! Same goes for the cleaners!

5. Its ok to make mistakes- don't beat yourself up, learn from them instead. Its very hard getting put on a ward, and if you mess up its easy to feel you've let people down, but you're there to learn!

6. Get your basic care sorted- your first year is all about refining basic nursing care, so definitely spend a lot of time with HCA's, remember your limitations- don't do things you've not been taught at university, ie if you've not been taught injections etc yet- definitely use your first placements to understand the workings of a ward, and delivering care such as personal hygiene, bed changing, observations- they're vital and make sure they don't get missed out. Many students came back from placement bragging about things they'd got to do like catheters, injections, etc- but if you ask them to change a patients bed, and give them a wash, whilst assessing a pressure sore they won't know how too!

7. If a procedure is being done- ask to observe! Things such as operations, angiograms, lumbar punctures- ask to observe, you wouldn't get the opportunity as a registered nurse, and it can help you understand the MDT more as well as what the procedure actually entails when explaining it to patients!

8. Keep a reflective journal- soo very important, a small notebook is very useful, separate your pages into 3, what happened, how i felt, and what I am going to do in the future, this will help you a lot with portfolio evidence and writing reflections

9. Non branch placements are common in your first year, many people find them tedious and don't want to do them- but try and get the most out of them! Ask questions, and reflect back as to what you've learnt and how you can take this into your own branch!

10. "Am I dying" or "Am I going to be ok?" are very hard questions to answer, I always use 'what makes you think that" it steers the conversation away to how they're feeling, and instead of giving a direct answer it can help them breakdown their emotions as well, also 'Would you like a staff nurse come to speak to you about this instead?' is a good one if all else fails!

11. Make sure you know EXACTLY what you're doing, if you're being asked to carry out a procedure for the first time- even if you've done it in uni make SURE you are supervised, and know how to carry it out, don't ever second guess

12. Tea- I spent one shift on placement making the HO (house officer) about 10 cups of tea during the night, and topping up- he ended up explaining hypoglycaemia to me, and letting me observe ward rounds the next shift AND taught me about blood transfusions- I got a great learning experience from him just through cups of tea! Plus its good for the nursing staff too, its a good way to bond with a mentor as well

13. Be professional- but don't forget you're human. Crying, showing emotions, discussing personal issues and making unprofessional comments are not meant for a ward, but its ok to feel things, if a patient has frustrated you- go in the staff room and growl a bit, or go home and scream! Its ok to get worked up and upset, just remember you have a duty as well.

14. Don't forget your friends and fellow students when on placement- they're a good source to vent and cry too if you need it

15. Other students on a ward, can be a valuable learning tool. Third year students are expected to be able to teach things, one such 3rd year once taught me how to do a bladder scan. Its good for you, and them! Plus if you're stuck on portfolio work they're a great tool to help you along

16. Confidence is a good thing to have, but remember there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance

17. Accept feedback and criticism- its not personal, but professional.

18. If you have nothing to do and feel a bit lost, nothing wrong in skimming through the ward and doing fluid balance charts, they're often forgotten!

19. ALWAYS speak up about bad practice you witness, even if you're unsure over what constitutes over bad practice- ask, whether this be your mentor, sister or ward manager. Its nice to get on with staff, but even better to put patients safety first.

20. Make sure you have a decent fob watch, scissors, black pens and a notebook in your pockets always!

21. Many students worry about their first crash or arrest, important thing to remember is to stay calm and in control. If that means all you do is pull the buzzer, than that's fine. Be aware of your limitations, what you can and can't do, observe if you can- and if you get the opportunity to get involves take that chance as it is a way to learn. Reflect afterwards!

22. Following on from crashes the issue over death is also a tough one with new students, only volunteer or agree to conduct last offices or even see a dead body when you feel ready- however be aware you will have to deal with death as a student, and the earlier your exposed to it, and understand it the better

23. Get an early night!

24. Don't let anyone ever make you feel bad, ever- its easy to feel like the worst nurse ever, and many people will show you lack of respect. Just on TSR people have told me I'd make a bad nurse, and lack nursing skills- but the only thing i need to know, which they don't is that I try my best for each of my patients

25. Remember you're human- a lot of the general public expect nurses to be perfect robots, you're not- I get told because I'm a nurse I'm meant to be caring all the time, truth is I'm not, If anything out of the ward I can be selfish, but just remember you're human and not perfect, you will make mistakes!


Surviving a Placement on Mental Health Branch

1. Be prepared. Do a teeny bit of research into your current placement. There are so many bits and bobs you can start to grasp even before you start placement.

2. Enter the ward with a sense of humour. This will help, you with the staff and the patients. Some staff are very sarcastic so be aware, they don’t mean to insult you.

3. Don’t take anything negative to heart. Over the rest of you career you are likely to come across patients who will swear, punch, kick, insult you. It’s them or their diagnosis. Just take it with a pinch of salt and report it.

4. Following on...REPORT IT. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen, and everything needs to be documented.

5. Be prepared to meet some characters. You will not like every patient you ever meet. You may have major problems with their character but remember you are a nurse; you cannot treat them any differently.

6. Physical health is you know is very important as you know. Carry a fob watch for the all important respiration rates and a note book so you can jot things down.

7. The HCAs are your friends. They are often more helpful than the actual nurses who are swum of their feet, who despite their best intentions cannot always supervise you. The HCAs are also very friendly and will watch out for you.

8. Ask questions, you are there to learn and do not feel ashamed pronouncing some of the drug names wrong. Believe me, the staff will help you through it and my current ward manager cannot say Haloperidol to save her life. To her it’s “Halodelalol”.

9. Go observe and sit in groups. Even if it isn’t branch specific, you may never get another chance. Also it uses up time if you are THAT bored.

10. You will learn about so different drugs. Keep your eye on the BNF, after all the medic may miss something and if that’s not important, you may save a patient.

11. Doctors can be your friend, make yourself available and ask questions. Some may ignore you; some may want you there and will teach you about any topic you ask.

12. Feel free to question diagnoses and other parts of a patient’s treatment if you feel like it is ignored or may be wrong. As long as you can back up your questions there is no harm done.

13. Smile. Patients respond well to a smile on your face and a cheesy grin.

14. If there is no work in the office that needs doing, go into the day room. You learn so much from talking to patients, or even observing them watching the TV.

15. Enjoy it. You are only a student for three years; enjoy learning and the supernumerary status. You won’t ever get it back.


Surviving a Placement on Child Health Branch

1) Theres no such thing as a stupid question

2) Make best friends with the HCA's and ward clarks, you never know when you might need one

3) Use all the teaching information the ward has. Not only will it make your placement experience even more valuable but it might even coem up in your next exam

4) Document everything

5) Learn the power a cup of tea can have on an upset or simply exhausted parent

6) Have a sense of humour

7) Use the play specialists, they are invaluable and might be able to give you some good tips

8) Ask to do things. This has allowed me to go watch brain surgery.

9) If you ever think you have nothing to do there will alway be someone who needs some obs doing or some care plans that need filling out.

10) Invest in some good hand cream. I always get such dry skin from all the hand gel and washing.

11) Have a good sense of humour. You will soon realise the NHS is run on humour and cups of tea

12) If anything upsetting happens make sure you talk to someone and make sure you understand what has happened an why.

13) Enjoy it. Whilst it can be emotional and upsetting most of the time it is so much fun