The Student Nurse Guide To: Placements

Placements are often the most difficult part of being a student nurse. Long hours as part of a team that you will barely get to know before moving on to your next university block or placement, in an unfamiliar environment where you couldn’t find the bladder scanner if someone’s life depended on it. Mix all of that with still trying to study, sleep, and maintain some shadow of a social life and burn-out is bound to happen.

I have some tips that will (hopefully) get you through your placements. If I’ve missed anything, feel free to comment below!

  1. Do a dry run of your commute, right up to the ward. Hospitals are multi-level mazes designed to never be escaped from. I’m convinced the corridors move around like those magical staircases in Hogwarts. Anyway, ensure you not only know timings to get to the hospital in plenty of time, but also how to find your ward and if you will need to be buzzed in, as this can take a few minutes when the staff are busy.
  2. Compression socks are the lifesaver no-one tells you about. My first few weeks of placement were horrendous – I would come home at the end of a shift to swollen ankles and aching feet. A Nurse I worked with one day suggested compression socks (yes, the ones people wear on long-haul flights), and the difference when I started wearing them was incredible! No more swollen ankles or aching feet means that it was the best £10 I ever spent.
  3. Plan meals ahead of time. I definitely relied far too heavily on take-away and fast food the first few weeks of my first placement. Not only is this very pricey for your average student, but it’s not the most healthy option. Having a meal plan and batch cooking on your days off is a really great way to save money and ensure you have a nutritious, filling meal before and after shifts.
  4. Preparation is key. Research common conditions you might come across, common medications, and common complications. For example, if you’re working on a respiratory ward, look into conditions such as COPD or asthma and treatments you’ll commonly see.
  5. Be easy on yourself when you’re adjusting to a new sleep schedule. Going from night shifts to day shifts or vice versa is tough. Invest in a light up alarm clock (y’know, those fancy ones that wake you up gently with gradually increasing light that mimics the sunrise? Yeah, they actually do help). Move your meal times around so you’re used to eating early or late, while ensuring you eat a full meal before your shift.
  6. Keep a reflective journal. Not only does this make it easier to complete reflections which we often have to write weeks or even months after placements have finished, but it’s incredible to look back at previous placements’ journals and see how far you’ve come.Placements can be super busy, and you will probably want to use your breaks to consume as much food and water as thirty minutes away from your ward allows, but take some time on your days off to write down the events of each shift. Don’t focus on only the negative points, remember to write down what you did well and what you learned.

Do you have any more tips to add? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Until next time,

Dani x

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