11 June 2015

Essential guide to student nurse placements

Student nurse practice placements are an essential part of the learning experience on the route to becoming a fully-qualified nurse. They give real-life learning experiences in the practice context that are combined with the academic element to give a thorough base upon which to build a career as a nurse.

In this recent #NurChat, students and qualified nurses alike were joined by co-host, 3rd year student nurse and RCN Student Committee Council member, Grant Byrne, to discuss placement preparation and how to get the most out of the experience.

Preparing for a placement

The effort put into the preparation prior to a placement can help set the expectations of both mentor and student. Defining the competencies and learning outcomes needed will help focus both parties on the goals of the placement.

Other advice shared in the discussion by #NurChatters included:

  • Research the ward / unit. Read up online about the services offered, the size and specialisms
  • Make contact with your mentor and arrange a visit before the placement starts
  • Find out about the rota arrangements and check when you’re on shift
  • Ask if there is any recommended reading that will benefit you
  • Set out your learning goals and have an action plan in mind
  • Most importantly, go in with an open mind.

During the placement

While on placement, it’s important not to lose sight of the support that’s available. Your mentor, placement officer and personal tutor are all on hand to answer your questions and help you, but they won’t organise your personal learning for you. It’s important that as a student, you take responsibility for your own learning.

Other tips included:

  • Monitor your learning outcomes and keep yourself on track
  • Be proactive in identifying learning opportunities as they arise
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Familiarise yourself with the common medications used
  • Be open, honest and speak up if you think something is wrong

Forming a good working relationship with your mentor on each placement is essential for a positive placement experience. Showing enthusiasm, good organisational skills and a willingness to learn will show your mentor that you’re 100% committed to the job. When asked what qualities students would look for in a mentor, several #NurChatters gave their input.

@MegBetts Good qualities in a mentor - a nurse that I aspire to be like! #nurchat

@scottcolton2 A mentor who is willing to challenge you. Get you to think and self problem solve #NurChat

@PUNC14MMills Great listeners, empathetic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have a sense of humour.....but don't we all #NurChat

Learning experiences may not always occur as you planned them or in a wholly positive way, but learning from situations that you feel negatively about is equally important. Use reflective practice as a tool to assess a situation that could have been handled differently and determine what you can learn from it. A resilient frame of mind and the ability to reflect, learn and then move on from a situation is crucial.

If the takeaway from this discussion could be summed up in one tweet, if was this:

@RachaelMay11 Enthusiasm and smiling go a long way. Keep your standards high. Dont drop to meet anyone else. #NurChat

Come and join us again on #NurChat on 16th June for a chat with the RCN about RCN Congress 2015.