Starting placement as a medical student can feel very daunting, especially if it will be your first time in a hospital setting. Here are my top tips for getting prepared.
Before I started my hospital placement, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how I would react in difficult situations. This is all very normal; I wasn’t the only Medicine student feeling this way!
The good news is, before attending placement there is usually a briefing provided by the Medical School. Once you are assigned your hospital, you will also have a scheduled briefing given by the hospital staff. This will help answer your questions, ease your concerns, and inform you on your point of contact.
These are my five recommendations that will help you prepare for placement.
1. Food = fuel
A good breakfast will give you the strength you need for being on wards all day, especially if you aren’t used to being on your feet most of the time. A packed lunch will save you time and money when you take your break. I also bring some snacks to boost my energy throughout the day.
Don’t forget your water bottle to keep yourself hydrated!
2. Try creating a capsule wardrobe
You are asked to wear smart clothes on placement (even if you scrub into see surgeries). I recommend buying some staple, smart wardrobe pieces and rotating them around to maximise usage and minimise spending. I have two smart trousers, three blouses, a few standard tops, a skirt and two smart dresses. These saw me through my five weeks of placement.
Remember, always check your wardrobe for pieces before you go out shopping. You will be surprised at how many outfits you can make with what you already have.
3. Do some reading
You are normally given your timetable before you start your placement. This means you have the opportunity to see which wards you will be in during your time in practice. For example, if I am placed on respiratory wards, I will go over my history and examination skills for respiratory as well as read around the subject so I can boost my clinical knowledge of the specialty before starting.
While on placement, I write down what I have seen and learnt each day in a journal and link them to my prior learning. This really helps consolidate my understanding and improve my confidence.
4. Sleep well the night before
There is nothing worse than watching a three-hour surgery tired because you haven’t had a good night's sleep. It can be a long day when you're on placement: you will be on your feet most of the time, learning new skills and walking around the entire hospital to find the right ward (your step count is massively increased during your time in big hospitals). Depending on which hospital you are based in, you might also have to factor in commute time. Try to finish any revision/work by a reasonable time so that you get plenty of rest.
5. Ask lots of questions
Do not be afraid to ask questions, this is your time to learn as much as possible in the clinical environment. There are many opportunities you can take advantage of while on placement. Find out who your year lead is and what their contact hours are. They are your point of contact if you need advice, help or just a chat.
Placement is a wonderful experience, which will provide you with an insight into what working life could look like after graduation. It has some highs, but it also has some lows. You will be exposed to real scenarios which can be emotional, so be gentle with yourself. Talk to your peers who will be experiencing similar emotions. Those around will be there for support during learning, revision, and everything in between. If you need additional support, reach out to your year lead for advice.
Finally, make sure that you are still taking time to do things you enjoy during placement to avoid any burnout. Schedule in down time and social events. Another good thing about placement is that it can help you understand how to balance work life and social life. This is good prep for the future!
When you come to do your first placement: best of luck! I hope you have a good experience and enjoy it.
Fatima studies MBChB Medicine at ARU in Chelmsford. If you're interested in studying a medicine, nursing or allied health degree, book your place at an Open Day to find out more.