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Top tips for your first Nursing placement

Guest posts

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc (Hons) Child Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

6 September 2022

Louise Barrett

BSc (Hons) Child Nursing student Louise shares her top tips for those embarking on their first Nursing placement.

Before university, I had never worked in a hospital or health care environment before, so I was unsure about what to expect from my placements. Along the way I saw some things I was expecting and some aspects of nursing I didn’t expect, so here is what I would have told myself before starting.

1. Do your research

I had been advised by previous students to research my placement setting (a general paediatric ward) and have an idea about what I wanted to achieve during my time there, which is helpful, especially for specialist wards.

However, if you are anything like I was, you'll have no idea where to start or what types of conditions/illnesses you'll see on the ward. So… always chat with the others on your course, they may have already been to the placement you are about to start and can tell you all about what they saw and how they found it there.

With this information, I looked at the types of conditions which I would see during my time, such as bronchiolitis on a general ward, or types of burns for the children’s burns ward.

I also made sure I went over drug calculations before each placement, so I remembered how to calculate medicines (nurses on placement often have great tips for remembering this!)

2. Keep track of your progress

As a student nurse, you'll have placement documents to complete, where you can write your goals and your assessor or supervisor can write comments about how you’re getting on.

You'll have a formative and summative assessment for most placements, and this is where you'll use your placement documents the most, as you'll sit down with your assessor or supervisor and chat about how you’re getting on/what else you would like to get out of the placement.

It's nice to be able to sit and talk to them about what you want to achieve, as they are often the best people to tell you what kind of things you'll be able to do/see in the area you are placed.

Time management is key and getting the documents completed during placement can sometimes be difficult on busy shifts, so if you have a spare five or ten minutes its always worth asking if you can start filling in some of it.

3. Plan ahead, and get to know your shifts

Shift times can vary depending on where you are. For instance, the community is often 9-5, but in the hospital it can be 7.30am-8.30pm (long days) and as a student, you’re expected to also do night shifts, which are usually around 12.5 hours.

You can email or phone your placement student contact before you start (I used to email mine four weeks in advance) to ask for your off duty, who you will be working with, and if there is anything you need to know before starting.

I found the key to working these long hours is to make sure you have enough food and snacks – it may sound silly, but looking forward to a nice lunch really helps!

All placements are different, and you may find you prefer the long days or nights, or you might prefer doing 9-5 – just remember it’s your choice where you go when you qualify.

4. It’s okay not to know everything

Something else I would have told myself is that it's okay to feel lost and not know what to do, I definitely followed my supervisor around like a lost sheep but that’s okay!

You’re not expected to know everything and asking questions is always good. Most professionals completely understand and are very helpful. At the end of the day there are poorly children that you’re helping and caring for, and it’s important to get things right.

5. Keep notes!

Write things down! No matter what it is, if you think you will forget it, write it down. And even if you don’t think you will forget it, write it down!

My supervisor was amazing on my first placement and explained everything to me. Without writing it all down, I wouldn’t have been able to remember it all.

6. Remember, it’s always okay to ask for help

Finally, talk to people, whether its friends, family or you tutor or staff on the ward. If you need some help, don’t be afraid to ask for it, they have been in your shoes before and know how it feels, and your friends may be feeling the same as you!

Most importantly, however, a placement is an amazing learning opportunity, so enjoy it.

By Louise Barrett
BSc (Hons) Child Nursing

To find out more about Child Nursing or other Nursing degrees and student life at ARU, book your place at an Open Day.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.