In my humble opinion, beginning a new placement is not dissimilar to that memorable first day at secondary school. Those overwhelming feelings of excitement, the fear of the dreaded unknown, not to mention the big kids!
Some might say I have an overactive imagination and I am inclined to agree. Luckily for me I am also pretty good at snapping myself out of it and putting things into eventual perspective. I have developed some pretty basic but effective strategies to minimise unwanted anxieties regarding placements and today, you lucky lot, I’m going to disclose my secrets.
Firstly may I apologise if some of my pointers seem a little obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of people I have come across that could have benefited from a little simple direction such as this, so here goes.
Preparation! I know it’s something that I bleat on about, but I can’t stress it enough. If you are not prepared then you will find it nigh on impossible to gain the most out of your placement experience. With the exception of your first placement, allocations are usually available 12 weeks in advance. First placement, if my memory serves me right, was around 8 weeks in advance in my case. This should give you ample time to contact your allocation via phone and arrange a meeting well before you begin. During your meeting you can also arrange your off duty and if you time it right, get the opportunity to meet your mentor.
Research your placement and find out what the area is i.e surgical, medical or community. Each area is very different regarding expertise and therefore learning opportunities will also vary. Don’t confuse difference of expertise with difference of importance in nursing, every field is of equal importance and if you think otherwise you may find you offend one or two people along your way. Once you know the placement speciality, look into common procedures or medicines used in that particular area. Nobody expects you to be an expert but a bit of familiarity wouldn’t go amiss.
Enthusiasm, in my opinion, is massively underestimated. This is your first chance to impress your potential employers. Even if the allocated area isn’t where you intend to work eventually, you’d be surprised at how small the nursing world is. Staff nurse June has a sister who runs Oncology and her best friend’s husband is one of the matrons for elderly care and his wife is the specialist dementia nurse and so on. This is a hypothetical sequence obviously, but actually it is very much like that in practice, everybody seems to know somebody else. I myself am living breathing proof of this as both my sister and my mum are trained nurses working within the trust (NO PRESSURE!). So if you’re not currently renowned for your punctuality or you have an adversity to using an iron it’s probably best to address those issues now, nobody wants a nurse who’s unkempt or late or both!!
Participate willingly and engage. The allocated practice areas may not be where you eventually want to end up and you may already have clear ideas of where that might be, but it’s going to be a long and laborious three years if you don’t get stuck in!
So that’s it in a nutshell, of course this is all light hearted if a tad tongue in cheek, but the moral of the story is try and get the most out of placements, take responsibility for yourself and most importantly enjoy yourself :)