How to prepare for your clinical placement

How to prepare for your clinical placement
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Every medical student must complete a clinical placement at some point during their degree. These placements are taken under the supervision of a qualified professional in healthcare settings such as hospitals or clinics. They are a vital means to acquiring experience and skills in real-world settings.

However, the very first placement can be daunting as you will leave the relative safety of your online educational environment and have to communicate with and assist ‘real’ patients. This feeling of trepidation is entirely normal, and almost every nurse will admit they were nervous before starting their clinical placement.

You can ease those nerves and give yourself the best chance of hitting the ground running by preparing for a placement in advance. It is perhaps no surprise to hear that simply turning up for your first day without familiarizing yourself with the placement mentor and location will make it much more difficult for you to adjust to your new surroundings and work to the best of your abilities.

Taking the time to research your placement and getting into the right mindset for it can enhance your experience from the first day and ensure you get the most from it as you continue on the path to becoming a registered nurse.

It is important to note that clinical placements and rotations take place during medical school. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in any field and want to acquire the knowledge and skills to become a nurse, you can complete an accelerated bsn online program at a leading university. This program, which can be completed in just one year, will enable you to gain the clinical experience you need during placements to advance your career. 

Get to know your placement

You will approach your placement more confidently if you are familiar with the facility and its mentors and colleagues. You can start this process by contacting your placement via email or phone. This is when you can introduce yourself, ask a few questions about the placement, and, ideally, arrange a visit to the facility. By visiting the ward, you will know where to go and who to report to, which will help to ease those first-day jitters.

It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with your placement specialty and the role you will undertake. It can reflect poorly on you if you turn up without any idea about the work your will be doing and simply say that your university has assigned you there for 6 or 8 weeks, for example. Your specialty will differ depending on your degree. You can learn more about this by speaking to your placement mentor before you start.

Practice development midwife Danielle Nixon also recommends looking at the placement’s website and researching its history to gain a better understanding of what it does best. She adds: “You’ll be more likely to demonstrate a genuine interest in the hospital if you have some idea of the range of departments and services it offers.” 

Practice non-evasive skills

You will learn how to complete injections and other practical skills on the job at your placement, which is something that you cannot really prepare for beforehand. However, you can practice your non-intrusive skills, such as using and reading health machines at university, conducting physical observations of friends and family, and making observations. In the early days of your placement, you will likely have to take a patient’s blood pressure manually, among other tasks. Having some knowledge of how to do this by practicing with people you know will make it less daunting when you have to do it on actual patients. 

Get into the right mindset

Placements will involve long hours and challenging work, so it is important to get into the right mindset. You should be punctual, communicative, enthusiastic, and ready to demonstrate a “can-do” attitude. This will help you to grow your confidence which will make it easier to engage with patients and staff and deliver the best possible care and assistance in different scenarios. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you feel intimidated at first. Your mentors and people around you will be willing to help, and you will learn faster on the job as a result. And always take notes where possible. 

Be professional

Professionalism is a major attribute of a nurse. You will need to dress appropriately, keep your emotions in check, work diligently and be confidential at all times during your placement. While you will want to develop great working relationships with those around you, it is important not to bring personal issues and ‘gossip’ to hospital wards. You will also need to keep track of your clinical hours each day, so you don’t miss a shift and fall behind. If you fail to work enough hours as a student nurse,this can be a problem as you might need to extend your placement.

Don’t expect perfection

However, you will make mistakes at some point during your nursing career. Not everything will run perfectly, and there will be setbacks along with progress and triumphs. Placements are an environment where you can learn and do not need to perfect every day. Nurses are often so focused on assisting others that they can forget about their own mental and physical well-being, so don’t be too hard on yourself during placements. If you do your best, are professional, and work hard, this will reflect very favorablyon you with your mentor and colleagues. Nursing is a journey, and youwill need to get used to overcoming issues and challenges to succeed.

Finally, you will have a set number of learning outcomes for your placement, so it is obviously important that you achieve these each day. You should be ready to take the initiative to acquire the knowledge you need and complete the tasks at hand. By preparing accordingly, making the transition from an online classroom to a placement will be that much easier, and you will be better able to adjust to your new surroundings.

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Patty Souza, an accomplished education and career expert, leverages a wealth of knowledge to guide individuals towards professional success. Patty's insights are a beacon for those navigating the educational and career landscape, providing trustworthy advice that transforms aspirations into achievements.