As previously mentioned, some of the other student nurses that I live with started their journey in September, so they don’t start their first placement until after Christmas. The same time as I start my final placement before year two (scary!). I thought I would just write about some handy tips for those who may be starting placement soon, or even those who already have done placement and are just looking to switch up their routine a little bit!
At DMU we get told where our placement around one month beforehand. I would recommend trying to contact the placement directly a minimum of two weeks before you start. This can be done via email/phone or visiting your placement. If you are visiting your placement, it may be a good idea to let them know that you are coming so that they are not surprised when you turn up at the ward/office unannounced! With my first placement, I was able to contact my mentor directly beforehand and I spent a good couple of hours visiting him the week before I officially started. This really helped me so that I was able to find out about any uniform requirements, shift pattern, my availability and if I had nay issues then they could be addressed before my official start date. For my second placement I also contacted the ward direct around two weeks before and had an induction day with other students who were going to be in the same unit as myself. Make sure that your shifts don’t clash with too many other student, and 9 times out of 10 you won’t be the only one there!
Before your first day, have a test run on how to get there. If you drive, time yourself on how long it takes you to get there. If you use public transport, check what buses go where, what times they come and arrive, also the prices of the tickets! Here in Leicester, we have what is called the ‘Hospital Hopper’ which is free for all staff and students with their ID badges. The only issue is that the first bus gets you to the hospital at 07:07am and shifts start at 07:00am! I did let my mentor know that because of this I would be late in the mornings, and because it was out of my control he accepted it. Make sure if you have any issues with timings of public transport that you let your mentor know.
Make sure you get your uniform and everything ready the night before! I know this seems like common sense but sometimes it’s the simplest things that get forgotten about! I always make sure that my uniform is clean and ironed the night before. If I have three long days in a row, then I make sure I have three days’ worth of uniform ready, so I am not coming back after a 12-hour shift to do ironing! The same goes for food. I would often make the mistake of making myself lunch but forgetting all about dinner! I would then have to wait until I got home in the evening to make myself food and by that point I was too tired to make anything substantial! Now I make myself a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner to take with me.
One of the best things I did before starting placement was investing in a good reusable water bottle. Now I am the worst person when it comes to drinking enough water. I just never feel thirsty and when I do it because I usually end up dehydrated. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t become dehydrated on placement, so I bought myself a water bottle that holds 750ml so it’s not too bug that it takes up a whole desk, but it’s not too small either! I have started drinking more fluids with this, and if I am on shift and I start feeling a little hungry then I will just fill up my water bottle and drink it until it’s time for my break!
When it comes to writing reflections about placement, I always take a notebook and keep it with me whilst I am on shift. If I come across anything that relates to an outcome or reflection, then I write it down briefly in my notebook. This helps me to remember what had happened and it lets me remember the little details!
Don’t stress too much about placement. It is very hard, and it is tiring. It will test your motivation and make you question whether nursing is the right path for you. But at the end of it all you will be so proud of yourself for the experience that you’ve gained. One of the things that I got told that has stuck with me is that you don’t choose nursing, nursing chooses you.