If you’re in the early days of your nursing training, you’re likely to have already heard the term “clinical placement”. Your own placement may even be quickly approaching.
If this is the case, it’s important to know what to expect — and to understand the things you can do to ensure that you’ll benefit from your placement as much as you can.
Today, we’ll give you an overview of what a clinical placement is, and the ways in which you can approach it to ensure you have the very best experience.
Types of clinical placement
By the time your clinical placement is arranged, you will have chosen a specialty as a trainee nurse. The nature of your placement will be decided with this in mind.
Generally, placements are categorized as follows:
- Adult nursing
- Pediatric nursing
- Mental health nursing
- Dual field nursing, which may include adult and child nursing or adult and child mental health nursing
These categories are then usually broken down into subsets, which may include:
- Critical care
- Elder adult
The location and format of your placement will vary depending on your location and your personal circumstances, such as the requirement for childcare or your available means of transportation.
How to approach your clinical placement
Communicate with your mentor
It’s important to remember that you won’t be alone during your placement. Not only will you be working alongside other medical professionals, but you’ll also have a mentor to call upon if you have any questions or need any guidance.
Your mentor is a vital resource, so be sure to use them. It’s their job to make sure you are properly supported, so don’t worry that you are pestering them.
The more you reach out to them to receive clear answers to your questions, the better your experience will be and the more knowledge you will absorb and take into the next stage of your training.
You should know who your mentor is in plenty of time, so it’s a great idea to start discussing a plan with them well in advance, focusing on how you will approach your placement. They’ll also help you better understand what to expect.
We’ve already mentioned that you can discuss any queries you may have with your mentor, but remember, you’ll also be surrounded by highly experienced medical professionals while on your placement.
Take advantage of this by asking them for their advice and about their personal approach to the job they do — even if it isn’t one that you are considering for yourself. The more you can learn about the industry in general while on placement, the better-prepared you will be to enter full-time work as a nurse.
Don’t hesitate to ask for clarity on anything you don’t understand as and when your concerns arise. Don’t wait to contact your mentor if there are people around you who might be able to help straight away. They’ll understand that you are in training, and many will be happy to offer guidance.
Feel confident when asking for help. No nurse or doctor can possibly know everything, no matter what their level of experience, so you’ll never be looked down on for reaching out.
Cement your learning
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to fully process each experience you have while on placement. Create a learning plan and be sure to note down learning outcomes after every shift. Your educational establishment may have a set format for doing this.
In short, this means that you need to keep note of the challenges you faced during your shift, how they were overcome either by you or by another medical professional, what information and advice you gained that can be applied next time and at least one goal for your next shift.
You should also look into anything you don’t understand, or that interests you, when you get home. Read reference books, articles and guides and watch videos to fully understand all the new terminology and techniques you’ve encountered.
Look after your mental and physical health
For many trainee nurses, the clinical placement is the first time they will experience working in a genuine medical environment and making real life decisions regarding the treatment of patients.
This can be both exciting and overwhelming, so it’s important to practice proper self-care throughout. Make sure you take time to focus on your mental health, as well as eating well, drinking plenty of water and getting sufficient rest and down time.
Analyze your experience
You should discuss your shifts in detail with your mentor and take stock of your everyday experiences independently too. If something doesn’t go according to plan, don’t ignore it. Try to work out what went wrong and how you can improve your approach for next time.
Don’t feel bad about making mistakes as it’s all part of learning and you certainly won’t be the first to have slipped up. Your educational establishment should provide you with evaluation tools to help you develop your approach throughout your placement.
Keep on top of paperwork
If you aren’t organized, paperwork and documentation can be one of the most stressful elements of training to become a nurse. Keep on top of it and don’t let it build up! This applies both when working as a nurse and when you are becoming a nurse. Nursing Programs, such as the online Bachelor of Science in Nursing offered by Baylor University, ensure that students become self-motivated and well organized to make this process easier.
You need to get into a routine of completing paperwork, documentation and evaluative papers well in advance of any deadline during your placement and beyond. This is a very important habit to develop and will stand you in great stead for your future job.
If you’re at the start of your training, your clinical placement can feel like a daunting step in the process. However, by following the advice above, this stage can be enlightening, exciting and hugely beneficial.
It will help you to build your confidence, develop your skills and prepare you for a bright future in medicine. You may come out the other end with a totally different idea of the areas in which you’d like to specialize, which is completely fine.
It’s incredibly valuable to have the “on the job” experience that a placement offers, as it will help you to feel far better equipped as you move forwards.