- 26 April 2021
- 10 min read
My Placement Experiences So Far As A Second Year Student NurseSubscribe To Advice
If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse you need to understand what placements are: how they work, what you do and what it’s like. Find out in this first-hand account.
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So How Do Placements Work?
In order to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as a nurse, you must have completed at least 2,300 hours of practice learning and at least 2,300 hours of theory during your programme.
This is why student nurses spend 50% of their course in clinical practice or simulated practice and the remaining 50% completing theory work.
Student nurses also need to experience the 24 hour cycle of care, meaning you may be expected to work twilight and night shifts, as well as working weekends and bank holidays.
You will also experience working in a mix of both acute and community settings.
At the University of Derby, we have three different placements a year, although not all universities operate like this.
We spend 30 hours a week on placement in our first two years of study and 37.5 hours a week on placement in our final year, but again, this will differ between universities.
Whether you attend placement and university in blocks or alongside each other will also depend on which university you attend.
At the University of Derby, we have blocks, meaning we will spend a few weeks undertaking a block of placement and then a few weeks at university doing a block of theory, rather than having a mix of both placement and theory in the same week.
Do Student Nurses Get Paid Whilst on Placement?
Unfortunately, student nurses aren’t paid for the time they spend on placement.
However, for each year of your course you can apply for a Maintenance Loan of up to £12,382 from Student Finance England to help with your living costs.
This is in addition to the annual non-means tested grant of at least £5,000 from the NHS Learning Support Fund introduced in 2020, with additional payments of £1,000 to those who are studying mental health or learning disability nursing and to those from regions struggling to recruit students.
Additional financial support is also available to parents and carers, and those experiencing financial hardship.
Many universities also offer their own bursaries, often for those with a low household income or for high academic achievement.
As a student nurse, you can also claim for Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses (TDAE).
TDAE provides reimbursement of excess travel or accommodation costs incurred due to undertaking placement.
You can claim for travel expenses if your travel costs to and from your placement exceed your normal travel costs to and from your university campus but you can only claim for this excess amount.
You can claim for accommodation costs if it is not practical for you to travel to and from your placement between shifts.
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My First Placement Experience
I spent my first ever placement as a student nurse working on a trauma orthopaedic ward that specialised in hip fractures.
Having never worked in a hospital environment before, I was extremely nervous to start this placement, especially because a lot of students on my course had previous healthcare experience.
However, my university prepared us really well before we began placement and I met some really amazing members of staff on the ward who I felt comfortable to approach if I was struggling and who taught me a lot.
In the short space of four weeks, I learnt so much and was taking part in medication rounds, administering injections, removing sutures, undertaking bladder scans and so much more.
I even had the opportunity to follow a patient’s journey through to theatre and observe their operation, caring for them both before and after the procedure.
Embracing Both The Highs And The Lows Of Placement
Although I’ve really enjoyed all of my placements, they haven’t been without their challenges.
At first, I was quite nervous about assisting patients with their personal care as I’d never done this before and was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do or would make a mistake.
But after working alongside other members of the team and learning from them, I soon found my confidence and felt comfortable enough to help and interact with patients on my own.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and I learnt that it’s important to speak up if you ever feel uncomfortable doing something and not to feel under pressure to do anything you don’t feel confident enough to do.
As a student nurse you are supernumerary.
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What Does Supernumerary Mean?
Supernumerary means you aren’t counted in staff numbers and you’re never alone – help is always available if you need it and no question is a silly question.
For my second placement, I was placed on a rehabilitation ward.
This was quite a change of pace as I was used to my first placement being very hectic and busy but, on this ward, things were a lot more relaxed.For this reason, I found it quite difficult at first as I would sometimes wander round asking myself what I should be doing and making myself anxious, thinking I wasn’t being very helpful.
However, looking back, I think I put too much pressure on myself.
I learnt that it’s okay to embrace the ‘quiet’ moments on placement and it’s helpful to use this time to research new conditions, medications, or procedures you’ve discovered.
I now keep useful pocket guides in the pockets of my uniform and if I have a spare five minutes on placement, I will pull one out and try and learn more about things such as how the medication one of our patients is on affects the body or learn what dressings may be most appropriate for a particular type of wound.
How Covid 19 Affected My Placement
I finished my second placement of first year in March 2020 and due to Covid 19 our final placement of first year was delayed, meaning I didn’t end up starting my next placement until September 2020.
Because so much time had passed since my last placement, I felt extremely anxious before starting this placement and I felt like I had forgotten everything that I had learnt and that it would be like starting from the beginning again.
Added with the extra worry of the spread of Covid and my partner being clinically extremely vulnerable, I was dreading it!
I also suffer from anxiety and depression, which the pandemic definitely exacerbated.
However, I sought help from student wellbeing and the university was really supportive and considered my partner’s health condition when deciding where to put me on placement.
I was allocated a placement on a frailty ward which I ended up really enjoying and even after my first shift, I felt so much more at ease and almost felt silly for worrying so much about it beforehand.
It can be difficult coming into a new team and learning the daily routine of a new placement area, but you soon find your feet.
I was amazed at how much I had remembered from my previous placements and how fast I familiarised myself with each new ward routine and my confidence quickly returned. Not everyone learns in the same way, but I like to get stuck in and take part in anything that I feel confident and competent enough and my supervisors are happy for me to do.
If you spot a learning opportunity or something that you want to do, ask if you can take part.
Discovering My Love For The Community
In February this year, I began my first placement of second year working in a district nursing team.
This was my first community placement and my first placement not on a ward.
It was only a ten minute drive away from my house and although I was apprehensive about working 9-5 since I was used to working 12.5 hour shifts on the wards, I loved it.
I got to learn so much more about wound care, learning how to pack cavity wounds and increasing my confidence surrounding which dressings to use for different types of wounds.
I also expanded my catheter care knowledge, learning how to carry out a bladder wash out and insert and remove catheters.
I also surprised myself with how much of an interest I had begun to develop for end of life care.
Being able to care for patients in their own homes, comfortable and surrounded by their family, I saw a whole different side to end of life care compared to in the hospital.
When you visit any patient in the community, it’s important to remember that you are a guest in their home, and to respect that. During this placement, I also managed to arrange a couple of insight days working with the phlebotomist and the rapid response community nursing team which was really interesting.
The rapid response team essentially carry out the unplanned visits, whilst the team I was working with carry out the planned visits.
Examples of visits that the rapid response team may respond to include urgent blood requests, blocked catheters, end of life symptom management and more.
Overall, this was my favourite placement so far and although I do also enjoy working in a hospital setting, I know the community is where I would like to work when I qualify next year.
I’ve since finished this placement and I’m now on a theory block, waiting to find out where my second placement allocation for this year is.
And I can’t wait to get back out there again!
Although going out on placement for the first time may seem nerve-wracking, I promise you will love it and will learn so much!