My name is Becky, and I am currently in my second year of Adult Nursing in the Department of Health Sciences. I’m going to talk a bit about being a student nurse and what practice placements involve. In nursing and midwifery, placements account for 50% of your programme hours, so it’s important to know how to get the most from them!
What do you do on placements?
On placements, you generally follow a full time shift pattern. Some placements may be 9-5, but many of them will be some form of shift work, which may include 13 hour shifts, weekends and night shifts.
I enjoy ward placements a lot – I like the structure they have and the fact there’s always other people around. During the day I get involved in medication rounds, wound care, discharge planning and taking observations. Unlike a lot of others, I really enjoy the paperwork and documentation so often like to do this!
What are spokes?
Like every other student nurse at York, I have also done shorter placements, called ‘spokes’, in other fields of practice. For example, I’ve done inpatient paediatrics and secure mental health for three weeks each. These spokes really pushed me out my comfort zone but were great for my overall development and a better understanding of other fields of practice.
As well as the spokes allocated, you can also arrange your own spokes! When I was on a surgical placement, I arranged time in pre-operative assessment clinic, theatres, and follow-up clinics so I could follow patients through their journeys. I have also done day spokes with other professions like occupational therapists.
I’ll now go through a fairly typical day in my life on a placement in an inpatient ward setting!
Day in the life of a student nurse (Ward placement)
6.45am: Arrive at placement, head up to the ward and get changed into my uniform. I’ll then head to the handover room, make myself a cuppa and sit down. I have a quick flick-through of the handover document see which patients are still there since my last shift, and which are new.
7am: Handover – the night shift nurses will hand over their patients to the day staff. I write down notes of things that might need doing – or any acronyms I don’t understand to ask later.
7.20am: Handover finishes. If I don’t already know who I’m working with today, the nurse in charge will allocate me to someone. I’ll then crack on with pre-breakfast blood sugars (if needed), then I’ll go and see which patients are awake and introduce myself.
8am: Breakfast – most of the ward nurses and HCAs hand out breakfast at this time so I join in. There may be patients that need assistance with their meals, which I often offer to do.
9am: Once breakfast has finished, I’ll check in with the nurse I’m working with. After this I will often assist patients with personal care. I also check their clipboards to check their paperwork is up to date, this may include fluid-balance charts and repositioning if they are at risk of pressure ulcers.
12pm: Lunchtime! At this point, I often hand out meals and then join my practice supervisor for medication rounds. This is where I practice preparing medications and doing drug calculations under close supervision.
1pm: Often at this time, there will likely be some clinical intervention I may get involved in. This might be a wound dressing, catheter change. It might also involve going off the ward and taking a patient for an echocardiogram or endoscopy.
2pm: My lunchtime! I usually take my break around this time and take my packed lunch off the ward and sit somewhere else. I find it important to leave the ward on my breaks so I don’t spend 13 hours in the same place.
2.30pm: Back to the ward. I’ll often find someone else to help me reposition some patients that have it in their care plans that they need regular repositioning.
3.30pm: Often this is where things may be less busy than other times of day. I may sit down and have a look at my PebblePad (our e-portfolio where we document our learning and evidence our proficiencies). Or I might submit any outstanding timesheets. If there’s a chance to do so, I may ask one of the nurses I work with to write down some feedback for my portfolio. I may also arrange spokes, by ringing the areas I’d like to visit and arranges dates and times.
5pm: Tea time – like lunchtime, we all help out with meals.
7pm: Final tasks of the day, then getting ready to handover patients to the night staff.
8pm: Get changed, head home and wind down for the evening!
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about practice placements – I look forward to meeting you on campus! If you’d like to read about other student nurse experiences, there are more blogs here.