Your clinical placements will provide you with opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills during your course and prepare you for your future practice in nursing or midwifery.
It’s also your opportunity to build professional relationships with other health practitioners and develop valuable contacts in our professions, who may well be your future employers or referees when you graduate. This is why it’s important to be prepared.
Prepare your paperwork
Get your police check and working with children check approved well before commencing placement as there is often a long wait due to the large volumes processed by the approving bodies.
Ensure your immunisation status is current and check with your education provider as to requirements.
Make sure your classroom lecturer has given you a clinical placement tool (booklet) for you to record your placement objectives and learning requirements for the particular clinical placement. Ensure the tool includes paperwork for your facilitator to complete.
Free yourself of unnecessary stress by saving the contact details of your clinical coordinator, placement facilitator and the facility on your phone. This will be useful in the event of emergency or if you require assistance.
Take the opportunity to revise all subject study units relevant to the particular clinical placement, and reflect on your pre-learning and classroom preparation before commencing the clinical placement. Focused preparation can help ease any nerves in anticipation of what to expect, and to remind you of your learning objectives outlined in your placement record tool.
Professionalism and appearance
When on clinical placement it is prudent to remember that you are representing your institution, as well as the public image of the nursing and/or midwifery professions. A neat clean appearance is essential. It is therefore important to reflect that image by wearing the nominated uniform of your education provider. That uniform must be neat, clean and consistent with the educational provider’s uniform policy for students on clinical placement. Take note of your footwear. Your shoes should be clean, sturdy, non-slip with enclosed toes.
Pay particular attention to personal grooming as these are potential health and safety risks. If you have long hair, tie it back securely above collar height. Your nails should be clean, natural and trimmed short. Artificial nails or nail polish are germ breeding grounds and long nails are a skin tear risk for elderly patients with fragile skin. It is wise to ensure you comply with the policy of the health service in which you are undertaking the clinical experience before deciding to wear facial or body piercings. If in doubt, ask your clinical coordinator; being sent home from placement is more embarrassing than asking in advance.
Don’t post anything on social media relating to your placement, clinical facilitator or education team. It doesn’t matter if your privacy settings are set high, your posts may be forwarded or handled in unintended ways by recipients, potentially leaving you responsible for damaged caused by such content and potential.
Allow plenty of time to get to your placement facility to prevent lateness due to public transport, traffic or difficulty parking. Being on time for the clinical handover is essential. It shows your peers a degree of courteousness to your colleagues, and is essential for finding out any vital clinical care information which will inform the care plan for your shift. If you’re not on time, you may be sent home.
Some students have done a ‘dry run’ – this is when you travel to your placement before it begins in roughly the same traffic to time how long it takes to get there to ensure you won’t be late.
If you are running late, be sure to let your ward/unit/facilitator know, as well as the reason why you are late and the time you expect to arrive.
Communication and courtesy
Be mindful of where you are and who you are talking to, and make sure your communication remains professional, confidential and private at all times. This includes travelling in the lift and walking to and from the carpark.
Don’t forget to dispose patient handover sheets at the end of your shift.
All verbal and written communication should be clear, courteous and professional. Don’t use shorthand or slang. Ensure that your facilitators are informed about your nursing care and what nursing activities and assessments you have completed.
Any information passed on to you from a patient, relative, visitor or staff should be promptly communicated to your colleagues.
Remember, if you are in doubt about anything always ask your clinical facilitator or supervising registered nurse/midwife (preceptor), this is how you learn.
Above all enjoy your exposure to the clinical learning experience and look for as many learning opportunities as you can. Registered nurses and midwives are always available to assist you if they know what you are striving to achieve on your clinical place. Good luck!