“Whatever’s going to happen, will happen. Whether we worry about it or not” – Starting a new placement!

#HelloMyNameIsShannon and I’m here to talk about starting new placements… it’s both terrifying and exhilarating, right?

At the beginning of each academic year I’m riddled with anticipation, waiting for the university to release our placements for the year. I’ve no idea what to expect and have no way of guessing how my year will pan out. I’ve been super lucky in both 1st and 2nd year to have a placement on a general paediatric ward, on community, and on a specialist ward. I’ve had opportunities to feel secure, settle in and practice skills in a general setting as well as being able to branch out in new environments such as SCBU and A&E.

As amazing as these placements have been for me, I always feel the same once completing them… and that’s a bag of nerves, anticipating the new change that’s inevitable. For shorter placements it sometimes feels like you’ve only just adjusted to the ward environment and have gained confidence working independently; when suddenly the placement ends and you’re thrown into a new one with no knowledge of the speciality, the nurses, the location or what is expected of you. Sometimes you’ve been at a placement for a long time and have grown great relationships with the staff on the ward and you’re sad to leave a placement that you’ve grown so accustom to. It’s an uneasy feeling.

Once the initial stress of finding the new placement and introducing myself is done I always feel so much better. The nurses are so welcoming and orientate new students to the environment. Meeting my assessor and going through my initial review on my portfolio is something I try to do within the first few days of a new placement as I feel it connects me with my assessor and also allows me to discuss any worries or learning aims, I have with someone who will be supporting me on the new placement. Although all the preplacement stress is mostly vanished when I step onto the ward and get into the swing of things interacting with patients, it is still very much a big thing I deal with before new placements start.

Here are a few things I do to try and ease my preplacement anxiety:

• Contact the new placement at least 2 weeks before you start. You can either email, call reception or even pop in to introduce yourself and ask for your shifts and who your assessor is.

• If you get the chance pop down to the ward to familiarise yourself with it. I did this both in 1st and 2nd year when I was on the general ward before moving to a specialised one. If it’s not too busy, or you’re on a night, you could call them and ask if you could pop down to be orientated to the ward and introduce yourself. This always eases so much of my anxiety as I am then familiar with where the ward is and some nurses who work there.

• This next tip is very similar to the previous one but plan your route and test it out. Especially for new community placements. Browse public transport and figure out the best route and test it BEFORE your first shift. This will give you the chance to overcome any obstacles that could make you late for shift beforehand.

• Research into the area your next placement is and introduce yourself with common conditions/situations you could face while there. You could even ask your ward if there are some links or books you could read through before coming, some wards even have their own ‘student pack’ to get you started.

• Prepare your lunch, uniform and bag the night before. Set your alarm (or several!) to ensure you wake up giving yourself enough time to eat breakfast and sort yourself out before leaving.

• Try to relax the night before. Read a book, take a shower or listen to calming music before going to bed early. The nerves will try to keep you up all night, but nothing can be done for the situation until the new day arrives so try to get some sleep!

For some people starting a new placement is easy, they’ve done it so many times. But if you’re like me and are an anxious mess before every single placement then remind yourself that it’s okay to feel this way. Most of what you’re stressed about will no longer matter within an hour of getting onto the ward. You’ll be supported by your mentors and your natural nursing abilities will show as soon as you get stuck in, so enjoy it! Ask silly questions. Grab opportunities and take control of your learning., this is your placement, make of it what you will.

Whatever’s going to happen, will happen. Whether we worry about it or not.

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students and teaching fellows only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

If you’re interested in writing a blog post for us – whether it’s a one-off about something in Nursing you’re passionate on, or as a regular contributor, please email Chloe Thomas (ct00633@surrey.ac.uk) or Aliya Stratford (as03037@surrey.ac.uk) – we’d love to hear from you!