Placement · Recommendations · The StN Project

Preparing for Placement

At present, clinical placements make up roughly 50% of a nursing degree. When I remember back to my first day, I was excited, anxious, scared, nervous, and a sense of disbelief in that “wow, I am actually here, real peoples’ lives. It was terrifying, but throughout my training, whilst those first day nerves remain at the beginning of each different placement, I soon learnt that the practice complements the theory. Last week, Andrew wrote about those anxieties and why we feel that way. You can find his blog here. This weeks blog shares with you some important practical tips that I wish I had been given on my first day, the checklist below is a collection of vital things that are needed on every placement area, obviously yours may be different, but it’s a starting place.  

  • Wash and iron all of your uniform beforehand! Not everyone does this, but I think that an ironed uniform looks really smart. I also polish my shoes once a week and before I start placement, not just to look smart, but to keep my shoes happy and healthy.  


  • Prepare your placement bag the night before, this gives you a chance to have a proper think when you aren’t rushing around about what you need. There’s an example checklist at the bottom of this blog post. I keep a small pouch in my bag, about pencil case size, of some of the smaller essentials like pens, highlighter, hair bands, grips and my fob watch. This stops them from getting lost in the deep dark depths of your bag never to be seen again.  


  • Call the unit 2 weeks before to introduce yourself, ask for off duty, check shift times, if there is somewhere to store your lunch, car parking, if they know the best public transport routes, uniform policy (as you may end up somewhere that isn’t a ward!), changing facilities and ask them if there is any recommended reading. If possible, ask if you can do a pre-placement visit. This could help to kerb any anxieties.


  • Find out the speciality of the ward and if they have no recommended reads, then tweet! You can always find a specialist from another hospital (or sometimes the same!) who will direct you to great resources and common drugs that you might need to learn for that area. 


  • Get a diary! I am very well known for having too many diaries however I cannot recommend having a paper diary enough. It is often frowned upon to be using your phone on placement, so get a paper diary to jot down your shifts. Make sure that you have told them in advance if you have any days at university that you need to attend plus any meetings or visits from the university you might have.  


  • Invest in a water bottle. It’s really important to stay hydrated while on placement and it’s not always easy to get away for a drink. The Royal College of Nursing are doing a great campaign about “Rest, Rehydrate and Refuel”, click the hyperlink for more information.


  • Make a meal planner. This might seem over the top but after 13 and a half hours at placement, the last thing you want to be doing is coming home and having to think about what you have to make for lunch the next day, it’s easier if it’s all planned in advance.   


  • Batch cooking. Again, may been seen as extreme but will save you loads of money as well as time. Find a meal which you can easily make lots of, like a pasta bake or shepherd’s pie, make enough to feed at least 4 meals. You can have one that evening and then freeze the rest. You can either eat it at placement or when you get home!  


  • Make sure you have filled in as much of your placement documentation as you can before you arrive. At my university we had to find journal articles that linked our placements to our academic learning, you can begin to seek this out before you arrive through journals such as the Nursing Standard and the Nursing Times.  


  • Find out who you need to contact at the university if something goes wrong at placement. Hopefully everything will be absolutely fine but it’s best to have the contact details to hand just in case. 


  • Do a practice run to your placement if it’s a hospital you’ve never travelled to before, so you know how much time to give yourself and you aren’t panicking about being late on your first day.  


  • Have a support network, lots of your peers at your university will be starting at the same time on placement. Make sure you have someone you can talk to. 

 I hope you find these practical tips helpful. Below we have started a checklist of things to take with you on placement. This may not be an exhaustive list but it includes the essentials. It would be great if you shared with us what you include in your placement bag!


  • Uniform  
  • Placement documents  
  • Notebook  
  • Pens 
  • Highlighters 
  • Pen-torches 
  • Swipe card/ID  
  • Breakfast/lunch/dinner  
  • Water bottle  
  • Little handbook from that area  
  • Diary  
  • Hand gel   


Written by Lucy Mason (@MissLucyMay)

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