Blog post

A personal insight into nursing placements

Many things can define your time during the journey to becoming a qualified nurse. Perhaps most defining are the many placements we embark upon during that time. I hope that this small insight from a final-year BSc Adult Nursing student at Derby can help shed some light on what to expect, and how to either survive or thrive when it comes to placements. 

By Kieron Powis - 10 November 2022

Practice placements make up around half of our time in the programme. They give us the platform to practise and hone our clinical skills, make connections and, for many, help provide sanctuary from the theory work and stringent assignments. Often a reminder of why we signed up for this in the first place, they come and go so quickly. Here’s some tips and insights through my experiences so far. 

Get to know the team 

Wards, clinics and most other healthcare settings will often have teams that consist of many different disciplines, specialties and skill sets. Nurses play a prominent role. However, it has been very beneficial to learn from other members of the team who are equally important in keeping services running. On a diabetes-related placement, I was lucky enough to learn from healthcare assistants, podiatrists, orthotists and dieticians amongst others.

Providing great care, or more aptly, person-centred holistic care, requires collaboration and its definitely worth making the most of the team around you. From my experience I’d say try and embrace everything you learn, whether it’s ‘nursey’ or not, as it’s likely to still be a valuable skill. 

Be brave 

Looking back at my first placement and comparing it to how I go about my learning in my current one is like night and day. I’ve gone from excited dependant puppy, to being the one who takes charge of my learning and development. Much of that comes from the natural ascension through the programme, from heavy supervision to minimal, whereas just as much is from learning to be more self-assured.

You’re not going to click with each person you come across on placements. Some you may rather not emulate at all. The key is in not allowing those people or experiences to compromise the way you treat patients and conduct yourself. It takes courage to stand up for good practices when you experience poor ones and refusing to be complicit is one of the things that makes a great nurse.

I’ve found that having a wonderful tutor and great support network at Derby has really helped when I’ve needed to reach out. 

Don’t make snowballs out of … smaller bits of snow  

That sounded better in my head. Anyway, the point is that I’ve found that the best way you can act upon something which you want to change is to act quickly. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. For instance, if there’s a particular skill you want to learn and your assessor hasn’t shown you (yet).

I’ve learned that you have to drive your own development when it comes to clinical skills and communicating your needs early and often is so, so important. I tend to map out broadly what I’d like to experience and achieve at the start of each placement and go through it with my assessor, then come up with a plan. It can do wonders and prevents causing unnecessary frustration that can become big ol’ snowballs.  

Create your own path 

The sheer variety of placements that Derby have sent me to have really helped me refine where I want to be upon qualifying. I’ve had medical and surgical wards, as well as specialist clinics and even a research based area, where I worked on a range of innovative clinical trials. There are also opportunities to spend time in communities and other settings.

The range of areas in which nurses are needed is so broad and the old adage of a nurse’s place being by the bedside is far from a formality. Of course, many nurses do find their passion on wards and that’s great, though I’ve enjoyed being able to gain experience in so many different areas.

Through my time on the course, I have been receiving treatment for melanoma. I was originally diagnosed with in 2012 and unfortunately relapsed for a second time in 2020, shortly before enrolling. The disease and treatments have caused me to be vulnerable at times, with many of the side effects causing new challenges, yet none of it has put a stop to this journey.

That is partly because I’m just infuriatingly stubborn, but also because the University has supported me each step of the way and helped adapt things where needed, without changing the end goal. It’s also helped me realise that, although my ongoing health is uncertain, there will still be suitable roles out there for when I qualify in 2023.

I encourage anyone applying or awaiting to enrol onto the programme to embrace all aspects of the placements and make them your own. The world is our nursey oyster. All the best. 

About the author

Kieron Powis in his nursing uniform

Kieron Powis
BSc Adult Nursing student

BSc Adult Nursing student, studying at the University of Derby and set to qualify in 2023. Interested in research, films, documentaries and creative media. I'm a stage 4 melanoma patient who aspires to help give back after being fortunate enough receive care and treatments which have kept me here so far. I value time at home, with Katie and our new arrival, due in January 2023.