The First Clinical Placement

Clinical placement is the part of studying nursing that I think excites most new students, where you feel like you will learn the most valuable lessons and where you will really be able to decide that nursing is definitely, 100%, what you want for your career. At my university, you don’t go on your first clinical placement until late in the second semester of your first year of study, and it is for 2 weeks. By that point you’re itching to get out there and get your hands dirty (not literally….ewww).

However, as that first day of placement draws nearer, the nerves set in and you really do wonder if you can make it. Will I cope? Will the nurses like me? Will I vomit the first time I smell something disgusting? What if someone dies in front of me? How will I remember everything I’ve learnt so far? …and on and on go the ‘what ifs’ and questions in your mind. These won’t end until you’re there and in action on the ward.

On the first day, you feel a range of ‘first clinical placement’ symptoms, like excitement, a feeling of being sick with nerves, doubts, fears, panic and maybe even a few little heart palpitations.
You get through the various introductions and pieces of information required, as a kind of orientation, then your facilitator takes you to your allocated ward, along with your placement partner, who like you is knocking at the knees with fear of what is around that corner. You’re left in the ward with the nurses, patients, call lights, doctors, visitors, smells, bodily noises, and so on, and it is sensory overload.

To your surprise, your feelings of nausea begin to subside, despite the offensive odours you’re exposed to.
Your fear of not knowing anything gets kicked to the curb by an understanding nurse who takes you under her/his wing.
You will learn very quickly that the ‘best practice’ you’ve learnt at university is very different out in the real world. It is not non-existent, rather it is sometimes modified to suit various situations in the real world. In saying this, it is important to always know that right way to do something, and to do it that way, especially when it comes to patient safety.
Your fear of what patients might think of you as a student nurse disappear completely the first time you hear one of them say to you “you’ll make a great nurse”.
Your fear of vomiting due to the various odours you encounter probably won’t disappear completely until you’ve smelled a bit of everything in all sorts of situations…let me tell you that a bit of Vicks Vapour Rub smudged under your nose does wonders when there are moments of weakness related to smells and body functions. Myself and my placement partner helped Vicks with their annual sales!
Nurses, patients and visitors will ask questions to try to get to know you; the nurses to know what you’re capable of, the patients to be assured they’re in good hands, and the visitors so they know their relative/friend will be ok when they leave again after their visit.
You will learn quite quickly where you fit in on the ward, and you will fall in love with being there and maybe not even want to leave…you may shed a few tears as you leave the ward for the last time at the end of your placement.

Unfortunately, you will also encounter various people who make parts of your placement less enjoyable due to their personality, behaviour, or coping mechanisms. Just remember you will encounter people like this and worse throughout your career, and you can’t avoid that. Make sure you know what the policies are in your workplace for bullying and harassment so that if a situation does arise that warrants further action you know what you’re able to do to protect yourself and others.
Also remember that you chose nursing because, among many reasons, you are a valuable and capable person, who cares about people, who is empathetic, and who loves to make a positive difference in people’s lives. If someone treats you as any less than that, it is their issue, and yes you will have to deal with that, but don’t let it bring you down.

Overall, your first clinical placement should be an exciting and enjoyable experience. You will learn a lot more than you realise at the time, and you will either come away with the idea that nursing is for you made absolutely concrete in your mind, or you will know that it is time to reassess your career path (which if this is you, then it is ok! Not everyone is meant to be a nurse, but if you are then you’ll know it in your heart). You’ll hopefully meet people that you will never forget, and have experiences that will also be etched into your memory.

For me, the first clinical placement has absolutely made me feel that nursing is where I am meant to be and is a major part of my future. I thoroughly enjoyed my placement, even after feeling on the first day as though it was going to be terrible! As I left on the last night, walking down the darkened corridor, which was decorated with Christmas lights and decorations, I felt at ease with my career choice, I said a few silent thank you’s to the nurses and staff that made my placement great, and some silent goodbyes to sleeping patients who had become favourites (even if you’re not meant to have favourites some people really touch your heart), and I shed a few tears knowing I wouldn’t be spending time on that lovely ward again, however my career was only just beginning.

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Back into the swing of things

The first 2 weeks of my course have been and gone so quickly, and as you can imagine they were very busy (hence this only being the first post since starting the course).

I’m getting back into the swing of UNI life with classes, studying, working, feeling sleep deprived, studying, and procrastinating, then more studying….well, you get the picture 🙂 I know things are only going to get busier, more stressful and more complicated but it’s all a good experience, so the pain is worth it.

I’ve found the most difficult things I’ve had to get used to again are time management and avoiding procrastination (and I’m sure I’m not alone here). It seems there are always more interesting or pressing things to be done other than studying. Then after procrastinating for however long, doing other things that could wait for another time, or that don’t even need to be done at all, I realise I have very little time to complete what actually needs to be done. Which creates more stress, and pressure, making me feel overwhelmed and slightly helpless about the mountain of tasks to be completed. The danger with all of this is that, if you’re not careful, it becomes a vicious cycle throughout the semester leaving you feeling like you’re ‘behind the eight ball’ and that it’s impossible to catch up. You pull a regular all-nighter to finish an assessment or to cram for an exam, you’re never completing all your readings and tasks for classes each week and you find that, generally, your assessment marks are nothing to boast about.

Well, although I feel like I’m at the beginning of this vicious cycle I am reining things in before they get out of control. I refuse to fall into that cycle. I’ve got higher expectations of myself at university this time around and failing because of being disorganised and not managing my time properly is not an option.

Understanding content

I had never thought a nursing degree would be easy, and in many ways university in general isn’t easy either. There is always plenty of reading to be done – often whole chapters, if not multiple chapters of your textbooks, need to be read each week. Add to that any activities your tutors want you to complete before coming to class, and of course assessments and revision for any exams you may have. For a couple of my subjects, but mainly for the subject that covers Anatomy & Physiology (A&P), I have had to re-think the way I study and even the way I learn.

I often find that if I don’t understand how/why something works, or the reasoning behind it, I struggle to grasp the concept completely and don’t really learn properly. However, with A&P I am finding that I just have to learn by memorising most things and I won’t always understand everything as easily as I can understand other things. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just another way that I am finding I need to shift how I learn to get the most out of the subject. With A&P it’s all fact-based learning, there isn’t really anything much that changes and it’s not up for interpretation like some other subject’s content. So taking this into account it really should be easier for me to learn. We’ll see how I go…

Clinical Practice Unit (CPU)

In order to practice the practical skills for nursing, the universe has Clinical Practice Units (CPUs). These are like mini hospital wards with mannequins, which have varying degrees of functionality, in the beds as patients. They are odd-looking mannequins with googly eyes and mouths wide open. They have weird ‘bits’, including being able to see their insides and some even have amputations. The classes we have in the CPUs are predominantly practical classes so that we can learn and build our practical nursing skills. So far we’ve started off slowly with learning correct hand-washing and bed-making techniques, but as we progress the simulations will become more complex and time-consuming, which is good. The practical component of my course, not surprisingly, is already my favourite part of the week.

Now, I really need to tackle some readings and some prep for a couple of assessments next week, and seeing as I’m not going to procrastinate any more 😉 I better get going. Feel free to ask questions or suggest a topic you’d like to hear about.

I’ll leave you with this cute ‘Stages Of Procrastination’ from


I’m already nearing the crisis stage hahaha


Only 3 days to go!

Finally I’m counting down the days and not the weeks until my course officially starts!

I’m still excited and am also starting to get a little apprehensive about it all but I think that’s just me stressing a little about how much work there is to do at uni and about everything else I still have to manage outside of uni. However, I know that it’s all going to work out, even if I do end up with a severe caffeine addiction by the end of it all 🙂

This week we had our orientation session, which provided useful information and allowed all the unit coordinators/teaching staff to introduce themselves. They were running campus tours and library tours so we could get used to the facilities available to us. I had already found a lot of the information beforehand but it was good to start meeting other students who are in the same course.

Two current nursing students spoke about their experiences and gave us all a bit more of an idea of what we really can expect during the course. I found this quite interesting because the two students seemed to come from very different backgrounds, had very different experiences in the course and were both doing well with their studies. They both had very different experiences to share so it really helps you appreciate that everyone experiences their studies in such different ways.

Other than orientation the only other step forward is that we now have access to our e-learning sites for the units we are studying. So we can now see what we have to do each week, what our assessments are and what is expected from us. This is when it starts to become more daunting because you finally see how much work you’ve got to do!

Until next week….when the fun really begins!


A Nursing School Survival Pack…made by a kindergarten teacher

My fiancé, who is a primary school teacher (kindergarten at the moment), surprised me with a Nursing School Survival Pack – a little pack full of things that will help me get through the ups & downs of a nursing degree.

It is such a fun and thoughtful gesture and it made me realise that in him I have a supportive partner who is willing to put up with me throughout the stressful times that I will face during this nursing degree. Not only will he put up with me, but he will try to reduce some of the stress I face, all whilst facing his own stresses and challenges as a primary school teacher. And this is one of the many reasons I love him!

A little joke from within the care pack…

Q:  What did one light bulb say to the other?
A:  I love you a whole watt!

The gallery below showcases his handiwork.

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