Advice and development

Coping with the anxieties of a new placement

Third-year nursing student Andrew Haydon still gets nervous when starting a new clinical placement. He offers some tips and advice on how to get the most out of your placement and overcome any anxiety you may feel

Third-year nursing student Andrew Haydon still gets nervous when starting a new clinical placement. He offers some tips and advice on how to get the most out of your placement and overcome any anxiety you may feel


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As a nursing student I am fortunate to experience a variety of clinical placements that enable me to explore a wealth of learning opportunities. I have been lucky with all of them and having fantastic mentors makes it easier to embark on a new placement.

But I have a feeling of dread when I start them. All the theory and practical skills I have learned seem to vanish overnight, and I start doubting my abilities.

The butterflies in my stomach start with the initial phone call. I want to sound confident but not overconfident, as I don’t want to come across as a cocky nursing student who thinks he knows it all.

Closer to goal

On my first clinical placement in my first year of training, I was a quivering wreck. I felt I’d forgotten everything I had learned, my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Even now, in my third year, I still get nervous.

I’m not normally a nervous person, so I was starting to wonder why I always felt like this. Then it hit me – it’s because I treat every placement like a job interview.

As well as an opportunity to develop my skills, meet new people and get a step closer to my goal of becoming a qualified nurse, I am aware that the nurses and healthcare assistants I work with could become my colleagues, and my boss. One day I may even be their boss.

Prepare, get involved

So if, like me, you are full of nerves, the following tips may help:

  • Prepare. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, as the saying goes. So phone your placement in advance, research the clinical area, consider who you could spend time with from the multidisciplinary team, and think about your learning outcomes.
  • Notebook and pen. Always have a notebook and pen to hand so you can jot down anything you don’t understand. I use two different colours: one for acronyms, questions and other information, and one for issues around medication.
  • Get involved. Ask to do things. If you get knocked back, ask again at a different time. Use your initiative, find jobs to do, talk to patients and relatives, ask how you can help and show you are keen to learn.
  • Personal care. Helping patients with their personal care needs is a vital part of the nursing role. It enables you to spend time getting to know your patients and is a great opportunity to engage with them and see how they are really feeling.

Andrew Haydon is a third-year nursing student at the University of West London

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