Advice and development

Make your voice heard

A life coach offers advice on dealing with some challenging situations you might encounter on clinical placement.

A life coach offers advice on dealing with some challenging situations you might encounter on clinical placement

There will be times in life when you find it difficult to stand up for yourself, and so it can be easy to get into the habit of doing anything to avoid confrontation.

But this can mean you end up doing things with which you do not feel comfortable. This is especially true if you are a nursing student on clinical placement trying to work out your role in the nursing team, while ensuring your learning needs are being met.

Adopting an ethos of accountability, taking responsibility for your learning needs and becoming more assertive can help you get the most from your placement.


A key aspect of accountability is being able to make decisions with confidence – often quickly – about what is best for patients, given your current level of experience, knowledge and competence. Adopting an ethos of accountability as a student allows you to nurture these skills as your clinical competence increases.

How to stay calm under pressure

  • Be clear and factual. Say if you don’t feel confident and/or competent to do a task.
  • Remain professional and polite, but don’t feel you have to apologise.
  • Offer an alternative solution where possible, such as: ‘I’m unable to do task X, but I can do task Y.’
  • Remain relaxed, speak calmly and breathe deeply from your abdomen. If you find yourself getting anxious or angry, count to ten and remind yourself that it is okay to say no.
  • Watch your body language – maintain eye contact and avoid crossing your arms.




Be proactive with all aspects of learning. Before your placement, identify formal learning outcomes and personal objectives, and ensure you make use of supportive individuals or networks to help you meet these objectives. These supporters should include your mentor, members of the senior nursing team, and practice education facilitators or other university support staff.

University of Dundee lecturer in adult nursing Suzanne Bell says: ‘Working co-operatively is integral in adhering to the professional code that underpins nurse education.’































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Learning to be assertive as a student is great for advancing your clinical development.
































































































































































































































































Being assertive allows you to take control and get what you need from your placements, even if this is not always easy. Busy wards and poor staffing levels mean students can face unreasonable demands from senior staff.
































































































































































































































































Conflict can arise in clinical settings when students feel they are being asked repeatedly to do things that do not match their required learning outcomes or perhaps go beyond their level of expertise.
































































































































































































































































Registered nurses are accountable not only for the care they deliver, but for the care they delegate to others. So if you are asked to perform a task that is beyond your level of competence, or frequently given tasks that offer no learning, you need to learn to say no.
































































































































































































































































Like all new skills, learning to be assertive takes time. Role-play can be helpful in giving you an idea of what you could say when tricky situations arise.
































































































































































































































































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