Clinical placements

How to integrate into a clinical placement team

Tips on preparing well and staying focused to improve your chances of a positive placement

Tips on preparing well and staying focused to improve your chances of a positive placement

For many nursing students, the clinical placement experience is what we look forward to most during our training.

As well as offering endless learning opportunities and the prospect of exploring different clinical specialties, placements enable us to identify and develop transferable skills, become more self-aware, improve our self-confidence and apply theory to practice.

Placement experiences can vary enormously

But placement experiences can vary enormously in terms of quality and educational value, with differences in the clinical activities undertaken, the skills of practice supervisors and assessors and the physical environment itself.

Integrating well into the team will give you the

Tips on preparing well and staying focused to improve your chances of a positive placement

Picture: John Houlihan

For many nursing students, the clinical placement experience is what we look forward to most during our training.

As well as offering endless learning opportunities and the prospect of exploring different clinical specialties, placements enable us to identify and develop transferable skills, become more self-aware, improve our self-confidence and apply theory to practice.

Placement experiences can vary enormously

But placement experiences can vary enormously in terms of quality and educational value, with differences in the clinical activities undertaken, the skills of practice supervisors and assessors and the physical environment itself.

Integrating well into the team will give you the best chance of having a positive placement experience.

Picture: Barney Newman

What are your expectations – and your placement team’s?

It is natural to embark on placement with excitement and a little nervousness. Armed with a huge list of competencies, your focus will be on what you need to achieve. But excitement can quickly turn to frustration if, rather than being centre stage, our learning needs come lower down on our colleagues’ list of priorities.

Staff will be busy, so rather than looking to blame anyone, embrace the challenge this brings and resolve to take full responsibility for your learning journey. It is also worth considering what your placement supervisors and assessor are expecting from you in terms of attitude and values.

‘Placements are an ideal environment for developing clinical skills but also “soft” skills such as teamworking, communication and leadership’

Although you may not like, or be suited to, every placement area to which you are allocated, you can still use it to improve your nursing practice.

Placements are not only an ideal environment for developing our clinical skills but also ‘soft’ skills, such as teamworking, communication and leadership.

As well as making you a better nurse, honing these skills can help you integrate into the team, which is vital if you are to get the best out of your placement experience.

10 tips for integrating successfully into your next placement area

Be prepared Contact your placement area and if possible arrange a visit before you start your placement. Preparing questions about what you need to know ahead of your first day – such as shift patterns, uniform changing facilities and entrance procedures – will help you feel more prepared and ease anxiety. It is also a good idea to research the placement area so you can do some pre-reading on the treatments and procedures involved

First impressions count Approach each new placement as though you were starting a new job. A positive attitude and professional attire are a must when meeting colleagues for the first time, so make sure you are on time and well presented, and take the initiative by introducing yourself as you meet the team. This will set the right tone and demonstrate your professionalism

Be a team player Effective teamworking is vital in healthcare and benefits everyone, especially patients. Consider your strengths and what you can offer to the multidisciplinary team, and if you see an opportunity to help out, take it. As well as being appreciated by busy staff, this shows that you are willing to get involved and do what you can to assist

Show your appreciation Anyone who offers to provide you with tuition, advice, support, guidance or feedback is taking time out of their day and their own responsibilities, so be sure to show your appreciation and do not take their efforts for granted. A sincere ‘thank you’ goes a long way and can open doors to further learning opportunities

Add value to the team When you see your practice supervisor juggling several tasks, ask what you can do to help. This could be making a round of drinks for the team, sitting with a patient or assisting with a task. You and your supervisor are a team – by helping them, you are freeing up time for them to help you

Take responsibility for your practice It is your responsibility to work within your scope of competence and the team needs to trust that you will work safely, effectively and with integrity. Take pride in your work and when asked to do a job do it to the best of your ability. It is natural to make errors but it is crucial to own up to any mistakes and learn from them

Picture: Tim George

Be proactive Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify information, but consider when is the right time to ask. It is crucial to gain a solid foundation of knowledge to build on and the more you know the more you can help the team to achieve their goals. It is also important to use your initiative – if you are asked to accompany a patient to theatre, for example, use this as an opportunity to chat to the patient, as you may gain useful information that can help inform the patient’s care

Advocate for yourself Having difficult conversations about a negative placement experience can be uncomfortable, but you are worth the effort it takes to advocate for yourself. Preparation is key, so think through the points you want to make and articulate how the experience has left you feeling. Consider possible solutions for the issues you have raised and offer your own reflections on the situation

Reflect on your experiences Possibly the most powerful learning tool, reflection helps you to evaluate your practice and make sense of your actions, reactions and emotions. If approached with openness and a willingness to accept self-criticism, reflection can aid personal and professional growth, now and throughout your nursing career

Remember why you chose to become a nurse Write down why you chose to become a nurse. Try to capture the excitement you felt when you received confirmation of your place on the course, and who or what inspired you to apply in the first place. Also write down what you hope to gain from your new career and who will benefit. When you have a bad day, read this back, reflect on your day and move forward


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