Top Tips For Health Care Placements
Say goodbye to those long lie-ins, lectures where you can kick back, drink coffee and catch up with your friends, and say hello to 5.30 am alarms, potential 12-hour shifts with professional expectations and gruelling assessments. Practice placements are part and parcel of most professional health care courses and whilst offering a valuable experience sometimes the day-to-day can seem far from perfect, and mundane compared to your dream job. For those who have doubts, hopefully you will find some words of encouragement here.
I am studying for a Masters in Occupational Therapy; like many other health-care courses, half of my course is made up of placements, covering a range of health and social care settings. Currently, I am placed on an acute medical ward in Nottingham over 10 weeks. Despite the long commute and early mornings, I can say with confidence that it has been hands down one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of university life so far! At last, I have had the opportunity to put into practice the theory and knowledge that I have acquired at university so far. It’s a place where theory makes sense and comes alive, and all of my head knowledge slots into place.
Whatever you’re feeling about your forthcoming or present placement, it is guaranteed to be refreshingly challenging and unforgettable. Here some tips to help you make it a memorable one for the right reasons!
1. Look after your mental health.
Make your mental health a number one priority during placement. Placements can be intimidating, making the transition from student life to a public-facing professional is a big step. The demands, expectations and pressures can feel at times overwhelming, not to mention the physical exhaustion. Just because you are not slogging over assignments doesn’t mean to say that you will not feel mentally exhausted. It is so important that you take time at the weekends and during the evenings to look after your mental health. Whether that’s hitting the gym and working out some stress, curling up with a non-text related book, or just going to bed at 8pm! Whatever works for you, make sure you take time to recuperate and relax to avoid burn out and exhaustion.
2. Look after your physical health.
One coffee keeps you awake, but seven can give you the twitches! Good nutrition is equally important, and being hydrated will keep you alert and concentrated so keep a bottle of water on hand, and use your breaks wisely! Packing your own nutritious lunch and snacks can help prevent grabbing an unhealthier (and the more expensive) option when you hit a sugar-low during the day.
3. Keep asking questions.
Placements are a time for growth, learning and development. No question is ever too silly or too big. You’re likely to feel overwhelmed with medical terminology if you’re new to hospital settings, or new practice areas you might not be familiar with; don’t worry as time progresses, your vocabulary will grow. Your educator will be expecting you to ask lots of questions. The worst thing for a student to do is to not ask any questions – you’ll come across disinterested. Why not carry a small pocket size notebook and stash of pens (they always go missing in hospital) and write down the things you need to look up or ask about later on?
4. Expect to make mistakes.
Placements are a steep learning curve, expect to make mistakes, but be sure to learn from them. Use mistakes as a place for self-reflection and development. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and ask for support when you need it.
5. Keep a portfolio of everything you’ve learnt.
Although it might not seem like it in week one, before you know it your placement will be over. So, make sure you document everything you learn: keep a record of any training that you attend and keep on top of your CPD portfolio – great for your personal and professional development. Keeping a journal, however sporadically, will help you to look back and remind yourself of how much you’ve changed and progressed during your placement.
6. Show initiative.
Placements are a good place to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, whether that’s asking to shadow another department, or writing up a case study on a patient that you have worked with or reading up on recent research.
7. Be professional.
Remember you’re not just a student on placement, you’re representing both your profession and the University of Derby, so it’s important that you always act professionally which means being punctual, being organised and acting within your competencies.