Juggling your placement with everything else in your life

So I’ve been asked to write about juggling, university life with placement and socialising and everything in between. I thought I would start by laying down a few facts about placements which may help you understand my later explanation…

Our placement allocations for the BSc & PGDip Pre-Registration courses (courses to learn to be a nurse) are based on your term-time postcode in year 1 of the programme. The rule KCL operates is that you shall never have to travel more than 1hr 15mins to get to your placement from your home. If for example you live in Bedford or Hastings and commute into London, the 1 hour and 15 minutes commences from when you reach your major mainland rail station eg. Blackfriars, Paddington, King’s Cross etc. not when you leave your house, this is important to bear in mind.

When this has been calculated, you will be allocated a ‘host trust’ an NHS trust (which may be made up of more than one hospital) which you will have all your placements at. Examples include: Guy’s & St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital(s) & Imperial Healthcare Trust. It is not possible to choose your trust, unless you have been seconded from them in which case you will be allocated to them.

Some people are disappointed with their allocation, but remember there is no such thing as a ‘perfect trust/placement’. Each hospital(s) will offer different and varying opportunities, but KCL has appraised them all as sufficiently good to send their high-calibre students to.

Remember you also have an elective placement (which you can pick anywhere OUTSIDE KCL’s host trusts in the UK or abroad) to travel to. So if you want to undertake an experience in a particular speciality or field of healthcare you can, using this placement. It’s also a good opportunity for you to go to a hospital you may wish to work at, if it’s not one of our host trusts, to make a name for yourself and get your foot in the door!

Something people ask a lot about is how you cope with university work and placement? Well personally (and I am quite academic) my university work took top priority all the time, apart from when I was attending placement when the children and their families are my only focus! When in a block of placements, on my days I wasn’t allocated to work, I used to get up at the same time as a placement day (especially this year – final year) and work pretty solidly from 8am – 6pm on my dissertation and other assignments. Now this won’t suit everyone, however by doing this the results show for themselves and remember although nursing isn’t all about the academic work, you need to complete your degree in order to register as a nurse, so the work should never be neglected or left to the last minute.

Some of you may have heard of ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ (picture below). Well for a presentation I did recently, I came up with ‘Jamie’s hierarchy of priorities’ which helped me to order and prioritise my time during busy periods. Yours may be very different, but it’s worth considering where your values lie and what’s important to you and what can be put on hold.

Florence

When we’re on placement we have a document called a PAD (practice assessment document). All London universities use the same document so it’s called a PLPAD (pan-London PAD). This gives us objectives and key skills and values we need to demonstrate during our part of the course.  We have different PADs with different content/objectives each year/progression point of the program (year1/2/3 for BSC or month 0/8/16 for PGDip). If you’re interested, a guide to our PADs for students and nursing mentors, can be found here.

Although many of the trusts have adult nursing, child nursing and sometimes MH nursing facilities, I have to admit I have very rarely seen students from the adult or MH groups, while I am on placement – however I see an awful lot of my child nursing colleagues. Some of us will be working on the same wards or wards nearby and my host trust provides weekly teaching for all children’s nurses to attend – so we get to have a catch up there as well. During university times we often have lectures and seminars with adult nursing and mental health nursing students though and some lectures/seminars with children’s nurses. The BSc and PGDip programmes rarely mix.

Another thing muggles (non-nursing folk) ask all the time is how you cope with the hours we do – 12.5 hours on a day shift (07:30-20:00) and the same on a night shift (19:30-08:00), 24/7, 365 days a year – bank holidays, Christmas and your birthday (potentially). Well to be honest, you just have to knuckle down and crack on with it! The days hardly ever drag and they go quickly, because you’re on your feet pretty much constantly.

You have to remember that patients and their families are in hospital 24/7 and they don’t get rest breaks or to go home at the end of the day. To be honest the quality of sleep patients get in hospital is also very low, so really when we think about them and what they’re going through, on their patient journey, our days don’t seem so bad…However, our job is a stress on your emotions and on you physically sometimes. We all have different ways or strategies to cope with these stresses, but never feel alone!

We do get breaks, (adding up to 1 hour) some places have 2x 30 minute breaks while others allow a small (discretionary break in the morning) and then an 1 hour in the afternoon. Depending on the ward dynamics and timings, you may not always get all of your break and sometimes you may leave your shift late. None of us wants these things to happen, nor in an ideal world should they – especially to supernumerary students, but this is the reality of nursing and if the child and family need us, we will never leave them in the lurch!

You should ideally be going into a placement willing to work any shift within the X amount of weeks you’re there for, however you are permitted to put in up to 5 requests to work a particular shift OR not to work it for every 4 weeks you are there. These are granted at the discretion of the key mentor / student roster writer and aren’t guaranteed until the roster is approved.

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I hope this has provided you with some basic information and my take on life on placement. What you must remember is that being a nurse/student is a wonderful rewarding career when you can make a tangible difference to a child’s life, not just at that moment but one that’ll last their life of 80, 90 maybe even 100 years! That is such a privilege, but that’s not to say it is always easy and nursing is definitely a lifestyle rather than ‘day job’.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me to ask: Jamie.mather@kcl.ac.uk

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