How to Survive Your Management Placement

You're training and your career rest upon one final placement, it is the most important of them all, you must demonstrate to your 'Sign-off Mentor' that you are ready to qualify.

This post contains the advice I wish someone had told me prior to my management placement. While I encourage you to read the whole article, I'll put the important bits in BOLD. 

The first thing you need to understand is that being a sign-off mentor is a big responsibility and as a Student Nurse you can't just assume you will pass simply because you have made it through 3 years of training, a lot of people do and will carry on failing at the last hurdle. The next few months of your life will be a test, of sorts, the Registered Nurse you are assigned to will be looking at you, in great detail, to make sure you're ready for life of a Nurse.


Now, every mentor is different, this isn't going to be a guaranteed guide to passing your management placement, I am simply drawing from my own experiences as a sign-off mentor and the criteria I like my students to fulfill. 

First and foremost do a little research, take control of your education, you aren't going to be spoon fed anymore - after all you won't be as a Nurse. You need to have an idea about the speciality you have been assigned to before you arrive. For example, If your going to a respiratory ward make sure you know the basics about the conditions they treat (asthma, COPD, CF etc) and the difference between type 1 and type 2 respiratory failure. I can firmly recommend the Nursing Survival Guides by Ann Richards to assist you in this, they are fantastic! Small and pocketable you can take them to placements easily.

If you have been given an induction booklet, read it carefully.

Make sure you're on-time, flexible and organised. This is something I can't stress enough, in a few months when you're a Registered Nurse you will need to be on time otherwise who will look after your patients? Demonstrate you can do this and your mentor is likely to be understanding when you need to swap a shift or have study time. We also understand you need a social life but don't try to take us for idiots, be honest - we respect that.

The Universities change the paperwork mentors need to complete on a near daily basis make sure you know what needs signing and when.

Next you MUST have the right attitude when you're at work, we understand that being a Student Nurse is hard, we've all been there, but you've got to demonstrate how much it means to you to have the title 'Registered Nurse'.

We will want you to have good medications knowledge - in a few months you'll be doing a drugs round by yourself. Make sure you have a good foundation and basic knowledge of; pain relief, antihypertensives, antiarrhythmics, diuretics, antibiotics and drugs that are specific to the area you'll be working in. Invest in the 'Drugs in use' Survival Guide and carry it with you on medication rounds, if you don't know a drug look it up quickly.

You will need to know your limitations and development needs. Know when to stop and ask for help, don't just put on a front - ask questions! 

Don't overstep the mark, admit that sometimes it's best for you to take a step back and let the people with experience take over, speaking to irate families and dealing with delicate situations is something that comes with experience.

Make sure you take every learning opportunity during your placement, in a few months when you're in numbers you won't have the time to have an insight visit with a specialist nurse - do it while you still can.

Try and integrate into the team and demonstrate you are a team player, this will have a big effect on how you're perceived on the ward and ultimately your reference. More than anything don't be 'too posh to wash' - it will be something you'll miss once you qualify.

Learn how to talk to patients, after all they are human beings too and need reassurance and comfort. I thoroughly enjoy having students who have great communication skills, as this is something that's very hard to teach and therefore learn.

You need to respect the nursing assistants, sometimes they feel overstepped by over-zealous student nurses. If you respect them, they will respect and help you when you need it the most, remember effective delegation is an outcome!

Make sure you're able to manage your time and a patient load, start off small 1 or 2 patients who you know everything about and increase this number as you go through your placement. Take a look at our Shift Planner for help planning your day and care.

These things combined will contribute to you having a smooth and effective management placement although all being said and done, it all falls down to if you can demonstrate to your mentor that you are safe and fit to practice.

Do you have any advice you could share with your fellow student nurses? Post it in the comments section!