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Preparing for your Placement on a Respiratory Ward

Patients could be suffering with both long-term (chronic) and short-term (acute) respiratory illnesses.



Patient taking inhaler hopsital ward

Your placement within Respiratory Medicine will be a unique opportunity to gain skills and experience with patients suffering with both long-term (chronic) and short-term (acute) respiratory illnesses. You could undertake this placement during any point in your course – a good basic knowledge of respiratory illness will benefit you greatly.

Your placement will typically be on a medical ward and will primarily deal with respiratory cases although within some trust respiratory medicine is mixed with medical cardiology to create a cardiorespiratory ward – this is because the two specialties are closely linked and share multiple traits.


What to Expect from your Placement

The ward routine will differ from trust to trust, but this is something you will pick up quickly.

You will see the day-to-day management of chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis and possibly cystic fibrosis. These patients are usually very independent and very informed about their conditions.

There will also be plenty of patients with acute conditions such as ‘community acquired pneumonia’ (CAP), ‘hospital acquired pneumonia (HAP), pneumonitis, upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), pulmonary oedema, pneumothorax and other varying kinds of chest sepsis.

If you get the chance, you should take the opportunity to gain experience with Tracheostomies, providing basic care, suctioning and weening.

You should get plenty of experience managing a septic patient. You should familiarise yourself with ‘Sepsis 6‘ and clinical escalation within your trust; Doctors, CCOT, Emergency Medical Teams, Hospital at Night etc.

Finally you may get the chance to see patients using non-invasive ventilation (NIV), the device is a way of removing carbon dioxide from a patients blood without fully ventilating them on intensive care. Beware however, the NIV device can only be used by Registered Nurses who have completed a competency assessment. 

Preparing for your Placement

There are a few things you can do to prepare for your respiratory placement;

Try and visit your placement before you start. Wards can vary greatly. Visit the area you have been assigned to before you start and ask if there is anything you should be aware of prior to starting.

Identify your learning needs and outcomes. Identify these early and be aware of the skills you want to develop or learn – this will help you get the most from your placement.

Brush up on your anatomy and physiology. Familiarise yourself with the mechanism of breathing and gas exchange.

Learn the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Respiratory Failure. There is a critical different between type 1 and type 2 respiratory failure – it is important you have a good grasp of this concept.

Research area-specific medications. You should read about commonly used bronchodilators, inhalers, diuretics, anti mucolytic agents and antibiotics. You could also invest in the Drugs in Use (Nursing and Health Survival Guides).

Look at types of oxygen delivery. Nasal cannula, high-flow, low-flow, venturi masks, trachy masks.

Look at ABCDE assessments and their importance. This systematic approach is used for the assessment and treatment of patients ABCDE model.

You should also familiarise yourself with good inhaler techniques as this is a skill respiratory nurses teach on a daily basis.

Getting the most from your placement

Respiratory wards and usually very busy places, although you are supernumerary their will be jobs you’ll be asked to undertake independently once deemed able. There will be the chance to easily obtain learning outcomes and measures of practice.

You should use this placement to gain experience managing a patient load, managing a septic patient, clinical decision-making and, if possible, arranging insight visits with specialist areas.

The final and most important piece of advice I can give you is to ask questions and get involved. 


Former student nurses share their top money-saving tips

“A nursing degree is very different to most undergraduate courses.”



Student money saving tips

Direct from former student nurses, the Student Money Guide is packed with useful tips.

New nursing students should claim fuel reimbursements, car share, compare markets and supermarkets and seek second-hand textbooks to make their student funding, and part-time wages go as far as possible, updated advice from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says.

The College’s latest Student Money Guide for nursing is packed with useful information on childcare, travel expenses, charitable funding and tips for those moving into private rented accommodation.


The top money-saving tips.

Direct from former student nurses, the guide offers some top money-saving tips, which include;

  1. Develop a good relationship with your bank – meet and go through all the options and accounts which will save you most money and give you the best interest rates
  2. Use online materials, the RCN Library for example, instead of buying textbooks – If you do buy them, try advertising on university notice boards for second-hand copies, or, have a look at Use cashback websites, such as Quidco, when making purchases.
  3. Get a Young Persons Rail Card if you spend over £72 a year on rail travel – all full-time students are eligible, regardless of age.
  4. Claim fuel reimbursement if you drive further to placement than to university – it is offered, so you might as well.
  5. Be penny-wise, seek out free pickings – go to sites like Freecycle for free furniture, kitchenware and bicycles.
  6. Check out your local discount warehouses for basics, cleaning products, toilet rolls, washing powder and buy these as a household to split the cost of a bulk buy – it is well worth it.
  7. Share lifts to placement and do food shops with fellow students.
  8. Make sure your supermarket shop is cheapest – check online comparison sites like ahead of your shop.
  9. Use your local butchers and market.
  10. Take a packed lunch and flask to university – you will save a small fortune and probably eat better.

Nursing is different to other degree courses.

Claire Cannings, Senior Welfare Adviser commented: “A nursing degree is very different to most undergraduate courses. The placement element means there is less time for part-time work, and the long shifts mean childcare and travel is often more expensive.

“Fluency with finances, brilliance with budgeting and keeping clued-up on things complimentary can pay dividends. This can, in turn, impact positively on study and well-being through a student’s learning years and beyond. It’s amazing how many grants and funds students are entirely unaware of which is why we’ve collated all the information they need in one place.

“While the RCN will still be making the case to Government to invest in nursing education, we hope the guide will continue to be a valuable resource to our current and potential members.”

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Clinical Updates

Induction framework for General Practice Nurses launched

It also provides guidance for practices employing General Practice Nurses.



nurse working at desk in office

The document provides a framework for both new and experienced general practice nurses.

NHS England, in collaboration with The QNI, has launched a new Induction Template for General Practice Nursing.

The Induction Template is has been designed to enable employers to ensure that nurses in a first career destination role in General Practice are well supported when taking their first career step in primary care.


Not just useful for newly qualified nurses, the 51-page document provides an induction framework for all new general practice nurses, enabling them to develop key skills required for the role.

It also provides guidance for practices employing General Practice Nurses.

Nursing associates, health care assistants and student nurses preparing for a primary care placement may also find the template useful.

A great start to a long and exciting career’.

The author of the document, Queen’s Nurse and experienced nursing mentor and educator, Sharon Aldridge-Bent said; “Developing this template highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive induction and orientation programme for all nurses new to general practice.

“This most certainly will assist with recruitment and retention of nurses in the primary care setting.”

Paul Vaughan, Head of Nursing Now England, responsible for the delivery of the GPN Ten Point Plan, said: “this new resource will enable employers to ensure they provide nurses new to general practice with a really good experience of working in the sector and ensure they have a great start to their long and exciting career working general practice.”

The resource underpinned by General Practice – developing confidence, capability and capacity – A ten-point action plan for General Practice Nursing (2017) contributes towards the overall strategic goals outlined in the General Practice Five Year Forward View.

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