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Preparing for Your Placement in Accident & Emergency

Accident & Emergency is one of the busiest places in the hospital. 



Emergency Department

Accident & Emergency is one of the busiest places in the hospital. Your placement will be a unique opportunity to experience an emergency and unscheduled care in a controlled environment.

During your placement, you will be exposed to a multitude of medical conditions and it will be a unique opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and gain confidence in dealing with these.

A&E placements can also include insight visits to a variety of areas including; fracture clinics, plaster rooms, critical care areas, and your local ambulance service.


Some A&E Departments are a combined adult and paediatric service – you may be expected to care for these patients too.

What to Expect from your Placement

Accident & Emergency will include a variety of patients from a variety of specialties who will be suffering from a variety of conditions – A&E, if nothing else, is varied and like the proverbial ‘box-of-chocolates’.

Accident and Emergency Departments are generally split into multiple areas, this is a brief overview of what you can expect in each area. 

Resus – Patients who have been brought in with a life-threatening illness or are likely to require input from intensive care. This can include; cardiac arrests, trauma patients, overdoses, respiratory arrests etc.

Triage – Patients are assessed, usually by a Nurse, on their arrival to the department – this will include a set of baseline observations and a brief history. The patient will then be signposted or ‘streamed’ to the correct area – this will determine the patients’ priority and time they will be seen in.

Majors – Usually for patients who have attended with a complex or urgent medical condition such as COPD or heart failure. Elderly patients with limited mobility tend to be seen in this area.

Minors – Patients who have attended A&E with minor illness and ailments such as coughs, colds and vomiting and are ambulatory.

Injuries  – Patients who have attended with suspected broken arm or leg will be seen in the injuries area. This area is usually closely linked with x-ray and plaster room.

First and foremost, do not worry – you will be surrounded by very experienced Nurses, Doctors and allied healthcare professionals. A&E, generally speaking, is a very safe and controlled environment with very experienced and senior staff at the helm.

Your mentor won’t expect you to have an in-depth knowledge of A&E interventions if this is your first placement but they will expect you to ask questions and participate in care.

Expect to deal with a lot of sensitive issues while on placement, some of these might ‘hit close to home’, communicate with your mentor and ensure patient confidentiality at all times.

Preparing For Your Placement

There are a few things you can do to prepare for your Accident & Emergency Department placement;

Try and visit your placement before you start. Emergency Departments can be intimidating places. 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 physiology and function of core systems, it will bode you well.

Look at ABCDE assessments and their importance. This systematic approach is used for everything within Critical Care – everything from handover to invasive treatment is based around an ABCDE model.

Research triage systems. Every hospital uses a different triage system although most are based around the Manchester Triage System.

Getting The Most From Your Placement

You’ll either love your A&E placement or you won’t. So it is important that during your placement you focus on transferable skills you can learn and/or improve on in this area, relish the opportunity to deliver global (holistic) care in this environment and understand the complexities of why patients attend A&E.

Spend time with all members of the team; Doctors, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physios, Social Care, Specialist Nurses and the countless others!

Download the BNF app and consider buying a Clinical Skills Nursing Survival Guide.

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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