30 Oct

Why you shouldn't be worried about your first placement

I first found out that I'd be almost 2 hours away from my flat in Plymouth, on a neuro placement about 7 weeks ago. This gave me just about 2 weeks to contact my clinical educators, organise transport and accommodation. To say the least, I felt under prepared and petrified about the whole situation. I felt that neuro was my weakest area of my studies so far and all I wanted was a MSK placement closer to home. Fast forward to the end of my 5 week placement and I couldn't have a more different attitude!

The first contact I made with my clinical educators was great. They replied to my emails and (a few too many) questions promptly and started putting my worries at ease. They helped me arrange accommodation and explained where to be on my first day and what to try and learn beforehand. This helped a little but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still worried and not sure what to expect. The morning of my first day was probably the scariest part. This quickly changed when I walked through the hospital entrance and was greeted by my clinical educator. She quickly made me feel at ease and introduced me to the team and showed me around. On that note, the team made my placement great. Every single person I met made me feel so welcomed and valued I felt like I'd been working with them for ages!

Over the first couple of weeks I was given plenty of time to shadow and assist in examinations, rehabilitation sessions and writing notes. I never felt out of my comfort zone and was given plenty of opportunity to learn, watch and ask questions about what I'd seen. Throughout the placement I spent a lot of time not only with physiotherapists but also occupational therapists, healthcare assistants, therapy support workers, nurses, doctors and many other employees of the trust. I was surprised by how closely PTs and OTs work together on the ward, the 'joke' is that we both have one green leg and one blue leg. I'm sure someone, somewhere finds that funny but the meaning holds true. On the ward we all share responsibility and although we have our own specialisms we are integrated so deeply we share roles a lot and work closely together - apparently far more closely in this ward than in other areas of healthcare.

I also spent a morning with the speech and language therapists which was extremely valuable in seeing how another area of the MDT fits together. By the end of the second week my confidence had grown significantly and I started to be even more involved in treatments and assessments - that said I still needed lots of practice but felt supported the whole way throughout! I had plenty of opportunities to discuss what went well and what I could have improved on with my colleagues and clinical educator.

Towards the middle and end of the placement I was given more responsibility including conducting baseline assessments, running my own therapy sessions, planning discharges and taking the lead on a bay in the ward! If I had known i'd be doing this a few weeks ago I would have been petrified but with the support I received it felt natural. Of course - it wasn't easy and I had even more questions but I managed to get it all done and had some great feedback. In the fourth week I also managed to spend a morning with the early supported discharge unit to conduct an initial visit with a patient I'd been working closely with on the ward. This experience was invaluable and it was so great seeing how another department works and that the patient was happy and doing well at home.

In my final week more of the same continued, I'm still continuing to learn more and more every day and it seemed a shame that my placement was only 5 weeks long. Before placement started I was looking forward to it ending and now I wish it was longer! During this last week I was asked to give a small presentation to my colleagues I'd been working with closely. It felt more like presenting to my friends than people I'd only met a few weeks ago. The last piece of my placement experience was my final assessment, although it sounds scary it was a great opportunity. I received incredibly valuable feedback with regards to what went well and areas I could improve on next time.

Although this was my first placement I couldn't have been happier with my experience. If I could give you 3 tips to make your placement enjoyable and to try to help you worry less they would be:

  1. Ask questions - Not only does it show that you're listening and interested. But worrying can stem from things you don't know. Ask and put your mind at ease. No question is too simple - we all start somewhere!
  2. Get into a routine - Worrying about being on time isn't something you need. Set that alarm at a reasonable time and get into a routine that suits you.
  3. Enjoy yourself! - Placement can be stressful at times but you'll have a better time and learn a lot more if you take time to try and enjoy it. See new wards, spend time with different members of the team and get hands on when you feel comfortable. There's lots happening in all types of placements.

Thank you.