Tiffany: 4 tips to getting the most out of your first prac

Tiffany is a first-year Bachelor of Nursing (BNSG) student, Treasurer for the USQ Nursing Society, and a student member of the Australian College of Nursing. Prior to motherhood and study, Tiffany was an administration assistant with vast experience in training and supporting new staff. She is passionate about supporting fellow students and strives to be an advocate for her peers.

Day one of my first clinical placement, and there I was with a million and one irrational thoughts racing through my mind and a strong urge to either cry or be sick. I was terrified. I mean, what if I was awful at this whole nursing thing? What if my facilitator was a real-life version of Miss Trunchbull from Matilda? In the end though, not only did I survive my first ever clinical placement, I evolved as a beginning healthcare professional in the process. Here are four things I have learnt from my first placement.

1. To pack the kitchen sink or to travel light?

Nobody wants to come underprepared, however, most facilities will have their own equipment and in sterile environments you won’t be allowed to bring your own equipment. Pens and a notepad are essentials I would recommend; however, initially, it is OK to show up with just a ‘can-do’ attitude and a pair of scrub pants and see where you go from there (scrub pants are amazing by the way, they dry quickly and have loads of pockets which are super handy). When in doubt, your facilitator will also guide you on what you can and can’t bring on your first day – so have no fear!

2. Ahh, your facilitator; someone who most likely will not be like Miss Trunchbull.

My facilitator was amazing. She advocated for us, supported us, taught us and all-round looked after us like a mother hen. She was always prepared to share her wealth of clinical knowledge and guided us when situations arose beyond our experience. Just remember this is YOUR learning journey. This is all about YOU becoming the best nurse you can be. Ask questions and never be afraid to roll up your sleeves and jump in (within your scope of practice). The more questions you ask, the more you can learn, and the more you know, the more you can achieve.

3. Learn from your residents (or patients)

A large majority of first-time clinical placements are located within aged care settings. You will find that these people are not only the experts in their own lives, but also have 50-odd years of life experience on you. Learn from them. You will spend a large portion of your first placement attending to basic daily cares for people who can no longer care for themselves. Use this time to ‘pick their brains’. Explain that you are a student and take your time. Listen to their pearls of wisdom. Form a fantastic therapeutic relationship with them and through this, you will find that you will grow both personally and professionally.

4. Believe in yourself – you are more capable than you could ever imagine.

I walked into my placement on day one with zero confidence and no idea where to start. By the final day of placement, I felt I had truly found my calling. I could escalate clinical concerns appropriately with confidence and take initiative within my scope of practice. Nursing is a skill which develops over many moons of experience, so don’t be too hard on yourself! Take all feedback as constructive, learn from your mistakes and you will grow. It is OK to not know the answer or to be nervous, as long as you are willing and open to learning.

Finally, you have got this! You are capable, you just might not have realised it. If you have engaged in the course content thus far, all you need to do is turn up with some pens and a notepad (and in your uniform of course) with a smile and a positive attitude, and I promise you that you will shine!

It’s not untypical to feel nervous or unsure when you are stepping into a situation unknown. If you’re in need of some pep in your step, Cathy shares five ways that you can boost your self-confidence.


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