Tips on acing your nursing placement by our expert trainer Carolyn Poysner

13/07/2017 10:26AM


Successful nurses must be able to master the theory and practice of the profession. As well as needing to know the names of millions of acronyms, medications and organs, they also need to have the critical thinking, communication, and team work skills to be able to deal with life and death situations. This type of expertise can only be learnt on the job, and it’s why our nursing courses focus on high quality placements — as well as top notch classroom teaching — to prepare our students for life on the ward. 

Most of our students can’t wait to test themselves in a real-world healthcare setting, however, some are a little unsure about what to expect. So, we caught up with Carolyn Poysner — one of our star trainers with 27 years of nursing experience — to find out what placements are all about and how to get the most out of them.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a registered nurse who has been working in healthcare for nearly three decades. Gosh, when I say it out loud it sounds like a long time! I’m currently working in an intensive care unit in a major metropolitan hospital, and I also teach one day per week at Skills Training. 

How did you get into nursing and why do you love it?

I’ve always been interested in caring for people and healthcare so it seemed logical for me to become a nurse. Working as a nurse is privilege because I’m let into people’s lives during times of great joy, pain, and sorrow, and they rely on me to help them in these moments on life’s journey. From birth to death and anywhere in-between, when people are in a vulnerable state they open up much more than they normal would so I get to see an incredible side to humanity. This is the main reason why I find nursing so rewarding.

How do placements work?

At Skills Training we structure the placements so that students gain experience in a range of healthcare settings. This means they get to see what life is like in each one and expand their skills and expertise as they move through their placements. The learning process involved is a bit like building a house in that each placement is a layer of bricks that adds up to create a solid structure.

Students do an aged care sector placement first. This exposes them to the diseases and types of problems that affect patients at this stage of life. It also introduces them to how to work within a team healthcare professionals and allows them to consolidate basic skills, and learn new ones.

Building on this experience, they then move into a sub-acute setting where the focus is the application of medicine and wound management. This placement is where they really get to apply theory to real-world situations.

They’ll then move on to work in a mental health facility. Here, they’ll be exposed to patients who have a range of mental health conditions and will build on their knowledge of treatment and medication.

Finally, they’ll go into an acute care setting. We work with Eastern Health and Austin Health, and it’s here students learn how to manage acute and complex patients, do their IV competences, and be put to the test of everything they’ve learnt so far. 

It’s a very comprehensive placement program and by the end of it students can expect to have significantly increased their skills and knowledge. I love seeing students return from placement because they always come back so inspired and excited about the diversity and choice of healthcare careers open to them.

What advice would you give to students to make the most of their placement?

You need to be punctual and organised, go in with a positive attitude, and be prepared to listen and follow instruction. The key to a successful placement is earning the respect of the team you’re working with, and you do this by being professional and willing to go that extra mile. Once you have the team’s respect, they’re more likely to give you their time, teach and support you, and this in turn means you’ll have a better experience. Basically, you get out what you put in so be prepared to put in.

What do students struggle with the most on placement?

Most students on placement struggle with confronting the reality of the aging process, seeing patients who are seriously ill, or watching people die in front of them. Others find the nitty gritty aspects of the job — like washing people and dealing with their bodily fluids — tough. And some find working with certain staff on placement difficult. This is totally normal because nursing can be challenging. But the thing to remember is not to be too hard on yourself and know that you’re not alone. If you need support, you can always reach out to me or your placement facilitator for help. Also, open up to your peers because they’ll understand what you’re going through.

If you had one piece of advice to give a prospective nursing student what would it be?

Anyone who’s thinking about studying nursing needs to be passionate about the profession and committed to the course because it’s hard and requires dedication. However, if you’re driven, determined, compassionate and kind, then you’ll succeed and the door to a brilliant career will open. The healthcare sector is growing, and the scope of practice and areas nurses can work in are expanding. From paediatrics to palliative care, the choice of where you can apply your skills and expertise is vast. And because we’re crying out for nurses in Australia, you’re almost guaranteed a job if you’re up to scratch — and that a pretty good position to be in in today’s economic climate.

So, if you believe you’ve got what it takes to be a nurse then get in touch to see how we can help you get the qualifications needed for a dynamic and rewarding career in healthcare.