Excellence in student nursing placements

Student nurse helping older lady

04 / 8 / 2014 Midnight

A nursing student’s placement is a vital part of their learning experience. Getting it right can contribute greatly to the development of individual students, as well as the team and organisational culture they are working in.

By promoting excellent nursing practice, and a positive working culture among your existing staff, your trust can provide a high quality and enriching placement experience for student nurses.

This can help attract staff with the right values to your organisation, encourage retention, improve morale and address issues which are critical factors in the provision of outstanding patient care.

What makes a good placement? 

Providers who have been recognised for their excellent provision of placements for student nurses, midwives and health visitors have attributed their success to the following features of their placements, which align well with the 6Cs.

Compassion and other values embedded in the team

  • Clarity of the organisation and team’s values. This will help the student to align their own values with them, and integrate quickly.
  • Existing staff who live values. As one employer put it, 'You can’t throw a good apple into a barrel of rotten apples and expect it to survive.'

Time to care

  • Adequate time for practitioners and students to provide compassionate personalised care. 
  • Time for the students to spend with patients and families where appropriate.

Excellent communication

  • Time and space for students to reflect on care they have given with other professionals.
  • Opportunities for students to contribute to team developments, and discussions and have their opinions valued.

Competent leaders, mentors and colleagues

  • A ‘together we are better’ approach.
  • Access to mentors who are exemplary role models, and who are able to take sufficient, dedicated time away from practice to spend it with their students.
  • Exposure to multi-disciplinary working. All members of the team contribute to student learning.
  • Sufficient staff and skills mix in the team.

Commitment to learning

  • Exposure for the students to lots of different experiences and procedures, and time to complete their paperwork.
  • Access to a range of tuition, mentorship and evidence based learning materials.
  • A structured approach – as far as possible. This is difficult in all nursing settings, where you often have to expect the unexpected, but having a plan which you can be flexible with will be beneficial to the student and the employer.

Courage to be flexible and to try something different

  • Exposure to a range of innovative and different ways of working will enhance the learning experience for students and better equip them for the unpredictability of patient care, and a changing approach to nursing.
  • Personalised learning support tailored to the student’s skills and experience, rather than a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to learning. Enabling access for students to their own space, post tray and learning plan helps them feel valued.
  • Flexibility to allow the student to work around their needs and  to change the approach if it’s not working.

We recently spoke to employers who were recognised for excellent provision of placements in community settings as runners up at the 2013 Student Nursing Times Awards. Find out about their placements, and the features of them which make students feel welcome and supported in our publication 'What makes a good student placement?'

Positive placement experience

Jenni Middleton, editor of the Nursing Times, said:

"Students tell us over and over again that their placement is one of the most important aspects of their training. A positive placement experience will not only teach good practice but will also coach students in how to develop relationships with their peers and patients. Student nurses often approach their placements with a certain amount of trepidation, but our finalists have created cultures that are supportive, caring and empathetic – the best environments in which to nurture the next generation of nursing talent. We applaud their positivity, enthusiasm and wisdom."

Awarding excellent placement provision

The annual Student Nursing Times Awards recognise best practice among employers and education providers as well as student and qualified nurses.

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