Excellence in student nursing placements

Student nurse helping older lady

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

Providing high quality placements that enrich the experience of student nurses, while promoting excellent nursing practice and a positive working culture, can help to attract and retain staff with the right values for your organisation. 

What makes a good placement?

Good placements should always align to the values identified under the 6Cs. The trust's who have been recognised for providing high quality placements for student nurses, midwives and health visitors, attribute the following features to their success:

Compassion and other values embedded in the team

  • The organisation and team’s values are clear. This helps the student to align their own values and integrate more quickly.
  • Existing staff who live and promote the values. As one employer said: "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 the care they have given with other professionals.
  • Opportunities for students to contribute to team discussions and have their opinions valued.

Competent leaders, mentors and colleagues

  • An approach that promotes ‘together we are better’.
  • Access to supervisors/mentors who are exemplary role models, who are able to take sufficient, dedicated time away from practice to spend with their students.
  • Exposure to multi-disciplinary working and in a range of settings where all members of the team contribute to student learning.
  • Sufficient staff and skills mix in the team.

Commitment to learning

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

Courage to be flexible and to try something different

  • Exposing students to a range of innovative and different ways of working not only enhances their learning experience but also helps to equip them for the unpredictability of patient care, and any changes to the approaches used in nursing.
  • Using personalised learning support that is tailored to the student’s skills and experience, rather than a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to learning. Enabling students to access their own space, post tray and learning plan to help them feel valued.
  • Flexibility that allows students to work around their needs and to change the approach if it’s not working.

In our publication What makes a good student placement? we hear from employers who were recognised for providing excellent placements in community settings as part of the Student Nursing Times Awards.

Positive placement experience

Jenni Middleton, former 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"

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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