Placement. A tough couple of weeks each session all of us nursing students must do. Something we both look forward to, which excites us, but also kind of drains us along the way. Going out on placement and having on-the-ward training puts our theory into practice and exposes us to the most valuable lessons on the path toward becoming a Registered Nurse. Over the past 800 hours or so on nursing placement, I’ve found a couple of pointers have helped me greatly with achieving my goals on placement and keeping up my endurance!
TIP 1: SLEEP
Sleep: the first and most important factor to getting through placement. I have found the difference between being sleep-deprived, to ensuring at least 8 hours of sleep a night is big. The benefits are well worth not watching that extra episode of TV, or reading that next chapter of a book! From being well rested, your ability to stay mentally alert and to keep up your enthusiasm each day increases. While on placement, you are absorbing information from left, right and centre – from nurses to your facilitator to patients who just want to have a good chat! Being well rested allows you to mentally cope, as well as keeping you physically healthy.
Sleep deprived and sick on placement is not a good combination, especially around patients who are immunocompromised.
For young adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Some simple tips to improve your sleep hygiene during placement:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
- Exercise daily.
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
- Turn off electronics before bed.
TIP 2: DIET
Secondly, diet. A healthy, whole foods diet is important to keep up your endurance during the day. Having a diet based around high sugar and processed foods leads to a quick release of glucose into our blood very quickly, with a period of about 20 minutes of increased alertness, which is then followed by a rapid decline of blood glucose levels – leaving you unfocused. On the other hand, having a diet full of whole foods means your blood glucose levels are more stable, and therefore, a more stable release of energy and long term productivity. A whole foods diet is based around plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, with the inclusion of grains and animal foods like eggs, meat, fish and poultry.
To ensure you are operating at an optimal level during placement, being prepared is essential. By preparing your breakfast and lunch, or dinner for the afternoon shifts, you will save time and money and also ensure your body is nourished!
TIP 3: EXERCISE
Thirdly, exercise. There are many positive effects from participating in as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day. This includes all types of exercise from walking, to boxing, to swimming, to yoga. Exercise can help to increase endorphins in your body, leading to a happier and more relaxed mood (Erickson, Hillman & Kramer 2008). Other enhancing effects includes boosting energy, giving yourself a break from thinking, having ‘me’ time and enhancing your sleep (Erickson, Hillman & Kramer 2008).
Additionally to exercise, meditation is another beneficial strategy to perform at your highest level whilst on placement. From personal experience, either in the morning, at night or during your lunch break, taking time out to meditate is by far the best way to quickly rejuvenate and focus. Meditation can be as little as 10 minutes and easily conducted through the use of an app such as ‘Insight Timer’.
The key to success is to be organised and purposeful in your actions. Take one day at a time and know that the commitment you make to these steps will eventually lead to expertise and flawless practice as a nurse.
The National Sleep Foundation 2017, Sleep Hygiene, United States, https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
Friedman, R. 2014, ‘What you eat affects your productivity’, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity
Erickson, K.I., Hillman, C.H. & Kramer, A.F. 2008, ‘Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition, Science and Society, vol. 9, pp. 58 – 65