Tips for your first clinical placement

By Clare Sandy, current UTS Bachelor of Midwifery student

Your first clinical placement is a milestone in your studies – it’s exciting and scary at the same time. You may start thinking:

“Will I remember what I’ve learnt in class?”

“Will the staff be nice to me?”

“What will I do on placement?”

Here’s some tips to help you get ready for your first clinical placement:

1. Know where you’re going and plan your travel

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Make sure you know where you have to go each day, not just the street address, but also the building name, level and room number. Look it up on Google Maps so you can see exactly where the facility is.

Work out how you’re going to get there – bus, train, car, etc. and plan your travel time. Allow extra time – we all know what it’s like to travel in Sydney! If the transport timetable says you’ll arrive at your facility with 5 mins to spare, get the earlier bus/train so you’re not late if traffic slows down your trip. If you’re driving, put in the commute to Google Maps at a similar day/time prior to your placement and see how long it’s estimated to take to drive there. Find out where you can park – sometimes you may have to park quite a distance from the facility, so allow additional time to find a car park and walk.

Plan to arrive 20 mins before the scheduled start time for the first few days – until you know what the transport/traffic/parking is like. Running late will leave you stressed and makes for a bad first impression.

2. Pack everything you’ll need

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There are essentials you need to take to placement and then there are other things that will make your day easier. Some suggestions on items you may want to pack include:

  • The essentials: your portfolio, hospital ID and name tag, UTS student ID and fob watch.
  • Several multi-coloured pens and a notepad for writing notes throughout your shift.
  • Your personal items, eg. phone, cash/bank card, keys.
  • Food/drinks – many facilities have a food court/café on site, but until you know your way around, it’s best to pack all your snacks, lunch and a bottle of water. Most facilities have a staff room with a microwave, fridge etc. that you can use.
  • A small toiletries bag with a toothbrush/paste, deodorant, tissues, Panadol, lip balm, mints, hair comb/ties/clips, etc. These items can make your day more pleasant!

3. Create a ‘cheat sheet’

We learn so much at uni, it’s hard to remember it all. So one thing I’ve found really helpful when on placement, is to create a ‘cheat sheet’ that I print and carry in my pocket during shifts. I’m a Midwifery student so my ‘cheat sheets’ are Midwifery-related and I have different sheets for different areas (eg. antenatal clinic, birth unit and postnatal). They include things like normal ranges for maternal and baby obs, diagrams (eg. fetal head), how to set up a CTG, etc.

Start with the basics that you’ve learnt at uni, once you’re confident with them, delete them from your ‘cheat sheet’ and add more notes that you’ve been learning. You can fit a lot of notes on a double-sided Word document and it’s a handy sheet to refer to throughout the day.

4. Plan around your roster

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When you have your roster – make sure you organise other parts of your life around it. You may have a job that now clashes with that roster which you need to change. You may have children that you need to organise childcare for or social activities that you need to shuffle around. The sooner you organise those things, the more organised you will feel and it’s one less thing to worry about on a week-to-week basis during your clinical placement.

5. Know what to do if you can’t attend placement

There may be a day where you are sick, a family member is sick or something personal comes up and you can’t attend placement. Know what you have to do if you have to cancel a placement – who you need to contact (usually the Educator at the facility and UTS) and what paperwork needs to be completed.

Clinical placement is an exciting part of uni life, but it is challenging; it’s physically and mentally demanding. It’s a time to put those clinical skills you’ve learnt in class to use and the time that you get a real insight into your chosen career in a hands-on environment with ‘real’ patients.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, smile when you meet staff and patients, introduce yourself and your role, get involved in patient care and make sure you thank the health professional who you have worked alongside for the shift.

Read more about practical experience in UTS nursing and midwifery degrees

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