Nursing placement guide

USW Clinical Simulation Centre - Nursing degree

Here are the frequently asked questions about the clinical placements for students on our nursing degrees.

Why do we have placements? 

The NMC state that 50% of learning must take place in practice, the way this is interpreted is that you will learn in a placement setting.

When is the first placement?
You start the BN course and after a set number of weeks in University (currently 10), you will go onto your first placement, which lasts for eight weeks.

Where are the placements? 

Settings can vary depending on which field of nursing you are studying. Your placement could be in a school, medical ward, surgical ward or community setting, for example.

How do you allocate placements?
We try and place you as close to home as possible, but the priority is to place you according to your learning needs. We place students across many health boards and within the independent sector (non-NHS placement). All provide invaluable learning opportunities. Most students, if they drive, get to their placement within 30 minutes, although you may have to travel a little further at times, as your placements may move from one health board to another.

Do I get travelling expenses?
You only get travel expenses if the placement area is further than your distance from home to university. At the moment you will get 23p/ mile (correct at time of print). If we place you away from home, you will also be eligible for expenses to cover costs of accommodation etc.

Do I get to choose where I go on placement?
No, but there is a choice element to the consolidation placement in year three and we encourage students to request some specialist placement areas such as palliation and prison. There is also an Erasmus exchange you can apply for, which allows you to complete one of your placements at a partner institution abroad.

How will I travel to placement?
Driving is not essential but it does make things easier. Many placements are accessible by public transport, however, please be mindful that you will have to work shifts, which includes weekends and nights in years two and three, when public transport may not be running.

What will I do on placement?
The skills required by a student nurse on each year of the programme vary considerably, and as you progress through each year the expectation on you increases. You are supervised, but this gets less as you progress through your nurse training.

What support do you offer students on placement?
The support we offer here at USW is second to none: you will have your personal tutor, an academic who will be your support for the entire three years; there is the course team, who are always available, and the placement team.

On placement, you will have a mentor, a qualified nurse who you will work with and who will assess your practice. You will also be supported by the clinical team in general, which can include health care support workers, managers and the practice facilitators and link lecturers.

How will I be assessed?
In practice, students have the Assessment of Practice e-document which contains a series of clinical competencies to achieve. These are assessed by your mentor by way of observation, questioning and feedback, for example.

What if I don’t like my placement?
There are lots of areas you may not like, such as the ward or the mentor. Regardless of this, learning is constantly happening and we can still gain from the experience.

What if I have a concern? 
Firstly, inform your manager so that they are aware of what's happening in their team. Usually, it can be easily resolved. If not, you can contact the university - either your personal tutor, link tutor, practice facilitator, placements, or the course team.

What if I can’t get to placement because of illness, bad weather etc?
Nursing is a professional role, and we expect you to fulfil this. It is your responsibility to get to your placement on time. As per NMC regulations, any placement hours that are missed will need to be made back. However, this does not need to be immediately. If there is snow, we expect you to be safe and not take unnecessary risks. 

How can I prepare for my placement?

  • Remember your interview and particularly the questions you were asked around professionalism, shift work etc
  • Look at each placement, wherever or whatever it is, as an amazing learning opportunity 
  • Ring and introduce yourself - be courteous, be polite, keep them informed
  • Do your homework and plan for what you want to gain from the placement
  • Read the RCNs publication Helping Students Get the Best from their Practice Placements