Carrying out a non-hospital placement for my nursing course

Second-year Children and Young People and Mental Health Nursing student Becca carried out a placement as a Health Visitor. During her non-hospital placement, she learned new skills and grew both professionally and personally. Becca shares more about how she prepared for her placement, what she learned and what she will remember going forward in her studies at RGU.

At RGU, there are many opportunities to complete placements in a range of different environments like hospitals, communities and online. Here’s my experience of one of my community placements!

Preparing for my non-hospital placement

There are always nerves in the week coming up to receiving our placements, and this occasion was no different. After refreshing my InPlace and emails for what seemed like the hundredth time, it finally popped up! I was so excited to become part of the Health Visitors team in a rural area! After the initial excitement had worn off a bit, I started to feel quite nervous. I never had a placement outwith a hospital before and I did not have a great understanding of what the role of a Health Visitor was.

Luckily, I had some time to figure it out. I spent the next few days researching relevant topics like routine immunisation schedules and how to measure a baby’s height, weight and head circumference. After completing the pre-placement activities in my Practice Assessment Document (PAD), I started to build a picture of what health visiting was all about. As well as this, I also decided to drive to my placement a few days before starting as it was a completely new area around an hour away from my home. This settled my nerves as I knew exactly how to get there and I was not worried about getting lost and running late on the day.

As with any other placement, the night before I made sure to layout a clean set of uniform. I also grabbed some food and water for the next day and packed my placement bag with an endless supply of pens, my PAD and a notepad.

Starting my role as a Health Visitor

After my preparations, I felt I had gained more insight into what may be expected of me and felt more confident going into the placement. However, the best way to go into a new placement is to be as open-minded as possible, be ready to learn a lot and work hard.

On the first day of placement, as I began the hour drive, I felt the butterflies in my stomach start fluttering. By the time I had parked outside the building, I had plucked up enough courage to take a deep breath and head inside. Looking back, there was absolutely no need to be nervous! As I walked in, everyone was so welcoming. They introduced themselves and showed me around which immediately put me at ease. As I started chatting with the small team, I quickly felt like another one of their colleagues. They didn’t treat me differently because I was a student.

Even from the very first day, the children and families that I worked with and supported came from a range of different socio-economic backgrounds. I experienced a variety of diverse situations where a Health Visitor was able to provide help and support. Some children and families required support with feeding, resolving mastitis and working through difficult family events. Child protection is a major aspect of the Health Visitor role and it was highlighted in every interaction with children and families. Most importantly, we always ensured that the child was at the heart of any decision or action. We looked at everything we witnessed during our home visits in the context of a child and how their environment and experiences may impact them.

Learning and growing in a diverse role

Throughout the five weeks I was there, I had so many different opportunities to help out and be independent. Just some of the procedures and activities I assisted with or individually completed included:

  • Reconstituting immunisations and completing the relevant documentation.
  • Working through ASQ Questionnaires to assess child development.
  • Analysing home visits and communicating my findings in writing.
  • Assessing a child’s growth when measuring their height, weight and head circumference.
  • Completing a feeding assessment with new parents.
  • Being aware and proactive around child protection concerns.
  • Creating child plans around “What this means for the child”.

As well as this, I also had an opportunity to do a spoke placement at the local nursery.

During all of these, I felt so supported by the team that my confidence just grew and grew. As with any placement, some of the situations I encountered were hard to deal with and it was easy to get emotional. After a difficult visit, my mentors were amazing and talked through what happened as a team. They would give advice and encouragement to plan what to do in the future. It is so important to remember that although these experiences may seem like common occurrences, they need to be discussed to prevent healthcare professionals and students from getting burnt out and developing compassion fatigue.

Looking back on my placement experience

Even with the preparation I had done before going into this placement, I could never imagine just how wide a scope of responsibilities Health Visitors have. It just goes to show that being honest about what you know and showing you are willing to learn will open up so many doors. It will also help in building positive relationships with those around you.

As I move into my final placements of second year, I am ever so grateful for the experiences I had with the staff and service users on this community placement. I learned so much that I have used in other placement areas and cannot wait to start my next community one. Overall, the breadth of knowledge and interpersonal skills I was able to develop have helped me to strive to be a better student and future nurse.

Becca Westwater

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