How to ace your first clinical placement
If you're feeling anxious about your first placement, follow our tips to make the most of it. Source:

So you’ve finished your first term of classes and been assigned your first clinical placement. Whether you’re studying Medicine, Nursing or something more niche like Occupational Therapy, working with patients, learning from medical professionals and seeing what life will be like after graduation is the often the most exciting part of your degree.

As exciting as this is, Study International understands how daunting your first placement can be when you are from overseas.

What if I do something wrong? What if I don’t meet expectations? What if I don’t enjoy it? All these questions are totally natural concerns, but our guide can help settle some of these pre-placement nerves. You can even print our tips to remind yourself during your shifts.

1) Show enthusiasm and a ‘can-do’ attitude

If there’s one thing that will help you get the most out of your placement, it’s a positive attitude and genuine enthusiasm for your tasks.

A willingness to learn means people are more likely to show you things that go beyond your day-to-day tasks. It can be scary to put yourself out there, especially when you’re getting used to a new culture and language. But, by engaging in conversations with patients and staff, you will learn so much more than merely doing the bare minimum.

As this is your first placement, it is the perfect time to get used to going above and beyond your daily responsibilities and learn as much as possible in the process. Getting to grips with everything from the lingo to the logistics this time means you can learn even more on your next placements rather than still picking up the basics.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Remember, although the people you are working with have been in the profession for years, they were once students on their first placement just like you. You are the next generation of health professionals, so they’re likely to be passionate to help you become the best practitioner you can be.

They may seem intimidating at first, but by asking questions, you can show them you are genuinely interested in what they are doing and they will likely warm up to you.

You’re bound to have a million questions ranging from what specific abbreviations mean to how specialized equipment works. If you’re worried about sounding stupid or asking a silly question, just remind yourself this is your first ever placement and you are in a new country. Your mentors know how you’re feeling. Healthcare is an incredibly important and technical field, so there is no shame in not knowing something or wanting to understand things better.

3) Mentally prepare yourself for challenging situations

No matter which area of health you are going into, there will be situations that physically and mentally challenge you. Not everything will be rainbows and roses – but that’s one of the reasons you chose your profession, right?

As a healthcare professional, you will see people at their most vulnerable. This might include taking people to the toilet, dealing with messy situations and helping people during their mental outbursts. Combined with language barriers and not understanding every cultural difference, your first placement is a real test of your character.

This might sound scary when you have never dealt with this before, but coming up with daily mantras and telling yourself “I can do this!” will prepare you to be the best version of yourself you can be. Remember that you are there to learn how to cope with these situations and no one expects you to get it right 100 percent of the time.

Just stay strong, do your best, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

4) Make notes on your experience at the end of every day

Most universities require you to keep a diary or write an assignment on your placement experience – but you should also keep a personal note of your experience just for yourself.

Writing down everything from the patients you met, to the procedures you helped with, and even how you felt about your day will help you get the most of your experience. It will solidify all the information you have learned throughout that day and prevent it all blurring into one stressful mess.

You might also find it therapeutic to get all your thoughts down on paper. Your first clinical placement will be intense. From long hours to high expectations, it can be difficult to remain positive. But by writing down everything you achieved and all that you learned, you can remind yourself it is all worthwhile. Hey, you might look back on this placement nostalgically when you’re a leading healthcare professional as well!

5) Don’t be too hard on yourself

And finally … don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, it can be hard to look after your own well-being when you’re busy looking after everyone else’s.

You’re likely to be working long hours and learning so much every day. The intense nature of clinical placements can take its toll on your wellbeing and it’s easy to forget what a great job you’re doing.

Don’t beat yourself up for not getting everything right the first time and remember that your best is good enough. You might not be as accomplished as the mentors you’re working alongside, but this is your first placement, so no one expects you to be.

While you might not receive the praise you think you deserve all the time, remember everyone is super busy looking after the patients, but that doesn’t mean they’re not proud of you. Just do your best, ask as many questions as possible and think about the awesome job you’re doing.

If you found this helpful, print our PDF to help remind you during your shifts. You got this!

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