How to prepare for clinical placement
Going on placement as a student paramedic can be an exciting but daunting experience! Being involved in clinical situations wiwith a limited knowledge base, it can be tricky to know just how to prepare!
Theodore from Student Paramedics on Instagram recently chatted with Dan from The Flat Line and shared his recommendations on how students should prepare for placement.
Here's a transcript of their chat:
What did you do to prepare?
I prepared by not letting everyone know how excited I actually was! Genuinely, I was stoked to be there. There was an entire year of anticipation for this event!
There were three main areas that I focused on and those included:
- Ensuring I had a clear mind to learn and absorb information as quickly as possible. his meant getting a good nights sleep and eating well.
- Remembering to bring my pocket notebook to write questions down so I could ask my mentor afterwards, allowing me to do my own research after placement!
- Creating a list of expectations and goals I wanted to achieve during the placement block. This was completely dependent on my what my scope was at the time and what skills I was able to practise, this could be something as simple as “speak to someone” or “nail three successful cannulas in succession”.
What is the number one thing you bring with you?
The right attitude!
I am on placement to learn, observe and absorb as much as possible whilst I have the opportunity. so, bring curious and inquisitive attitude to your first time no the road. Don’t worry about knowing next to nothing; next to nothing is expected from you at the very beginning! the only expectation is that you are expected to learn so ask qustions!
There’s a really good quote from the free radicals podcast and it basically said “not asking silly questions all but guarantees silly mistakes”. We’ve all asked a bunch of what we may have felt as being silly questions to get to where we are.
‘Silly’ questions have saved lives. As a student paramedic you might see something about to be done on the road which you don’t feel quite right about; perhaps it’s something like giving dextrose to a normoglycemic patient in cardiac arrest after reading that it decreases good outcomes and you’ve just read about it for an assignment.
How did you deal with the fear?
I knew I didn’t have any responsibility and wasn’t in a dangerous service area, so I was just all eyes and ears – super excited.
What is expected from you?
Depending on which year of undergraduate study you are up to different levels of clinical understanding are expected of you by your university. However, first and foremost of all expectations is your professional conduct. While it may be all glitter and glam in your eyes – you will be interacting with people in private and personal distress. That’s a real privilege and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
An important component of professional conduct is communication. Placement is a great opportunity to practice your interpersonal skills; the way you talk to people is about 85% of what your job as a paramedic is going to be. Take note of your preceptor’s language, approach, and mannerisms. Reflect on your own. I can’t stress this enough – it will build your confidence and improve your overall practice tremendously!
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you deal with it?
For sure I experienced imposter syndrome! It’s something many paramedics experience and I still do as a graduate paramedic sometimes – my motto is ‘Once A Student Paramedic – Always a Student Paramedic’ – there is no end to learning and there never should be!
As a student, patients would kind of assume I was a paramedic at times and my preceptors sometimes referred to me as their ‘colleague’. While this felt like a pat on the back made me feel like brushing the dust off my shoulders, overall, it made me cringe a little. Thoughts would go through my head like ‘You’re a student mate, you don’t even understand what’s really going on with this person and certainly have no idea what to do if things go pear shaped.’
As a student if I felt like I was getting to much glory I’d just tell them I’m a student in a subtle way. I’d build rapport and we’d converse, which usually ends up in them asking “So how long have you been an ‘Ambulance Man’ for?…” to which I’d respond truthfully, “I’m a student and this is my first placement” and then cut it off their before I told them how nervous and unqualified I really felt!
What do you wish people would have told you before your first shift?
Get used to smelling bad and weird smells.
How do you prepare for night shifts?
Eat lightly – low salt, and drink loads of water! And then I don’t eat or drink for the last 1.5-2hrs of a night shift to guarantee the best possible recovery sleep.
Any other tips?
Get/make/buy a set of flash cards or a pocket clinical reference guide. Loads of legendary student paramedics in the UK are making them on Instagram. I got mine from MyMedEquip, and I'm working on small everything proof ones coming soon here. The alternative to not remembering what to do next, or how to do something, is not doing it at all or doing it wrong. Always have a go to guide to help you in a pinch – even if it’s scrawled into a little notebook you carry around!
And lastly, enjoy every minute of the privilege it is to work in the profession you’re beginning a career in. Paramedics are one of the most trusted professions and people let you into aspects of their life they wouldn’t let anyone else into. Treasure this and let it motivate you to excel in your study and work!
About the author:
Theodore is a registered paramedic and produces educational content for student and qualified paramedics.
Follow him on Instagram: @studentparamedics
Dan is a student paramedic from The United Kingdom. He created The Flat Line to encourage evidence based practice and self care in paramedicine.