5 tips on starting placement in healthcare

Posted 3 months ago

A list of tips that have helped me over the past few years

Hello all, I’m a final year medical student and RLA at University Hall. Being in my third year of placements, I have become quite experienced with how the process works.

Many of you may be first year medical students, for whom placement is still a few years away. However, it will creep up on you faster than you anticipate. Others of you may be allied healthcare students studying courses such as midwifery, radiotherapy or nursing. If this is you, then placement may begin in the first year of your course. 

I have compiled a list of tips that I have found to have helped me over the past few years. I hope you enjoy!

Meal prepping

Meal prepping for the week ahead can really help with managing your time during the working week. Having to cook after coming home from a long day at placement can start to feel like a chore, so having meals prepared on the weekend ahead can really help.


Now I don’t mean massive amounts of studying and revision – at the end of the day placement is an opportunity for a more practical style of learning. However, consultants love to ask medical students questions regarding common conditions, their management and investigations, etc. Once you have received your timetable for the weeks ahead, identify which specialty you will be rotating through and make sure to do pre-reading on relevant topics in advance. Staring at the consultant with a blank expression will not substitute for an answer!

Familiarise with your surroundings

On the first day of placement, you will usually have an introduction day at your respective hospital. As part of this induction, there may be a brief tour of the hospital, which may or may not stick to your memory very well. I would recommend you find your placement partner and try to locate some of the wards/clinics you will be attending the following week. Doing so in the induction period can help ensure you are nice and punctual once the placement begins.

Make a list of your sign offs / Supervised Learning Events 

Before your placement starts, make a to do list of all the necessary sign offs you must complete within your placement. Think ahead of how many you would like to complete per week. Always keep these sign offs at the back of your mind whilst on placement and proactively search for opportunities to complete them. You may consider informing key staff on the ward such as the senior sister or friendly F1 doctors, which skills/learning events you must complete in your placement. They can provide you with good pointers about which patients are most suitable for your learning. 

It’s not all work!

Placement does not have to be an overwhelming experience and it is important to be mindful of that. Look after yourself and your energy levels. Identify how you learn best and be mature enough to recognise that an occasional library session in the afternoon may be more beneficial than being present on the wards. However, do ask your ward team for their approval in advance and make sure you are not missing out on any timetabled sessions. 

Also be mindful of the wellbeing days that you are entitled to take – 4 days over the academic year – this may vary between schools, so please clarify with your respective course contacts. Be sure to use these days wisely and remember to complete any absence forms as well!