Placement makes up a huge part of any Health Sciences degree, and in Healthcare Science, we spend 50 weeks on placement over our three years at university. Last year, I had 10 weeks of placement: 2 observational weeks (1 cardiac and 1 respiratory) and then 8 weeks over the summer of proper placement (4 of each specialty).
Now that I’ve chosen cardiac physiology, I’ll spend 15 weeks in Oxford this year, and 25 weeks in Luton for my final year placement. So here’s a run-down of what happens on placement! To be honest, it’s really not that bad, so it’s more of ‘The good, the alright, and the not-so-great’.
For me, the worst bit of placement has to be the early starts. Getting over to Portsmouth to start at 8:30 meant getting up at 6am. That might not sound too horrific until you remember that I’ve adapted effortlessly to the ‘student lifestyle’, plus I have a house full of lazy students who only get up at midday (and seem pleased to tell me all about it when I get home each evening). It’s a shock to the system, but one I’m happy to get used to when I graduate and get a job.
Travelling can be a pain. Trains and buses occasionally don’t run to schedule and I usually count myself lucky if I arrive somewhere on time. But, on the plus side, journeys are also a great opportunity to socialise (or even do some extra study). Uniforms are also… well, interesting. No-one expects to look glamorous in an NHS uniform, but I think it’s easy to forget the reality until that first time the tunic goes on!
This is definitely where the majority of placement fits. Once I’ve managed to drag myself out of bed, made myself presentable and actually got to the train station, the fun starts!
The best bit about placement is getting involved with actual patients – making a difference and kind of getting a head start on your chosen profession. Health Sciences is so different from any other faculty in the fact that we are constantly working towards our vocation, whether that be nursing, physiotherapy or becoming a cardiac physiologist. Working in hospitals gives you the chance to apply all the scientific knowledge you’ve learnt in lectures, realise that some of the ‘scenarios’ created in the skills lab weren’t all that unusual and get used to early mornings and travel problems!
An average day on my summer placement included getting to Queen Alexandra hospital and checking out where I’ve been scheduled for the day. This could range from observing some procedures (echocardiography, cath labs or bronchoscopy), carrying out tests (letting me loose doing ECGs or spirometry) or being assessed. It’s basically the same thing wherever you are, cardiology or respiratory, first year or third year, just increasing the complexity of the tests we can do.
One of my favourite things about placement is the people. Sounds soppy, but it’s true. I went on placement in Portsmouth with three of the boys from my year, and it was brilliant fun (don’t get overinflated egos though boys…). Having a group of people out on placement with you who are going through the same thing is a great support mechanism, and they make train journeys a lot less boring in the mornings! The staff on placement really look out for you, and are constantly trying to show you new things. I got the chance to do a little bit of echo, which I wouldn’t usually experience until third year. I even got to meet Peter Andre when he was filming a five part documentary series for ITV’s This Morning, and said hello to him. Then some of the staff had a quick chat about alcohol gel and moisturisers with him, as you do!
And the patients are amazing. Working in a healthcare profession, you get the chance to meet so many different people from all walks of life. If people aren’t for you, then maybe working in healthcare isn’t either. That’s not to say I found it easy from the start: I really had to build my confidence and inter-personal skills up before summer, so that I could successfully interview patients, and show them I knew what I was doing. But I was so glad I managed it, and now know more than ever that this is what I want to do.
So, I hope that gives you more of an idea about what goes on in placement. Expect the unexpected, as anything goes (proven by the TV crews visit) and placement is the most valuable tool you can have for a Health Sciences degree. As much as we as students like to moan about the work, and the early starts, we all know that we’re doing this for a reason. And secretly love every minute.