We spend so long in university that when placement finally comes around, we can feel a mixture of emotions. Excitement around the prospect of putting what we have learnt into practice and getting out there but also nervous for being watched and marked. Everyone feels this way. So how can we prepare ourselves to get the most out of placement, get the best marks and make it an enjoyable experience.
First, lets think what do you want to get out of this experience? We set ourselves placement aims to make sure we are working towards the outcome and have opportunities to demonstrate our skills but think personally what would you like to do or experience? Do you have an interest in a certain area? Do you have a particular passion in a certain field? Placements are a learning opportunity to work towards the learning outcomes but also a chance for us to think about what we would like to be doing in the future. Students of mine have expressed interests in fluency and autism or have never met a child with speech sound disorders and wants to experience that. I have had people say they worry about transcription. From these conversations, I have been able to arrange opportunities for them to use their knowledge and passion for fluency and autism, put their knowledge into practise when working with a children, who have speech sound disorders or support them to build their confidence in transcription. Placement is not just all about the university aims but also our personal and unique opportunity to get involved in different areas of speech and language therapy.
Be Open to New Experiences
Equally, be open to new areas or ideas. You wanted your main placement in children but its in adults. You are disappointed. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by showing this. You should be open to the idea that you may really enjoy this area. If you asked people, I went to university with what area they wanted to go into at the start and end, these can be complete opposites. Embrace the challenge of a new area or a new therapy method you have never tried.
Find out about your placement. Before your placement begins, make sure you have contacted your educators to clarify all of the important details. You need to know what time, where, what to wear, what to bring, the client group you will work with, any thing they want you to prepare. Make sure you give the educator lots of time to respond as different educators respond to emails in different time frames. This is your first opportunity to make an impression and a last-minute email is not the best impression. You can also prepare by researching the company or trust you are in placement with to get an idea of their values, their ways of working, research they have been involved in or key approaches they use.
University recommends gathering resources for a placement folder and when I was a student, this folder was critical. As an educator, there is not an expectation that you should have memorised everything, I have been working for years and I would be the first to admit that I don’t, but there is an element of expectation that you have prepared for this. If you know you are going to be working with children with speech disorders, make sure you have your norms to hand. If you have been asked to read up on a client group, make a poster about it that you can refer to. You can keep adding to this as you become more familiar with the client group, therapy techniques that you are using and as you research throughout your placement. The placement toolkit is an ongoing process, and we are not expecting you to have everything on the first week.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a learning opportunity, and you should use this opportunity to ask questions. We will always try and help you to answer these, but we may not always answer the way you expect. We may think it would be more beneficial to suggest that you look this up and tell us about it the following week or ask what you think first. We want to give you this opportunity for you to show your knowledge as much as learn.
Have a go!
Be willing to have a go. We will talk to you about the way you learn best whether that is being thrown in at the deep end or gradually give things a go. Whatever way works best for you, we will support you to do this, but you have to be willing at some point to have a go and make mistakes. Do not be afraid of making these mistakes as this is what you learn most from.
You gave it a go, it did not go to plan and that is okay. There will be sessions for every one that stick in their mind. We do not expect every session to go well. We just want to see that you learn from the ones that didn’t. Reflection is a tool that will take you throughout your career. It can be about learning about yourself as much as about the job. Reflection does not need to be negative or a learning experience, a reflection can just as much be a celebration of the thing that went amazing and what factors contributed to it and how you are going to keep doing these things.
Being on placement is exhausting. You need to give yourself time to stop. A good life work balance will support you to keep going throughout long placements. A burnt-out, tired student is not going to show their best. The aim of placement is to show progress and development over time but if you are burning out and tired towards the end of your placement, then you are not going to demonstrate that. Give yourself a break and make sure you have time to stop and relax. We aren’t going to be working until late evening and all our weekends, so you should not be either.
Talk openly with your educator. It is important to be open about how you are feeling. If the work is getting too much and you are being overwhelmed, say so. Often if you have multiple clinicians, they may not be aware of how much work you are being set each week. If something happens at home that is going to affect your work, you should not feel afraid to talk about that. We are just like a supervisor in your first role, we are there to support you.
Support your friends on placement
Support each other. You have been at university for months and often have friends in your year that you can lean on at this time. Give ideas of things that really impressed your clinicians or just someone to moan about how bad that day was. They are in the same boat as you and you should help each other get through this experience together.
Good luck on your placement!!
Check out Our Resources page for ideas and activities to use on placement.