A guide to your placement in General Practice

Just found out that your next undergraduate placement is in General Practice and wondering what to expect?

The Primary Care Workforce & Training Hub coordinates training placements in General Practice across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to help learners just like you to develop the competencies needed to work effectively in primary and community care settings.

We work with experienced Primary Care Practice Supervisors who have many years of experience in mentoring/coaching undergraduate students and we have put together this handy guide to getting the most out of your placement in General Practice.

BEFORE your placement

 Do your research!

Make sure to find out as much as you possibly can about the practice before you start your placement. Every practice is different in terms of its size, staffing arrangements and the healthcare needs of its population. Finding out about these will help you to understand the specific expectations of the placement and will help you to settle in more easily. You can look up the profile of your GP placement on PARE to find information such as working hours, dress code, car parking etc. but a quick Google search or phone call can help you find out this information too.

 Contact the practice in good time

Contact the practice as soon as you find out your placement details (usually 2 weeks prior to starting.) General Practice is under extreme pressure currently with regards to staffing and workload pressures, particularly with regards to the Covid19 pandemic and there can be last-minute changes that can affect your placement. On rare occasions, students have contacted practices just a couple of days before they were due to start, only to find that they can no longer be accommodated. Practices hate to let students down, so contacting them early will ensure that they are well-prepared for your arrival and can anticipate any problems that might affect your placement.

Communicate your needs

If you have any specific requirements around your learning needs, then it is advisable to communicate these to your placement practice as soon as possible. Past requests have ranged from students who need coloured filters for computer screens, to students who need to breastfeed while on placement. It is much easier for practices to try to accommodate specific requests if they are made in good time.

Research the role

Do some research into the role of your chosen discipline so that you will have a basic understanding of what goes on in primary care on a day-to-day basis. This will allow you to identify specific learning needs that you will have and will prompt you to think about how you can meet these competencies in General Practice.

For undergraduate nurses: take a look at this short film by Health Education England:

Manage your expectations

It is always interesting to talk to students about their preconceptions of General Practice nursing. Some think that their placements will be slow-paced and boring, expecting that there will be few opportunities for them to be hands-on. They couldn’t be more wrong! General Practice placements can offer a wide variety of experiences ranging from basic treatment room skills to long-term conditions management, as well as more specialist areas such as Wellwoman/Wellman checks, travel clinics and anticoagulant management. There are currently opportunities to see first-hand how practices are evolving to cope with the pressures of the Covid19 pandemic and embracing remote working. Turn up with an open mind…General Practice isn’t for everyone, but you may find that it’s perfect for you.

Get further information on Induction 

For undergraduate nurses: you may find it useful to read the General Practice Nursing Induction Template prior to starting your placement, which had been developed by the QNI. Click the image below to download:

GP Nursing Induction

DURING your placement

 Make a good impression

On the first day of your placement, make sure that you are punctual and professional in appearance and manner. Patients on the whole have a great deal of respect for nurses and they expect them to dress and behave in a professional manner. It is your responsibility to uphold these standards.

Help your Practice Educator to help you

Make sure that you discuss your learning needs with your Practice Educator at your earliest opportunity and agree on a plan about how you are going to achieve them. If there is something that you want to see or get involved in, then make your Practice Educator aware of this in enough time to work it into your timetable. Remember that Practice Educators are there as a learning tool and that they want you to get the best possible experience from your placement.

Don’t take criticism personally

Supervision in General Practice is very intense; you will have very close contact with your Practice Educator throughout your placement and your strengths and weaknesses will be picked up very quickly. This can feel daunting to some students, but it is actually why General Practice Supervision & Assessment is considered as ‘gold standard.’ Accept both praise and criticism in equal measure and don’t take criticism personally.

Remember that feedback goes both ways

Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell your Practice Educator if you felt that they handled a situation particularly well…and equally, don’t be afraid to offer a bit of constructive criticism of your own if you feel that a task or a situation could be handled differently. Learning is a lifelong process and your observations can help your Practice Educator to develop their own skills.

Know where to access support

Practices are generally very friendly places and very inclusive, they are almost like an extended family. But working so closely with the same people every day can sometimes feel daunting and it is impossible to get along with everyone all the time. If you find for some reason that the relationship between you and your Practice Educator isn’t working out and that this is affecting you achieving your learning objectives, then please seek help from the appropriate manager/ link lecturer before the relationship breaks down irrevocably.

AFTER your placement

Complete your documentation

It is your responsibility to make sure that all of your documentation is up to date and completed before you leave your placement. 

Reflect on your experience

Make sure that you reflect on your GP experience with your peers; they might have a placement in General Practice next and your insights might be helpful to them. You should also complete your placement evaluation on the PARE website and let us know how you found it. We can only improve the quality of our placements if you tell us what we could do better…and we like to know what we are doing well, too!

Above all; enjoy your placement in General Practice and good luck! If you enjoy the experience and are considering a career in General Practice, then you may be interested to know that the Primary Care Nurse Vocational Training Programme runs every year from October across South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw. Applications usually go live on NHS jobs around May/June each year- for more information please contact us!