Posted by: ayrshirehealth | September 30, 2015

Base camp by @S_kelly9501 and @Mz_Kimb

Base camp by @S_kelly9501 and @Mz_KimbBack to Base


Driving in to the car park of my very first placement was nerve wracking to say the least.  NWKACThe feeling of nausea was overwhelming, coupled with a quivering lip on the verge of tears; I’d rather just go home.

Managing to eventually drag myself out of the car and start heading towards the entrance, I nervously ask the lady on reception if someone could let me in.

The team secretary arrived moments later to show me to where I would gain my first practical insight of mental health nursing.  I was shown to a seat, where I sat, terrified to open my mouth, watching the bustling office around me.  I could feel the tears well up, a lump in my throat and felt generally terrible.

After a few minutes I was approached by one of the staff nurses who introduced herself to me and proceeded to show me around the building, introducing me to everyone as we went along.  There was no way I was going to remember who everyone was, where everything is, whose office is whose, and seriously…..where is toilet again?!

Professional growth

Sherrene KellyI am, however, very lucky in the fact that as a Mental Health Student Nurse I have been allocated a ‘Base Placement’ and will return here at the end of each year of my journey.

Walking into the office on the first day back at my Base Placement was amazing.  ‘Hi Sherrene, you’re back already’.  ‘Welcome back Sherrene, how are you doing’?

What a lovely feeling.  I felt like I had been away on holiday and was returning back.  I had built a relationship with the staff and was familiar with my surroundings.

I felt so much more at ease and able to ask questions without fear of reprimand for asking to go over something I may have covered before.

My confidence was through the roof compared with that very first day, sat in the car park, wishing for home.

base campThe people around you can watch you grow as a professional practitioner. They see you from day one right up until your sign off stage for registration. You begin to build knowledge and skills based on the foundations of your very first day and develop these over the remaining practice learning experiences.  Relationships build and bonds are made with staff and those they care for.

This makes leaving particularly hard as you feel like you belong and are part of the team.  They have invested so much time, effort and patience in you and then you leave.

Starting over Vs building on a foundation

It is of my opinion that if I didn’t have a base placement and were to be placed somewhere different each time, I would be starting over again as each placement can be entirely different from the previous one.  CareerEach setting and environment, although all relative to mental health, can vary in structure, routine, care planning and interventions.

I also feel that, as the staff at my base placement have known me since the beginning of my journey, I am not having to start over again in my learning as they know where I am at.

I can’t help but wonder though.

What if a student were to dislike the place they were expected to return to each year?

  • What if they didn’t have an interest in the kind of base they have been allocated?
  • And how close is too close with regards to relationships built with staff?
  • Can you be too familiar as a student?

Though I have had these thoughts, my own personal experience of a base placement has been fantastic.  I have had an amazing experience so far with an amazing group of staff and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and I can’t wait to return next year.


The concept of base placements was relatively new to me as my own training involved many short spells in various placements. I have to admit my first reaction was slightly cynical – what if the students don’t like their placement! Welcome MatI only began to consider the impact for me as a nurse as I started working with Sherrene when she returned back to the team for her second stint.

It felt lovely to see her smiling face back and ready to learn which was a wee boost for us all. I could see her learning and skills had developed so quickly and she was able to bring us learning from her placements in between.

Kim BarronI was irrationally concerned she may get bored being back with us and was keen to ensure that she was able to keep momentum and passion for the role.

I say irrational as it was quickly proven that her abilities were improving and we have so much to learn from each other

I feel a sense of pride when I see Sherrene doing something she wasn’t able to do before or doing something more autonomously. And I feel excited to see how she keeps continuing on her journey and the registered nurse she will become. My investment in her and her development would surely provide a more meaningful ‘signing off’. After all we are 50% responsible for student nurses, easily forgotten in the bustle of everyday work.

Sherrene and I discussed base placements and agreed it is a positive way of working but we still had lots of questions about this way of working for example, where are the boundaries? BoundariesYou naturally become closer to a person as time goes on. Does this lead to a more real working experience? Or does it negatively impact on the student experience?

This led to the question – Is it better to return to the same mentor not just base? I also wondered does it limit students exposure to the vast array of roles mental health nurses can undertake?

I also questioned if we as staff wrongly prioritise student experiences. Do we automatically offer them to Shereene because she is our base student or in fact wrongly prioritise other student as we believe she will get a chance to experience it eventually.

And the most important question of all – how will we cope when she is gone!

@S_Kelly9501 & @mz_kimb

We hope our reflection has been helpful in raising some of the issues experienced with the use of base placements.

Sherrene KellyKim BarronWe recognize the importance of the student and staff members experience of each other and the powerful role it can play in each others practice and therefore ultimately the care given to people who use our services.

Our aim is to prompt some more conversations around base placements and the student experience and we would love to hear about others experience.

We even hope may even be invited back to blog again in a couple of years at Sherrene’s graduation!

This week’s blog was by @S_Kelly9501 (Sherrene Kelly), Mental Health Student Nurse, University of the West of Scotland and @Mz_KimB (Kim Barron), Staff Nurse, East Ayrshire Community Mental Health Team, East Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership.


  1. good blog and good to see both sides of the placement, thanks

  2. Great insightful blog. Some very familiar questions and feelings experienced. I to have felt such a strong connection at my base placement definitely made to feel like a member of the team. It has been a joint decision at my base to change my mentor every time I go so I get a full and varied experience from a broad range of nursing and management styles. It’s definitely valuable to have a base placement through the 3 year programme. Suzanne.

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