Day in the Life of a Children’s Nursing student on placement

Children's nursing student

My name is Ruth Jones and I’m a Children’s Nursing Student at Wrexham Glyndwr University. I thought I would share what a typical day looks like for me whilst on my placement in the Neonatal Unit. 

Bear in mind that each placement will look very different and have different working hours, so my typical day may not be the same as someone else’s. This type of placement involved me having to work 3, 12.5 hour shifts each week.

Start of the day     

I get myself out of bed at around 5:15am to get changed and take some time to prepare myself for the day ahead. I eat some breakfast where I usually go for something like porridge as it fills me up and keeps me going for the long day.  

I leave the house at 6:15 to drive to the hospital as I live around 40 minutes away. After the drive, I sit in the car for a few minutes to gather myself before walking to the unit at around 7:10. Nurses change clothing in the hospital due to infection control reasons, so I get changed into my uniform before my shift starts and put on my fob watch, name badge and ID badge. I make sure to put plenty of pens and my notebook in my pockets and I’ll lastly put my hair up, pop my shoes on and head to the handover room.      

My shift starts at 7:30 with a handover from the nightshift lead nurse giving an overview of the babies currently on the unit, along with any concerns or updates. This usually takes twenty minutes and afterwards, I go upstairs to the unit to check the board to see where I’ll be based and who I’ll be working with for the day. After checking this, the nurses go to their patient(s). The number of patients I see depends on where I’m working, which could either be the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), HDU (High Dependency Unit), or SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit). The units vary in the level of support and medical interventions required by the babies. I personally enjoy the ICU most as it’s busier and I get to observe different procedures undertaken by the specialist nurses and doctors. 

By 8am, the nurse handing over will give us updates on our patient. This will include information about any changes in the baby’s health, how they’ve been feeding, and so on. I’ll discuss this with the nurse I am working with and plan what we need to prepare for the morning ward round with the doctors. The important next step is to check the emergency equipment, measure the baby’s observations and note down relevant information. Documentation is pivotal to nursing! 


We get a 10-minute morning break, and the timing of our break depends on how busy the unit is, along with how many nurses are working. There always needs to be a registered nurse at all times in each unit. As I’m a student, I’m classed as supernumerary, which means that I don’t count in staff numbers as I’m there to learn and gain experience. As a result, I get to spend time with different professionals or on different units, and I can go for my breaks any time (one of the perks of being a student nurse)!     

Some examples of my responsibilities on the neonatal unit are:

  • Checking the baby’s vital signs and documenting them every hour. I check their heart rate, respiratory/breathing rate, oxygen saturations, temperature.   
  • I assist with noting down the numbers on the baby’s respiratory support, I make sure they are at the right settings, and whether they can be changed to suit the baby’s current needs.  
  • Calculating fluids and helping with medications.  
  • Changing nappies (we encourage parents to be as involved as possible so they often do these, but I sometimes step in). 
  • Measuring the baby’s feeds (usually expressed breast milk from their mum) and feeding the baby through their OG tube (orogastric tube), which is a thin tube, which travels from their mouth to their stomach. I’ll draw up (aspirate) some milk from the baby’s feeding tube and check the pH level. This tells me whether the tube is still in the stomach, as little ones can easily wriggle around and dislodge them. I then give them their feed slowly and monitor the baby to make sure they appear comfortable. I’ll document that they’ve had a feed along with any details like if they were sick at all. The babies in the SCBU often are bottle fed, so if I’m working there, I’ll get to help with this, which also means I get baby cuddles! 
  • I observe the doctors and specialist neonatal nurses to carry out different procedures and scans, including Lumbar Punctures (testing spinal fluid to see if the baby has meningitis), or Cranial Ultrasounds (a scan of the baby’s brain and surrounding tissues).  
  • Spending time with physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and dietitians, which helps widen my experience and gain different perspectives, all really beneficial to my learning.   

Lunchtime and afternoon 

We get 30 minutes for a lunch break which I take between 12pm and 3pm. I usually have pasta, a sandwich or leftovers for food and it’s a nice opportunity to put my feet up, go to the loo, have a hot drink and chat with any fellow students or healthcare staff.  

We usually get a tea break in the evening too, which is around 10 minutes or longer between 4pm and 6pm. By quarter to eight, I’m ready to handover to the next shift which includes providing updates on how the baby has been, highlighting changes that have been made, along with sharing concerns we have.  


My shift finishes! At 8pm, I head back to the changing room to change into my own clothes and then leave the hospital to drive home. I usually arrive around twenty to nine, or sometimes earlier if I’m allowed to leave early. I always jump straight into the shower to unwind and reflect on the day, have a chat with my family and eat some food before making sure to sign off my hours in my practice assessment document.  

I go to bed around 10pm and get that all important sleep – this is the best feeling ever after a 12-hour shift!  

Each day really does vary, and I love getting to work with such a supportive team of nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.  

If this day on placement sounds interesting, why not look at our course page for Children’s Nursing or check out our other Nursing and Allied Health degrees to find a career path to suit you.