One morning recently, I attended my biennial mentorship update, led by a representative of the local university. By the afternoon, I was wondering whether to follow my wife’s lead and give up mentorship.
The grounds would be that, whatever I may do to help shape useful and effective nurses for the future, I am going to be undermined by their teachers if my expectations don’t exactly match theirs. And, as a result of this, useless individuals who should never have been accepted for training become qualified practitioners, despite any protestations I might make.
In the usual death by PowerPoint presentation, we were reminded that, if a student is failing, it’s our job to make sure the correct paperwork is completed and an action plan drawn up, because otherwise the door is open to an appeal. Fair enough.
However, when I raised previous incidents where the university had bypassed the process - for example, by moving a failed student to another area and to a perhaps less stringent mentor, to be passed (and eventually to qualify) - the response was: “Well, let’s move on.” There are shades of moving and handling training here - the organisation’s main concern isn’t about patients getting hurt - it’s more around people taking legal action against it.
A discussion saw “professionalism” die a death too. Body piercings are, it seems, perfectly acceptable because “we must remember that this is their culture”.
So is green-dyed hair. We must ignore, then, the effect on patients and their trust in the people looking after them.
Bad language? Well, “shit” seems to be moving back to its Chaucerian status as an acceptable word in everyday discourse. Not informing the ward of an absence because of bereavement? Well. “These are young people.”
The apparent inability to answer the telephone in a way that sounds vaguely professional? Not to worry - the tutor has a teenager who communicates in grunts. It’s how they talk, apparently.
Well, it seems I’ve finally become what I dreaded: the old nurse coming up to retirement who remembers the perfect, good old days, where the sun always shone and life was grand.
I cannot understand why anatomy and physiology isn’t taught until midway through training. I don’t quite get how a student can land on a placement without having read a word beforehand about the speciality practised there. The tutor’s response: “Perhaps you could prepare an orientation pack for them?” Mine: “Perhaps they could open a book.”
At the risk of getting hippy-dippy, I’ve always seen mentorship as an honour and a privilege. I can look at nurses whose raw potential has produced skills I’d let loose on me and mine.
Part of me says “do your little bit for the future” while another part says “use that time to improve the standards of those who have qualified recently, and correct the shortfalls for the present”. I don’t know. I really don’t know what to do.
Brian Booth is staff nurse in a community hospital