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Time for debate on future of nurse mentorship, says report


There should be a debate on whether most nurses should continue to be viewed as potential mentors for students, according to nursing academics.

Researchers at the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London have asked whether it is time to “rethink the role of mentor in nurses’ careers”.

They suggest that a separate career pathway could be developed for nurses who want to specialise in education, noting that mentoring can be a challenging task that requires substantial clinical experience and confidence.  

In a short report published last week, they said becoming a mentor had long been regarded as an important step in nurse career development and was essential for promotion in many organisations. But they warned this meant nurses may become mentors for reasons other than interest in nurse education.

They added that the quality of mentorship could suffer if undertaken by nurses without a “genuine interest” in student education, while noting that staff could be excellent nurses “without the aptitude or desire to be mentors”.    

However, on the other hand, they acknowledged that working with students encouraged nurses to keep updated and maintain competency, and that to maintain current student numbers relied on most nurses being mentors.

Their report states: “Mentorship continues to be recognised as the cornerstone of student nurse education, but the profession and statutory bodies need to debate its future direction.”

“Is the education of student nurses best served by a system in which all nurses are potential mentors or should the role be taken up as a discrete pathway by fewer nurses with dedicated time to spend with students and develop confidence in assessment,” it said.

The report was based on a study involving interviews with 37 senior members of staff at two higher education institutes in London.


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Readers' comments (22)

  • Mentorship is an essential aspect of every nurse's job. If you don't want to pass on skills, then don't be a nurse. Teaching and educating, whether it be students, peers or patients are vital in our job. Creating a tier of nurses who 'specialise' in mentoring will undoubtedly take them away from their job, which will be passed onto the non-mentors and will lead to de-skilling of mentors (which would call into question their qualification to mentor!)and resentment of the non-mentors.

    How about staffing the wards, units, community settings, etc. adequately and better supporting mentors in the workplace? Too simple and obvious?

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  • Litrature emerging post Francics emphasises that mentors poorly support as wel as lack support themselves in the workplace such as too posh to wash ( challenges us to consider how mentors operate and how they should be supported. The NMC standards are long due for an overhall

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  • I am a student nurse. The vast difference between a 'want to be a mentor' nurse and the 'have to do it' mentor is amazing. I've had placements with such fantastic mentorship I've not wanted to leave and placements with mentors who insist on calling me "the student" and telling me they are glad we only work short days as having a student "under their feet" all day is exhausting and "do you want to go see what X is doing over there" once too frequently, the disinterest in what skills I have going on or what I'm aiming towards. Something needs to be done about mentorship because I have in effect 'wasted' half my training learning 'nothing' because the mentor 'can't be bothered' and isn't interested in what they are meant to be teaching. So while I'd whole heartedly support specific education interested mentors I do see the numbers issue, currently at my university around a quarter of the cohort don't have placements due to lack of mentors so the uni lays on clinical teaching sessions which are simply not the same thing as doing it on the wards/departments, thus cutting mentor numbers further would only aid our trusts problem in that the first comment is written, the wards lack staff, are stressy enough without students requiring more time from the over worked nurses, and those who are there seem 'forced' to be mentors with little incentive for them to do so - they are not paid anymore, their tasks take longer with us questioning and them explaining everything, sometimes two or three times on more complicated tasks or to answer further questions. Personally I think my nurse training is a joke and due to qualify shortly, worrying thought that cohort after cohort will be coming through thinking/feeling the same thing.

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  • surely student nurse/trained nurse = mentorship = partnership where one learns from the other. that is how I have always considered my learning in any field and from everybody whether in a formal structured setting or more informally, life long and am still learning. Learning is much about curiosity, eagerness to discover and to extend one's horizons in no matter what domain and includes every human encounter. it is a fascinating journey. those who find it or anyone boring may not have not asked all of the right questions and explored the endless possibilities and reflected on the answers which will raise even more questions. Learning and the privilege of a relationship with another can be highly motivating and should also be an enjoyment at all you can learn and skills which you can develop to the highest standards and pass your expertise on to others.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Nov-2013 5:04 pm

    "Something needs to be done about mentorship because I have in effect 'wasted' half my training learning 'nothing' because the mentor 'can't be bothered' and isn't interested in what they are meant to be teaching."

    Bit of a cop-out, isn't it? Blaming the mentors for wasting 50% of YOUR training? Why have you learned nothing? Can't you be bothered? Is it easier just to blame the mentor?

    My colleague, Anonymous | 5-Nov-2013 5:42 pm, is absolutely spot on. It is a partnership. There is nothing to be gained from simply dumping the responsibility for everything at the door of mentors. I love being a mentor. But I am a senior, very busy and hands on nurse who receives no support in my mentorship role. With every new student, the university changes the paperwork, outcome criteria, etc. The students themselves often don't understand what is required. My acute environment is a great place to learn, and I and my colleagues work very hard to give our students the best experience possible. They, like us, are just people. Some students are brilliant, some are lazy and disinterested. I wonder whose fault that is?More staff and support for mentors please, not fewer mentors.

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  • I have been a mentor for some years now before it was made compulsory by my trust. I have really enjoyed it and hope with my knowledge and skills have helped student nurses learn from their placement with me. I have to admit it is hard work as we don't always get extra time taken into account the time spent with students. The only problem I have found is that the role of mentor is then a sign off mentor. Then you mentor sign off mentors and then you sign off mentors to be. So the role then becomes overwhelming. I do believe that more in-depth training is necessary if this role is being extended for the benefit of the student and the mentor. I do at times feel out of my depth as students appear more academic than when I trained 35 years ago. I have to admit though I am secretly proud that I have signed off some pretty amazing students who I know will be an absolute asset to the health profession.

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  • It sounds a bit like re-inventing the wheel, and creeping back to clinical educators 'of a different kind'. They spent time on essential care and practical skills, which wouldn't be such a bad thing, me thinks. With fewer of them, and working to a programme, education was more consistent. I also see the other side of the coin, whereby ward/dept staff want/need to keep up their skills through mentoring. There lies another issue, if these changes come into being, then staff need more support in updating and progressing their skills. At present, this is inconsistent, and sometimes non-existent.

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  • The big issue here is that most mentors would I think be much more effective if staffing levels were appropriate for them to undertake the role (and more importantly for them to undertake their own CPD to feel confident in their clinical role and use of evidence informed practice

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  • no body can do a good job is constantly stressed and their workload is more than they can effectively manage and mentorship is no exception.

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  • sorry, should have read 'nobody'

    would also like to add that prolonged undue stress and inability to cope with unrealistic workload can eventually lead to resignation, poor attitude and psychological and even physical withdrawal which may explain some of the complaints made. we should all learn to recognise these signs and deal with such issues as best we can although without the necessary support from managers, employers and colleagues this is not easy.

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