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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