I began my nursing career in the late 1970s as a healthcare assistant (or auxiliary nurse as I was called back then), and was fortunate to be supported by a sister who saw the “nurse” in me and encouraged me to enter nurse training.
Throughout my training, I was mentored by a variety of nurses who were not necessarily qualified mentors, but none the less supported and guided me to become the nurse I am today. My experiences of being mentored enabled me to develop cognitive and psychomotor skills, and also prepared me to become a leader and a mentor myself once I had qualified. Now as a lecturer, I meet many excellent mentors, some of whom are stage 1 mentors working as newly qualified nurses.
Although the mentoring and support for students is acknowledged as vital for their ongoing development, there is little to explain the concept of a stage 1 mentor. Once employed, a newly qualified nurse assumes the title of stage 1 mentor according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council developmental framework (NMC, 2008a). As a stage 1 mentor, registrants must meet the requirement of the NMC code (2008b) to “facilitate students and others to develop their competence”. A stage 1 mentor is able to support, supervise and teach students, but must do this under the supervision of a mentor who is accountable for that student’s assessment.
However, in my experience newly qualified nurses do not seem to recognise the term stage 1 mentor, let alone understand the requirements of the role.
Nurses entering the preparation for mentorship programme have said that when first qualified, they felt unprepared to support students when they considered themselves to be novice nurses with no real experience of mentoring others. They had to rely on their own experiences of being mentored, despite not having the know-ledge and skills to undertake this role.
So, my first question is: should pre-registration nursing programmes introduce the concept of mentoring from the outset? This helps students to understand the mentor role when being mentored and also prepares them to be a stage 1 mentor.
There is much literature on the qualities and abilities of mentors, but little evidence whether these apply to neophyte nurses in the stage 1 role. Evidence relating to the development of stage 1 mentors is far from conclusive; most studies of newly qualified nurses focus on clinical competence rather than mentoring skills.
Despite research into the development of nurses within the perceptorship period, most studies focus on clinical competence rather than mentoring skills. I therefore ask another question: are newly qualified nurses prepared for the role of stage 1 mentor?
Answering these questions will inform pre-registration nursing and preceptorship programmes, therefore preparing newly qualified nurses to support students.
Louise Lawson is senior lecturer, University of Hertfordshire.
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Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008a) Standards to Support Learning and Assessment in Practice. London: NMC.
Nursing Midwifery Council (2008b) The Code - Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics for Nurses and Midwives. London: NMC.