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Applying a portfolio approach to recording mentoring activity

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In August 2006 the NMC published Standards to support learning and assessment in practice: NMC standards for mentors, practice teachers and teachers - These came into effect on 1st September 2007. Many registrants are worried about what they perceive as increased accountability, particularly in regard to the preparing of a 'local register' and the concept of 'Triennial review'.

The standards state: 'Mentors or practice teachers must demonstrate their knowledge, skills and competence on an ongoing basis.' It is the responsibility of placement providers to ensure that the local register is regularly updated to ensure that an accurate record is maintained. It is the responsibility of the individual registrant to ensure that they are able to demonstrate their ongoing competence.

Mentors and practice teachers are not the same role. Mentors are registrants who, on completing an NMC approved mentor preparation programme, have achieved the knowledge skills and competencies required to meet the outcomes defined in the standards. The mentor's role is to facilitate learning and supervise and assess students in practice settings.

Practice teachers are registrants who will generally be mentors who have received further preparation to meet the outcomes defined in the standards. Their role will be to support mentors and students and to lead education in practice, ensuring the link between knowledge and skills is demonstrated. Both mentors and practice teachers will be recorded on the local register.

The purpose of the register is to enable placement providers to demonstrate that each mentor and practice teacher meets the mentor/practice teacher requirements as prescribed by the NMC and that once on the register they are reviewed triennially to ensure that only those who continue to meet the mentor/practice teacher requirements remain on the local register.

Developing the mentor's portfolio

In preparation for triennial review under these new standards to support learning and assessment in practice I have produce a mentor's portfolio that allows registrants to record their mentorship or practice teacher experiences.

A draft copy of this was circulated among link mentors from the clinical areas, education leads from each directorate within the trust and partners in HEIs. A consultation exercise then followed.

The general view was that the first draft was too long, including detailed explanation of the new standards and also that it sought too much detail, asking mentors to record the number of hours spent with students. This was considered both impractical and unnecessary.

It was impractical as it would require a document more akin to a reflective journal than a portfolio and unnecessary as the NMC do not ask registrants to break down their hours, just to demonstrate that within the three-year review period they have mentored students on at least two occasions.

The second draft was then circulated, omitting the explanation of the standards but including the web address where they can be viewed by those seeking further background knowledge. This draft also featured a simplified method of recording mentoring and updating activity, eliminating the need to record the hours spent on each activity.

Again this was circulated and comments received. Thankfully this draft was better received although one change was suggested.

As this draft did not include an explanation of the standards some readers were unsure if 'triennial review' meant every three years or three times a year, which would match student allocation in some areas. The term refers to review every three years.

A third and final draft was therefore circulated with the briefest explanation of triennial review included and the record of mentorship activities recorded by frequency rather than hours. Thankfully this met with universal approval.

Using the portfolio

This document is now in the process of being printed for mentors who wish to follow a portfolio approach to employ. Completion of the portfolio is not compulsory, although it is recommended as it appears to offer a secure and simple means for mentors to demonstrate that they meet the requirements of triennial review. It also allows a review of ongoing professional development to take place.

It is suggested that the completed portfolio should be shown at a mentor's annual personal development review as it allows any learning needs of the individual or the clinical area to be identified in advance and plans to meet those needs developed.

Anyone seeking advice on mentoring or on portfolio completion, or wishing to see a copy of the document should contact me via email. Mentoring advice may also be found on the NMC website.

Keith Bradley-Adams is practice facilitator at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust. Email: keith.bradley-adams@bromor-tr.wales.nhs.uk

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