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Becoming a mentor?

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I feel the students on our ward get a raw deal. No one seems to have time for them and they do not appear to be learning anything. I would like to help but don’t know where to start. What approach should I take?

As your ward is part of the local nursing college’s nursing placement scheme, there are likely to be systems in place to support the students – whether or not these systems are working effectively.

There should be formal links between the ward and the college or university and trained nurses on the ward, usually called mentors or assessors, will have specific responsibilities for supporting students.

Talk to your ward manager – they will know what is in place and who has responsibility. If you get the chance, make contact with a representative from the local university when they come to visit the ward.

Find out from the students what they think of their ward experience. Is anything lacking when they compare it with other wards? What are the good points? Have they been formally asked to evaluate their placement?

By doing all this you will build up a picture of the current situation and be in a stronger position to help put any shortcomings right.

Armed with this information, you can approach your colleagues, perhaps at a team meeting, and initiate a discussion. Start by building on the positive aspects of things you have discovered and suggest the team thinks of ways of building on these successes.

Be prepared for some colleagues to blame pressure of work on any shortcomings in student support. This can be a problem and needs to be addressed.

You can consider becoming a mentor or assessor yourself. Find out what is required to take advantage of any available training.

Many wards give the overall responsibility for monitoring and supporting the learning environment to one person – a nurse who has a particular interest in supporting learners. Is this something you could consider? Discuss it with your ward manager. This could be a worthwhile career opportunity for you.

Chris Pearce, formerly a director of nursing, is a life coach

Want to read more of Dilemma? Just click on the 'more by this author' link at the top of the page.

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