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NMC acts on mentoring after Nursing Times mentors investigation


The Nursing and Midwifery Council has said it will take “immediate action” to address concerns on student mentoring revealed by Nursing Times last month.

The nursing regulator plans to write to all UK directors of nursing in response to a Nursing Times survey, which found 37 per cent of mentors had passed students in spite of question marks over their competence or attitude.

NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes told Nursing Times the council was “taking immediate action to address the concerns raised by the Nursing Times survey”.

He said a letter would also be sent to nursing deans and nursing education commissioners to remind them “of their responsibilities in ensuring that all NMC standards for all approved programmes are met in full”.

Professor Weir-Hughes said: “We want them to ask mentors, those who employ mentors, and those responsible for preparing and supporting mentors to act now to ensure that all mentors are reminded of their responsibilities within the code for ensuring safe and effective practice.”

He added mentors “must be reassured that the importance of what they do and the standard they achieve in doing it more than often meets our professional requirements”.

Although the NMC monitors the workings of the mentoring system itself and believes the “vast majority” of assessments made by mentors are reliable and safe, Professor Weir-Hughes said it could not afford to take risks with patient safety.

He said: “Our main role is to safeguard the public and in relation to judgements about competence and fitness to practise there is no room for error.”

Mentors told Nursing Times they passed students they thought should actually fail as they believed universities routinely overturned fails, rendering their assessments “pointless”.

Those overturns were sometimes due to mentors being unable to keep up with the paperwork, but nurses and academics also said universities had a perverse incentive to pass as many students as possible because they suffered financial penalties if too many were dropped from courses.

Nursing Times understands the NMC has little sympathy for universities in that regard, as it believes they should be more rigorous in their selection criteria of students entering nursing courses.


Readers' comments (16)

  • I am a band 5 enrolled nurse and have not been allowed to mentor students.(TRAINED FOR 25YRS) Now because of increase in student nurses I have been informed I will be allocated a student although I never been on a mentorship programe. Am I right to refuse?

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  • you are withing your rights to refuse
    the NMC now has a credited mentorship course which is run by Universities, and this course you cannot mentor students. Mentors who have done a course in the past, must have had students over the last 3 years in order to keep their mentorship qualification. you can download documants from the NMC website, and also you must adhere to 'The Code'. You are allowed to be an associate mentor but you wouldn't be signing paperwork as such. I know all this because I am at the end of the mentorship course and believe me, it's not plain sailing anymore. Hope this Helps. Michelle East Lancs

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  • I am pleased that some investigation has gone on with regards to mentors. I recently mentored a third year student and was baffled as to how she passed all her previous placements as she was lacking very important skills. When this was highlighted, the student did not accept my comments lightly, blaming others for my comments. She was unable to accept that her competencies were that of a first year student. I had to fail her, but have since left that Trust and not quite sure if my comments to her facilitator were taken on board.

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  • Absolutely right. I work with students and mentors on many different wards around an acute Trust - the hoops that nurses have to go through to be able to be a mentor are amazing - and then they get very little back up to do their job from the HEI that has trained them and the HEI bends over backwards to accomodate a poor student.
    Part of my job is also to follow them through into preceptorship as a newly registered nurse - it is amazingly difficult to deal with someone who was passed through their training but who is patently not suited for our profession.
    Perhaps Sign Off Mentoring will help to address the situation?

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  • I am a sign off mentor and am concerned that despite NMC guidelines I do not get a 'protected' hour with my student. How can I make a judgement that they are fit to be regiastered when I only work with them on an 'ad hoc' basis. I have discussed this with my manager who states the off duty shouyld be better planned! but who does the off duty?!
    I have failed student in the past who have been then sent to another placemnet despite the university acknowledging concerns, but still the student was passed in the end. What is the point of informing the university when they do not support you?

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  • Band 5 enrolled nurse. You are within your right to refuse however with 25 years experience i feel its a great shame. This leads me to my next point regarding the pointless mentorship courses. Why is their all this fuss regarding these courses when in other professions they dont require this,it is a given that senior staff mentor their juniors.
    The whole nurse education system needs addressing as does most of its curriculum.
    Disheartend ICU Nurse.

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  • Can I defend the student population here? Due to the nature of placement allocation it is possible for a 3rd year student to reach almost the end of her training without having stepped foot in an acute setting! I have throughout my training had a very diverse range of placements all of which I have enjoyed. However students are being sent on placements with specialist nurses e.g palliative care, respiratory nurses, TVN's before the have had any ward experience and before they know it they are in 3rd year where the nurses expect them to know much more than they actually do. This is not the students fault!!! The system is wrong students need to be learning practical skills instead of sitting listenting to lectures for months on end. Give the students a break most of them would prefer to be on the wards learning fundamental nursing skills rather than being lectured about skills in universities. If a student has not been lucky enough to be placed well then how is it their fault that their skills are not up to scratch?

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  • I agree with the above comments. Due to the way that placements are organised, when I attended my final placement it was almost one year since I had worked on a hospital ward.

    Students also need to be taught the Fundamentals of Care. And given a check-list of key patient interventions / interactions that they should be able to achieve.

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  • I am about to start my final placement and have been fortunate enough to have had a wide range of ward placements but i had to fight for these at times. Its true that nurses on the ward expect a student to possess certain skills even in your 2nd yr, but if you only had nursing home placements its not possible. I enjoyed my placement at a nursing home because i learned a lot about nursing care but i couldnt do observations because they were not done there. I had to plead with the university to give me a ward placement as well in my 1s year. But my other classmates only entered the ward halfway through yr 2 and they found that difficult. So I agree that sometimes its the way universities place students that needs to be addressed.

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  • Unfortunately life as a student is not easy.I am in my 2nd year and in my last placement,my mentors were not exactly the best,they had a track record of complaints from patients. One of my mentors would rather talk and gossip than teach me,she was not exactly very nice to me.
    I know some students can be rude,but what about the rude mentors we have to deal with.
    I love nursing and taking care of patients,I help as much as I can and all I wish to do is to learn about nursing.But at times I despair at the childish behaviour of some mentors.

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