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'Mentors have a lasting impact on students'


Making the transition from student nurse to fully qualified and autonomous practitioner is probably the biggest and hardest step to take in a nursing journey.

This is the subject of our research report on page 12. Throughout training, students will always be supervised, their thinking double-checked and their decisions rubber stamped - ultimately a safety net is in place.

And while there will be excitement at being able to make their own clinical decisions there will also be some fear, understandably.

The first time you see a patient on your own is probably a bit like the first time you drive a car solo after passing your driving test. Suddenly there is no one in the passenger seat telling you when to brake, change gear or switch lanes. The decisions are all yours - and if you get them wrong they can have serious consequences.

If you’re mentoring a student or supervising someone who only recently qualified, spare a thought for how daunted they must feel.

Often I hear criticism of students that they graduate “unready” to work in nursing. Increasingly this is put down to the shift to nursing degrees, despite the fact that many nurses still qualified at diploma level. There are nurses who complain that university has not prepared them to tackle the situations they will find in practice.

If you’re mentoring a student or supervising someone who only recently qualified, spare a thought for how daunted they must feel

One alternative is a return to completely vocational training - but is that really the best solution? While it may not disadvantage those who train in a large teaching hospital too much, wouldn’t it make it harder for those training in smaller trusts to be exposed to a range of specialties, the latest equipment and advances in care?

The truth is that university is only half the story. Students and newly qualified nurses rely on their placements and then their supervisors and mentors to increase their knowledge.

Happily, I know there are lots of excellent mentors out there who manage this process and transition well. Our Student Nursing Times Awards opened for entries at the end of last year, and Mentor of the Year is full of excellent role models.

Their input should not to be underestimated - good mentors create good nurses, and bad ones vice versa.

When the reins have to be dropped, the examples set to students will stay with them and guide their practice as well as their attitude.

● Feeling inspired? Then why not enter the Student Nursing Times Awards, the deadline has just been extended to 30 January. There are categories for all students, mentors, placements and teaching providers to enter. Good luck.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed






















Readers' comments (7)

  • I wish I had a mentor who just educated me in a respectful caring way. It makes all the difference. My memory reflects on the times he shouted at me or didn't say A mere Good morning to me.

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  • A good mentor helps a student develop into a good nurse. A bad mentor can damage the mentee for life. One of my mentors was lovely, he was gentle but told me when I needed to be told. Another mentor was awful, she expected me to know what to do without showing me. When she had to supervise me or fail to fulfil her role completely, her comments made me feel as if I might as well give up on becoming a nurse. I didn't and I'm still here but no thanks to her. Other mentors I can't recall because they were usually too busy to spend time with me. I think being a mature student didn't help because people may have thought I could handle things that younger students couldn't. Even though we were all in the same boat. Prior to being on a ward for the first time I had only ever been on a ward as a patient so it was all new, strange, scary, didn't know what to say to patients even. Sounds daft now but at the time it was not I can assure you.

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  • I agree that a good mentor can make all the difference, I had one that even now i try to emulate, she appeared (to me at least) to always know what she was doing, respected by everyone and the patients loved her.

    How do we stop the large jump between being a student and a qualified nurse? I think we should change how we approach the issues, it is not the fault of the university (degrees are not to blame) and it is not a reflection on the mentors, it is the obvious gap in responsiblity between the two roles. We should have a phased introduction of responsiblity, and accountability which increases though the nurse training, so there is not such a jump at the end

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  • Mentoring is my strongest point in my nursing career. This is the only skill that actually gets me a good comment from senior nurses. I received a christmas card from a senior nurse who was expressively commendable about my helpfulness.
    I like my students and I do my best to help them to be comfortable and CONFIDENT in their role. I never denied them the opportunity to seek out other learning opportunities. Students are no spare hands on deck. Not in my book.

    I honestly would not wish any student to have to encounter some of the experiences I encountered while in training. These experiences were in no way related to difficult learning styles or were they some means of getting me to learn nursing 'the hard way'. These were nurses behaving badly to students and deliberately underminding and damaging confidences. At times , I would set my own objectives and look and learn. This is true of my experience
    During my third year, I had a manager who once shouted at me in front of the whole ward because she picked up the wrong phone. I told her that there was a call on the phone at the far end at the nursing desk( the direction she was coming towards) She ran and picked up the phone closest to her. I still remember my mentor looking at her in disbelief.

    In the frst year, I asked the nurse 'why?'
    She looked puzzlingly at me
    'What year are you?
    First year, first time'. I said.
    'Then you should know' she snorted.
    In my second year, I asked the nurse 'How?
    'You are a second year'. She shouted.
    Since then, I stopped asking.

    I LOOK.


    After graduating with a diploma in adult nursing, I did a top up degree course which offered mentorship as a module.

    I believe that mentoring students is a shared task and should include as much imput from other multidisciplinary teams as possible.

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  • "'Then you should know' she snorted."

    a response which makes my blood boil!

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  • I think in your first year, there isn't much chance of having a brilliant mentor, because you are more or less ignored and are viewed as an extra pair of hands, at the time I hated it but it did get me very confident in personal care. I had one mentor who was awful, she really didn't speak to me that much or spend time with me the whole 6 weeks, and that keeps me in check because I think I'll never treat a student like that. But it leaves you feeling disheartened.

    I love helping with personal care and all nurses and students should most certainly get stuck in, but it is back breaking when you are given 8 patients to get washed and dressed by yourself.

    When you are in second year, you really notice the difference, you do far more and more is expected of you, and you do feel you are on your way to becoming a nurse. You have more confidence anyway so just ask to do stuff, become a nice nuisance.

    It's not nice to experience a bad mentor but the chances are you will get one, especially in your first year, but don't let it knock you, just think I won't be that kind of nurse........

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  • shouldn't there be regular supervision and monitoring for quality control for mentors? They provide a vital service on which patient care and safety depend as well as good student experience which may remain with them throughout their careers. We should not be hearing such negative comments such as the one above where students seem to be resigned to the fact they will receive poor service. It would be better to have no mentor at all than one who does not do their job adequately.

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