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Mentorship system only ‘just holding together’


The mentorship system, seen as the cornerstone of nurse education, is under “considerable pressure” and “facing a diverse range of challenges”, warn researchers.   

Mentors have a “sense of the system just holding together”, according to a study by the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust. 

Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 22 staff from two higher education institutes and 15 from seven trusts, all of whom had key roles in providing mentorship.

They were asked about their current ability to provide mentorship, the challenges they faced and their views on its future direction, which the authors noted were a “subject of ongoing debate”.

Mentors identified a wide range of challenges. For example, trust mergers and changes in education contracts had the potential to disrupt long-established and productive relationships between nurses in higher education institutes and their trust-based colleagues, they noted.

In addition, placements and the number of students that could be supported were under pressure from service and team reconfigurations, and a reduction in the number of qualified nurses.

Conflicting demands on time were also becoming “increasingly acute” for link lecturers, who said they regretted the reduction in time they were able to spend in practice settings.

Meanwhile, mentors reported often having to use their own time to meet mentorship standards set by the Nursing Midwifery Council.  

The majority of those interviewed thought that the NMC’s standard of students spending 40% of their time working with a mentor was met for “most” students.

But this was only achieved with “difficulty” in some of the busiest settings and could “depend on mentors using their own time to fulfil all the requirements of their mentoring role”.

More challenging still was meeting the NMC standard of sign-off mentors having one hour a week protected time to spend with final destination placement students. This could also depend on mentors using their own time, especially in acute adult and mental health settings.

The authors highlighted that interviewees often had “diverse views” on potential solutions to the challenges and on how the system work in future.

For example, views were split on whether all nurses should be mentors or whether the role should be filled by a smaller group of nurses who had been trained in mentorship as a specialist career pathway and could spend more time with students.

Sarah Robinson, lead researcher and visiting senior research fellow at the NNRU, said: “Our research showed that delivering mentorship in practice depends on a range of trust and HEI personnel involved in a complex network of inter-related activities.

“Although much is being achieved, the staff we spoke to highlighted numerous challenges facing mentorship,” she said.

“Given the centrality of mentorship to the preparation of the next generation of nurses, the challenges it faces and the very diverse views held about future directions – the next stage is for the profession and the statutory body to discuss and debate the findings and develop a blueprint for the future,” she added.

The study is one of a four-part research programme, called “Readiness for Work”, which was commissioned by the strategic health authority NHS London to look into the factors affecting newly qualified nurses in the capital.

As revealed by Nursing Times, another arm of the programme found that ethnicity affected job chances for new nurses.


Readers' comments (57)

  • michael stone

    were a “subject of ongoing debate”.

    Isn't almost everything ?

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  • Michael Fowler

    From a students perspective there are some extremely good mentors out there who help train and prepare you, and then mentors who couldn't be any less interested. I think from my experience there is a strong argument that not All nurses should be mentors.

    Having only nurses with specialist training mentoring students would have resolved many problems I have come a cross in my nursing studies and does seem a logical step forward.

    What I can not understand from this research though, is when debating whether the mentoring system needs to be overhauled why have students themselves not be question to give ideas, thoughts on feeling on what they would like to see improved to benefit their learning... After all that is that mentoring is about

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  • michael stone

    Michael Fowler | 8-Jan-2013 12:06 pm

    Michael, asking perceptive questions, such as 'why were the students not asked', will get you treated as 'a troublemaker' in all probability. But not by those other people, who bother to think (not necessarily the majority).

    Keep it up !

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  • tinkerbell

    my student asked me today

    'Do you get paid extra for being a mentor'

    I answered 'no'

    she said 'well you should do'.

    'Good idea' i replied.

    Although i enjoy mentoring and sharing the knowledge and skills and the thought has never crossed my mind before that we should be paid it did make me think.

    She also told me that most of her cohort are planning on going to Saudi when they qualify as the pay is so much better.

    I don't think Cameron can rely on taking the next lot of qualified nurses for granted.

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  • this was an extremely small 'study' - only 27 participants.

    why can't we have ward based clinical facilitators like we did in the good old days. why can't we have enough staff nurses to work alongside student nurses like we did in the good old days.

    answers on a post-card please Mr C.

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  • "Do you get paid extra for being a mentor'"

    poor reflection on our culture that everybody now expects extra just for doing their salaried job. aren't all the bonuses and incentives what have drained our economy in the first place and helped to lead to the degradation of care.

    I support the priest who said on the tv news that everybody seems to be forgetting that the economy is there to serve the people and not the other way round.

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  • May I add to the debate by saying that this a only a part of the UK and we should be careful not to generalise these findings too widely without looking at the research methodolgy and methods more closely. I recently carried out an exploratory survey with nearly 1800 qualified mentors and did not find this to be the case at all. This survey revealed quite postive aspects about the mentor role and particulary that mentors rated the support they recieved as beeing good/very good and that this perceived support was the lynchpin for them continuing as a mentor and making the difficult decsions mentors have to make from time to time.
    thanks for reading
    Lynn Brown

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  • Mentors are paid! See NHS band 5/6/7 job descriptions and the KSF!

    How many 'mentors' complete mentor modules yet never mentor! Just collecting academic credits for CPD!

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  • Again as a current student, I find a certain sense of disappointment that students are not part of this study, particularly given that this seems it will be quite influential when it comes to the future of education delivery. I do not think a separate central group of mentors is a good idea, the best experiences I have had as a student were actually spent not with my mentor, but with those who really got stuck in and spent time with patients etc, which due to the pressures of being one of the few qualified on shift and thus very Admin. orientated, my mentor was unable to do. I am a mental health student too, and wonder if this has been taken into account when discussing the future of mentorship.

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  • hear hear. Mentoring and supporting students and other colleagues is part of your job and not an additional extra. you have the wrong attitude to be a mentor.

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