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#NURSESHIFT: we discuss mentors

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On Wednesday 14 March 2012, nurses from around the country came together to discuss issues surrounding student nurses and nursing mentors.

The chat began with a broad question: what were students’ experiences with mentors on placement? Overall, the response was positive.

@Wato388 tweeted: #nurseshift mine has been very positive. They have given me room to explore and reflect on my findings offering great feedback.”

@nursingtimesed, who works closely with student nurses at Student Nursing Times, seemed to agree: #nurseshift I think most students tell me they have excellent nurse mentors, I have to say”.

And @cantgetinvolved added: “3 mentors in dept, all experienced nurses, love sharing knowledge skills, encouraging students/ rtn2practice #nurseshift.

This was a fantastic start to the discussion with plenty of positivity, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. The chat slowly progressed towards the issue of mentors and how they are selected for their role. Consequently, it came to light that many nursing mentors have no choice in the matter or are persuaded into the position in order to “climb the ladder”.

@bartontd stated that: “Mentorship should be regarded as a privilege, not an unwanted task.#nurseshift.

The discussion went on to reveal that as a result poor mentoring and nursing skills are often passed down to students. Perhaps a concise criteria could be introduced for nursing mentors who wish to take on the role. A highly efficacious means of criteria would need to be considered but the importance of nursing mentors is clearly measured within chats such as these, with one student tweeter in despair over a recent mentor experience:

I’m an obvious hinderence to them. They make no effort in hiding this, with comments such as: OH, We’ve just had a student! #nurseshift.

Questions were then raised: “Should nurses be allowed to train straight from college? Would mature students be better at coping with colleagues and truly be able to empathise?”

These questions got a lot of tweeters commenting on the importance of life experience and age being ‘just a number’.

@cantgetinvolved commented: #nurseshift I dont care what age, what experience or what knowledge people have, if they want to learn…. I want to teach!”

@studentnursett added: “I never set foot in a hospital before my first placement, and I thrived. But I have a LOT of life experience. #Nurseshift.

And @surreynourish said: “#nurseshift age does not bring an understanding of circumstances you describe. What is required is empathy & age doesn’t give u that”.

Conversely, @adamroxby tweeted: “I personally think hospital experience is vital. You can’t have a full nurse education without it. #nurseshift

@emmajprince, in accordance with this, stated: “#nurseshift I agree experience makes u better learner, but I’ve gained more experience working as bank hca in 2 months than I have in 28 yrs”.

As a result, tweeters started to ask the question of whether age and life experience should in fact be a criteria for university entry for nurses. The issue of how to measure these ‘qualities’ followed, with the end-result proving that in order to measure how empathetic someone was, or how much life experience they had, hours of arduous screening would be required.

Tonight’s chat highlighted some key aspects of nursing. Student nurses are the future of healthcare in the UK; they are trained vigorously, the events they witness during their training are in a category far too explicit or realistic to be shown on Holby City or even Grey’s Anatomy; they will save lives, hold someone’s hand as they die, whether that be child or older adult. Inasmuch, in order to obtain a nursing PIN, they must work with nursing mentors for three years. The impact nursing mentors will have on students, their skills, techniques, confidence and even ability, is profound. Ultimately, nursing mentors will shape the future of nursing a lot more than lecturers or university tutors, because they are in the thick of it – not in a classroom or lecture theatre. Every nurse has been a student. It is key that all mentors - and nurses - bear this in mind.

This week’s #tweetofthechat has been awarded to @bartontd who wrote: #nurseshift We are ALL ‘Mentors’ - we ALL educate less experienced nurses by our observable practice. Poor mentors = poor practice”.

You can always count on Dave for profound definitions, but this one hit home for a lot of us I think. Thanks Dave!

Thank you all, as ever, for your contributions. Show support by liking the nurseshift Facebook homepage!

Nursing is not a profession; in my opinion, it is a gift that only a select few are able to give. It is an art, and we are artists.

Mikey Whitehead @STNNurse_Mikey

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