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'I feel my mentor doesn't know what she's doing. What should I do?'


What would you do in this situation? Any words of advice?

“I am 8 weeks into my placement, and I have found it quite difficult to settle in. 

“It’s my first community district nursing placement and I have realised that I do not enjoy it as much as my hospital placement.

“However I am trying my best to achieve what I can.

“I have had my first interview with my mentor to establish what I need to achieve. I have had my midway interview, but this time my mentor involved the sister who involved the practice educator as there were a few issues. I have been given an action plan by the practice educator. I will follow this action plan in order to pass, but I do feel as though my mentor does not know what she is doing at times because she has needed the help of the sister a couple of times to sign one of my books.

“She hasn’t signed most of my book and I have asked if she could sign the work she has witnessed me doing but instead she asked me to do work produce for the ones I haven’t achieved and give it to her in 2 weeks. I have only 4 weeks left and I’m worried that if she is not happy with what I have done that she won’t sign my book. 

“I am already doing a presentation for her on top of the work produce she has asked me for and I have an assignment for uni which my mentor knows about. I am struggling. Do I involve my personal tutor from uni or do I just get on with the work she has set me?”

Riya, Birmingham


Do you have any words of advice for Riya?

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Readers' comments (14)

  • As Riya only has four weeks left she needs to to speak to the Clinical Placement facilitators privately and make sure she knows exactly what needs to be signed off and how so that when the mentors question anything Riya knows the answer. Put post its in every single part of your book the mentor needs to sign. I personally would speak to the mentor first about the anxieties Riya has, and then if needs be ask the Uni for advice. Unfortunately nursing is all about good time management, your mentor may be testing you as that is also part of their role. Over all of your placements you will experience challenges, utilise them so that you know how to deal with these when your registered, or may be even a mentor yourself. Stay positive, professional and stay organised and be firm. Good Luck

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  • I would contact your PT to let them know you are struggling but inform them you are following the action plan put in place for you. So long as your Uni assignment isn't due in the next 4 weeks, I would do the work you agreed to do with your mentor as it'll be handed in in 2 weeks. You will still have another 2 weeks remaining afterwards with the placement therefore if there are any issues with the work, there's time to rectify it.

    I would hand the work in in 2 weeks and go through it with your mentor. That would also be an ideal time to talk about what she will and won't sign in your book; for everything she will sign, ask her to do so in that meeting, don't leave it for the last week or day of placement. For anything else that your mentor won't sign, despite them witnessing you doing it or you have produced work for, ask your mentor why she won't sign it (she shouldn't refuse if she has seen you do the work) and if you're not happy with her decision, contact your PT again. If your Uni provides placement link lecturers, it may be best to contact them instead of your PT as link lecturers tend to have more rapport with the placement staff and can help deal with any issues directly and swiftly.

    I know how stressful it can be having a demanding, difficult placement or mentor on top of a pressured Uni workload. Take deep breaths, eat and sleep right and break what needs to be done down into little tasks you can work on each day. And it will be over before you know it in 4 weeks. Good luck, I really hope it works out ok for you!!

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  • Rachael Starkey

    I've had similar problems on a placement before and I organized a meeting with my mentor about 2 weeks before the end of the placement, although in your case I think you should do it asap. I used post-its to highlight what needed signing and wrote brief accounts of how I felt I thought I had achieved each thing.. I approached it as though I was asking for her guidance in how I should achieve my competencies and we went through each one- for many of them she had forgotten seeing me do things but the write-ups I had done reminded her so she signed them. Then I had clear directions on how to achieve the rest, plus they were at the front of both our minds as we went along.
    The books are complicated and many mentors find them difficult to negotiate... so do us students most of the time!! I think you need to be really clear in what you have done and what you need to do from here on in. In future placements it might be an idea to sit down at the end of each week to get a few things signed off, many mentors have more than one student and do this on top of their jobs, so it's difficult to remember everything.
    If she won't co-operate with you then definitely get the uni involved, there is nothing wrong with asking for support from them.
    And don't forget that all the time you are learning about the kind of mentor you want to be when you get there...! ;)

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  • Some good advice from posters here for you. It is important to learn from every experience. Particularly good point from Rachael Starkey | 18-Nov-2013 5:36 pm:
    "And don't forget that all the time you are learning about the kind of mentor you want to be when you get there...! ;)"

    Most mentors want to be supportive and inspirational. You will occasionally bump into a miserable and rather ignorant git who will teach you a lot about the type of mentor who is useless to students. Read the comment from Anonymous | 19-Nov-2013 12:58 pm for a good example of this.

    Good luck.

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  • I am a mentor and having read your question it seems you are not that interested in a community setting. I assume your mentor has his/her own workload visiting patients in community etc. Why not approach your mentor ask him/her if their are any task she needs completed could be doing referrals to another service contacting patients, leaising with GPs hospitals etc. Now when your mentor see how proactive you are this will help. As a student I did this on my community placement and my mentor encouraged me even more to do this as it not only helped my mentor but I learned so much from my placement. There is so much emphasis on getting your book signed and I do understand how important this is.

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  • From reading your statement, it would appear that you are struggling to enjoy your community experience. That isn't the same as not being interested. You are not there to please or impress your mentor. You are there to learn and everyone has a part to play in that. It does sound like you are struggling, but measures have been put in place to help and support you. If your mentor has asked involved the sister, it might be because she wanted to ensure that she was taking the right direction in supporting you. I have been a mentor for many years and mentors often talk to one another about how to help students.

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  • One of the most valuable skills a nurse has at his/her disposal is communication. Please talk to your mentor. Emphasise that you appreciate her support but that you are struggling. Explain exactly what you need from her. IF that doesn't work, talk to your tutor and ask her to intervene. It might be that your mentor is struggling in the role, maybe she has not been given enough training/support herself. It could be that your mentor is not communicating effectively with you. This is a good learning process for both of you. Try and see the positives, learn as much as you can while you are out there as it will help in future if you become involved in discharge planning. It's a shame that so much of a placement is taken up worrying about being signed off for this and that instead of being able to enjoy the actual experience. Nursing patients in their own home can be a wonderful experience. Think about what you are actually doing, keeping a patient comfortable in their own home, their own safe haven.

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  • I am at the end of my second year and have been in situations where I have felt that I needed support from my university tutors. I have asked for support 'by the book' but it has never produced anything positive. I find that the best solution to get on with it on your own. You don't need to do anything for your mentor. It's your placement.

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  • It sounds like your mentor is asking you to provide evidence to support your competence? !? I assume you have involved the link lecturer for that placement area ? Is the fact that you are not enjoying the placement obvious to your mentor and patients? Is this why an action plan has been developed? I think you need to have a professional discussion with your mentor and ask for honest constructive feedback invite your link lecturer to attend. Be pro active !

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  • Anonymous | 20-Nov-2013 5:19 pm

    "I find that the best solution to get on with it on your own."

    That isn't good enough. Nursing cannot be self taught. Every student is entitled to a mentor/co-mentors in every placement.

    "You don't need to do anything for your mentor. "

    Actually you do. You need to satisfy your mentor that you are achieving the required outcomes and prove that you are working in to a safe and competent standard for your level.

    There is the beginning of a debate about mentoring and it is long overdue. For students and mentors alike.

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