Introduction Nursing and midwifery council(NMC) describes a mentor

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Last updated: August 29, 2019

  Introduction The purpose of this essay is to critically analyse a mentor’s role to facilitate learning within a clinical setting. It will also incorporate the mentor’s role of facilitating learning and assessment, different approaches to assist learners to acquire skills and knowledge, mentor-learner relationship and actions that promote learning at the same time exploring the challenges faced by the mentors while facilitating learning and summarising with the support required for both mentor and learner in this process.  The Nursing and midwifery council(NMC) describes a mentor as a registered nurse who has completed a mentorship course identified by the council and has achieved all the competencies, skills and knowledge set out by the organisation (NMC, 2008). In wider literature, mentoring can be associated with different words such as guide, supporter, friend or adviser (Gopee, 2008).

A registered nurse is required by the NMC to assist the teaching of learners and share their knowledge, experience and skills for the advancement of their associates, students, and individuals receiving their care (Gopee, 2008). Practice-based learning within a clinical setting is vital for the preparation of students wishing to go in the NMC register as this is where they apply their learnt skills, knowledge and achieve the required competencies set out by the NMC (RCN,2017).  Hence to achieve, this an understanding and good relationship between the mentor and the student is imperative.   the mentor’s role in facilitating learning and assessment Effective mentoring starts with an orientation to the placement environment and setting well-planned learning opportunities based on the student’s experience, expectation and the requirements of the programme. The understanding of a student’s stage of learning is very important to identify the learning opportunities available in the given setting to meet their needs and goals(NMC,2008). For example, a mentor needs to establish which year the student is studying.

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The use of practice assessment document (PAD) and ongoing achievement records (OAR)provided by the universities give further evidence about the level of the students and their experiences. This gives the mentor an idea of what goals the student will have and how to teach them. A first-year student with a first placement will need more support and guidance to adjust to the clinical setting in comparison to a second-year student in their first placement. The idea is to understand what their learning stage is, this provides us with a guide of how to approach the student, what learning strategies to integrate to assist learning from clinical and academic experiences and how to support them to reflect upon their own experiences for future learning. The mentor also needs to understand the various approaches to teaching and learning as it has evolved with time and has accustomed to being more student- centred teaching to teacher-centred teaching(Gopee,2015).

In the clinical settings, mentors can use approaches like problem-based learning where students are given scenarios and problems to gain knowledge and learn problem-solving skills at the same time while doing some self-directed learning. The mentor also needs to understand that not all students learn the same way and will need to be knowledgeable on the different styles of learning to facilitate the students in the clinical setting as they play a vital role in empowering the students to make decisions that are evidence-based. The mentor can use Kolb’s four- stage cycle of experiential learning where learning is done by experiencing a new experience, observing the skills, creating ideas backed with logical theories and applying those theories into practice(Vinales,2015) or use Honey and Mumford’s learning styles where students are classed as activists, theorists, reflectors and pragmatists.

On the other hand, the mentor and mentee need to seize any opportunities that can provide knowledge and skills to the students and can be a possible learning moment which is also known as opportunistic learning as the clinical setting can be unpredictable and things always do not go as planned(Gopee,2015).  Ongoing assessments of students while being supervised in the clinical setting is important to understand if they are achieving the required standards set out by the NMC and the university itself. Duffy (2007) emphasized the importance of the initial, mid-placement and final assessments to identify the failing students and take appropriate action plans to resolve the issues and escalate concerns regarding the students. The importance of ongoing feedback cannot be emphasised more, as feedbacks give the students the opportunity to reflect on things and to learn from their experiences and not repeating mistakes.   different approaches to facilitate learners to acquire skills and knowledge Once the learning outcomes are set based on the student’s experience and expectations of the clinical placement, a formulation of a learning contract is important.

A learning contract provides the mentor with an opportunity to discuss the learning needs identified and keep track of the objectives set and to provide a clear guidance easing the process for both mentors and the mentee. The mentor can devise an individualised plan to acquire new knowledge and skills, keeping in mind the preferred learning style of the student. Gopee (2015) describes that achieving the desired skill competency depends on careful planning and what kind of attitude and approach the mentor and student have shown in addition to the assessment criteria used. The analysis of skills prior to practising any skills gives the basic knowledge of what factors need to be considered while practising the skill. Gopee (2015) also mentions the use of trust’s procedure guides for clinical skills as an important resource whilst learning to gain the desired competency. On the other hand, knowledge can be gained through a well-planned, structured teaching session which needs to be flexible and designed according to the size of the learners and the environment of the placement. While planning the lessons for the teaching sessions objectives must be set in a specific, measurable, achiveable, realistic and timely (SMART) manner to meet the learning needs of the student. A variety of teaching methods can be used to meet the needs of the students including lectures, skills demonstration, role plays, problem-solving exercises, group discussions and many more.

   mentor-learner relationship and actions that promote learning The relationship between a mentor and learner can only be established if there is acceptance, genuineness and empathetic understanding with trust between the two stakeholder as suggested by Rogers and Frieberg(1994, cited in Gopee 2015).The mentor-learner relationship advances over time with various stages named initiation phase, working phase and termination phase (Morton-Cooper and Palmer,2000). The initiation phase is where the student and the mentor meet and they start observing and working together. The working phase is where the mentor-learner relationship create a bond and share knowledge and skills making the student more independent at the end of it. The termination phase is where the relationship stops which can be positive or negative for both learner and the mentor.

 Eller,et.al(2015) in their qualitative study reported the eight themes which derive the key components of the mentoring relationship. Open communication and accesssiblility to the mentor for any queries provide a basis for a good mentor-learner relationship. The learning outcomes set in the learning contract gives a clear guide and eases the relationship while exchange of knowledge and skills is the core of the mentor-learner relationship. Key components like mutual respect, passion and inspiration shapes the mentor-learner relation to be a positive experience. Promoting the student’s independency to gain knowledge whilst working with different multidisciplinary team gives the student a chance to form collaboration and effective relationship with other members of the team.

Overall the mentor need to act as a role model who shows a caring nature and steers the student to take evidence-based decisions in the clinical settings and in life.  The ideal clinical environment for learning for students is where they can learn from different healthcare professionals about care and clinical skills. The clinical environment can be an effective learning environment and promote learning by having a good team members, learning opportunities for students, commitment of staff to support and teach students and appropriate resources like good mentors(Stuart,2013). Alongside this, the attitude and culture of the clinical environment does also affect the learning process and provide negative and positive experience to the students. For example, students feel more involved and welcomed when they are treated as part of the team and given opportunities to learn, grow and where constructive feedback is given to them. There are several factors that promote learning within the clinical setting such as registrant’s knowledge level of the clinical specialism, ample time to teach, hands-on demonstration of skills, adequate time for students to practise their skills, learning ethos, adequate staffing levels of the placement area, approachable staffs, supporting learning resources and adequate planned teachings and skills demonstration(Gopee,2015).   exploring the challenges faced by the mentors while facilitating learning Mentors faces various challenges in the clinical placement day in and out while assisting the mentee’s to learn and support them to grow. Limitations like lack of one to one time with the mentee, responsibility of patient care while training the students, shortages of staff and high workload all can put a strain in the mentor-learner relationship (Bennett 2003).

Other challenges can be the personality difference between the mentor and the mentee, lack of academic knowledge and experience of the mentor to assessing and supporting the learner. Adequate support from the management staff is also important for both learner and mentor as prioritising work load for the mentor can make it impossible for the mentor to teach the student adequately to achieve their competencies. Insufficient resources can be another hindrance faced by the mentors while supporting the mentees.On the other hand, challenges can also come when the learner is not ready to participate in the teaching learning process and unable to take feedbacks, and suggestions to reflect on own practice.  The reduced numbers of qualified mentors in the clinical settings have put a strain on the amount of students being mentored and this can lead to increased number of mentees for the mentor.

This puts the mentor in contest to provided sufficient amount of time with the mentees and providing them with learning opportunities(Gopee, 2015).    support required for both mentor and learner in this process.  The higher education institutions have responsibility towards the students, mentors and the learning environment to ensure appropriate support has been put in place for them to function better through the help of link lecturers and tutors(RCN, 2017). The link lecturers and tutors work in collaboration with the clinical staff to assist in creating a good communication channel to deal with issues and inform the clinical team about any changes that have occurred. They also support the mentors and students with regular visits and assisting the staff in assessing and evaluating the learning environment and the learners.  The placement provider also has the responsibility to support the mentors and mentees by providing adequate time for the mentor to meet with the students, assess them and record the activities and outcomes on the PAD and OAR.

The placement provider also has the responsibility to support the mentors with adequate training and continuous professional development so that they are ready to assist the students in the clinical setting. The link lecturers work as a bridge between the placement provider and the higher education institution to support each other and ensure that the mentors are acknowleged and supported while recognising the failing students and ensuring adequate help is provided for both student and the mentor. 

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