According to the NMC students on NMC approved pre-registration nursing course must be support and assessed by a mentor. The nurses / anaesthetic practitioners selected to be mentors should be in the register and should be required to be up to date with their skills, knowledge and competencies with continuity.
Student nurses while doing their university are distributed within the hospital setting every six months. Students are looking to be supported by senior staff for that reason mentors should be one who has more experience and have the ability to support and assess students. According to Haney 1997 (as quoted by Kerka, 1998) mentoring refers to a relationship whereby, a more experienced staff gives supervision, advice and support to the less experienced. It is for this reason that I have enrolled on this mentoring program to be able to share my specialty and experienced to nursing students and newly graduates.
As parts of the course work one teaching session and one assessment were arranged. Teaching session includes informal and formal. The formal session happened in the theatre surgical room and involved repositioning of patients before surgery. The students were on their first clinical placement and are not familiar and no experience within a theatre setting. Present during the procedure were myself, my student and an unconscious patient under anaesthesia. Before any learning lesson took place it crucial to build an effective working relation with the student (Bally, J, 2007). The personality and value of the mentoring relationship is essential and plays a very important part of the learning environment. Melia (1987) emphasized that clinical learning is effective when the method is based on partnership and common respect. There have been arguments on the subject of effective relationship, May et al (1982) make out that it should be very strong, personal and exciting. Anderson and Shannon (1995) believed firmly on the matter of respect and trust and points out “the relationship between mentor and student should be upon shared responsibility”.
Learner must be made feel that they are welcome and important; this way will assist the learner to incorporate themselves into the clinical environment (Welsh and Swan 2006). Being approachable and friendly I was enabled to maintain a trusting and comfortable relationship beneficial to learning. My student felt that my character has a strong professional relationship throughout the learning experience. According to the student I am mentoring with, the relationship reduced her tension and anxiety. Anxiety in students happen to diminished when the mentors are capable of building good working relationship with the students for almost their entire placement (Slevin 2005). Personal attributes of the mentor is sometimes the number one barrier when creating effective learning experience. You need to be a good role model to be a good mentor. When I was a nursing student in my own country, I had mentors who were good role models where I learned more and given a chance to share my ideas and feel that I was valued. The results were I enjoyed my placement and excelled in my learning outcomes.
To be a successful mentor, it is important that they will find ways to improve the learning environment. It can be a difficult task when creating suitable environment and can affect the learning experience.Nursing students has different backgrounds. Some had good experience working in a healthcare setting as healthcare assistant before entering to University while some just went straight to enrol in a nursing course; therefore it is necessary to make an appropriate environment for each individual to take full advantage of the learning process (Lowenstein and Bradshaw 2004). According to Melia (1987) the environment of a clinical setting was more sufficient than classroom learning environment and introduction of clinical and practical skills at the earliest opportunity will be the key to successful learning. It can also provide opportunistic situations that may not occur in a classroom environment.
The setting for the formal learning session was demanding as the student was not familiar working in a hospital theatre based environment. The chosen location was a theatre where it is located at the most secluded area to minimise interruption. This will ensure that students will give their full attention during the teaching session. Evaluation of the learning process and assessment of the effectiveness of the session will help the mentor to achieve by good planning of teaching session Hinchcliffe (2004). Numerous teaching sessions took place before assessment was done to guarantee that student felt confident and gained the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out the procedure. It involves discussion thru direct questioning and observation and my student is fully aware that she has been assessed at the time of questioning.
The informal teaching session happened in the audio-visual training room were all nursing students were present including myself as one of the mentor. The purpose of the session was explained to the students. The session involved presentation and showing of a video explaining the patient positioning skills and checking the safety of the equipment. It describes the better ways to position the patient to reduce errors and mistakes and promote the safe positioning for a helpless patient lying down on the operating table. It highlighted the safe positioning of the patient as a very important part of surgical practice beginning from the preoperative, intraoperative and the post operative phases. After the show the students were group together to demonstrate the skills they learned from the presentation. It was realised that a practical hands on session with the use of other learning aids would be helpful (Jarvis and Gibson 1997).
To get the most out of the learning it is also necessary for the mentor to take into account the manner in which the student learns. It is important to recognize a learner’s style so that it can be incorporated to learning material to facilitate effective learning (McNair et al 2007). Recognizing an individual’s learning style will help the mentor to arrange the training according to the student’s style. According to Kolb (1984) there are four distinct styles of learning or preferences which are based on four stages.
Diverging learning, are people that prefer to watch than do, prefer to work in groups, listen with open mind and ready to receive criticism. They like to gather information and use their imagination to solve problems.
Assimilating learning style are people that watch and think. They prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models and require good comprehensible explanation rather than practical opportunity.
Converging learning style are the one that perform and think. They like to experiment with new ideas and enjoy technical tasks.
Accommodating learning style prefers hands on approach and relies on their own approach. This type of learner prefers practical tasks and likes to work in teams to complete tasks.
Honey and Mumford’s (2000) learning styles slightly differs from Kolb’s as they consider that learner is either, an Activist a learner that has experience, a Reflector or one that reflecting on it, Theorist or drawing their own conclusion and a Pragmatic one that puts their own theory into practice to see what will happen.
Although mentor and learner has different learning styles the NMC (2006) has developed a standard which point out that mentors have to strive and achieve ‘best fit’ practice with the level and type of learners that they came upon in training as mentors and learners has different learning styles.
It was felt that my student is a reflector as she like to be given adequate time to think things through before reaching to conclusion. She also liked to observes in contrast to direct participation and slow to make up her mind and reach a decision as opposed to her as good in listening and assimilating information. For that reason the diverging learning style was applied for best possible learning. It was clear that my student is good in watching a procedure before performing it. It was also felt that she was learning in an andragogical way, the teaching methods for adult learners, a term used by Knowles (1970). This became obvious when drawing up learning opportunities. She already had objectives in mind and recognizes what she required to gain out of her placement. Knowles (1998) suggested that adult learner see themselves as an independent and self directed because they made a choice that they want to become skilled at a particular subject. Knowles (1990) believed those learners who distinguish themselves as self directed will not respond positively to being treated like children. They require taking responsibility of their own learning and are treated equally in the teaching and learning process. This approach allows adult learners to develop his or her learning needs according to their own experience (Hinchiffe 2004).
As the formal session involved not only my student it was felt that all different types of the learning styles should be consider as every student had their own styles of learning. Realising what the individual characters and needs is important for learning to be effective. Audio-visual materials were used for teaching as this type of learning aids can speed up learning through the use of diverse senses (Neeraja 2008).It is evident that group work allowed the student to produce a working relationship and expectation and it made the learning environment enjoyable and gives me a greater insight into different learning styles when doing it within a group. A written self-assessment followed the session to support the students to assess their strengths and weaknesses. This style of assessment can be valuable for the students as when they assessed themselves can occasionally focus on a negative or limitation. This gives the mentor a chance to advise and correct the weakness and help to point out positive aspects of their practice (Welsh and Swann 2006).
On reflection the learning experience in general was very encouraging as my student was able to accomplish her competencies in an environment conducive to learning. Because of the level of my qualification as a mentor I had a great deal of familiarity around the assessment process and felt confident in assessing the student. According to NMC (2008) a mentor should ensure that their professional qualification is at level to be able to support and assess a student.
My student has given me a positive feedback on my performance as her mentor and made very supportive and encouraging comments. She felt she was fully integrated into the learning environment and thought she was part of the surgical team.
Upon reflecting on what I have found difficult about the learning experience. I found that as a mentor I can be faced with different forms of liability as I should be able to validate the marks given for an assessment. As registered professional, I am accountable in the decisions I will make and ‘must act in the best interests of service users’ (HCPC 2012). This is obviously no different to the role of the mentor and assessment of student in clinical practice. For that reason, assessing my students’ competencies brings the same responsibility I have to my patients (Jarvis and Gibson, 1997).
After much examination and evaluation of the whole learning experience, I am looking forward to further develop my role as mentor to be a good contributor in educating future nurses.
To conclude, mentoring and assessing is fundamental in helping the student to have a complete learning experience. Mentors and student should outline their aims and objectives at the beginning and a professional relationship should be preserved throughout. Assessing nursing student is paramount in delivering a safe and competent nursing care. Although it is vital to recognize the different techniques of assessment and the different issues that can influence an assessment.