January 26, 2010, by Teaching at Nottingham

A mentor’s role in placement learning

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Alison Clark: “The role of the mentor is to provide dedicated clinical supervision to that student, to keep them safe in practice but also that they learn those core skills and the core knowledge that makes them safe to be practitioners once they’re qualified.”

Pam Winn: “I think it’s my job to make sure that when my student leaves the placement that she’s been on, actually understands the role that I have of – and that is expected of me and how it relates to the theory and what’s going on around us. It’s trying to get them to understand what the competencies mean, ’cause it’s a sentence that often – sometimes you look at and it actually doesn’t relate to actually what you’re doing, initially, and so it’s up to me to break it down and try and relate it to the area that the person’s in and how they perceive.”

Review meeting

Pam: “So, what we’ll do is start going through the competencies and we will see…”

Ochala: “Am I doing it?”

Pam: “…if you are doing, and what I will do, it’s only, I will sign some off if we think that you’re ready to sign them off. Okay. Because you’ve got another week. If we haven’t, we can, we’ve got another week to finish them all off…”

Ochala: “To do it, yeah.”

Pam: “…and I won’t do them all today anyway.”

Review meeting

Pam: “(…) demonstrates, right. (…) a range of different professional care delivery contexts, what does that mean to you?”

Ochala: “(…) some clinical treatment, know where my boundaries are.”

Pam: “Yeah. Absolutely.”

Ochala: “And, not to try and do the job of a doctor.”

Pam: “No. No. Don’t. No. Don’t.”

Ochala: “(…) clinical, because I mean, know what is expected of me, know what the patient diagnosis is, know what I can do and what I can’t do.”

Review meeting

Pam: “Delegate duties to others. Well, unfortunately, there’s no, you haven’t had the opportunity yet, so we’ll see if we can get you in front of a computer next week, depends on what’s going on around but if we can and then you can delegate to us.”

Ochala: “Okay.”

Pam: “Won’t be quite the same. You’re not going to complete the proficiency but you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be in charge, because we will do what you tell us. And if you get in a muddle, you get in a muddle. One of us will probably take over if you do but I don’t, you know, hopefully, you won’t.”

Ochala: “When someone makes you feel included, you get to learn faster and you always want to wake up and come to work. But if they make you feel, oh she’s just a student, you just wake up and you’re not – you’re like, oh no, I don’t want to go back. So with this one I look forward to waking up every day and being, like, okay, I want to go there.”

Alison: “The most important thing about mentorship is the mentor and the student will establish a relationship where there’s a two-way discussion. Mentors will do it differently. It could be on an everyday basis, chatting at the end of a shift or a part of a shift, giving just general informal feedback and then you would have to have more formal sessions where there’s dedicated time to documenting progress, thinking about whether they’re meeting the expected goals, thinking about whether they need to go further, and if it’s, say, the end of the placement, what they might want to take with them into the next placement.”

Review meeting

Pam: “Do you think that you’ve got more to learn? Do you think that you, as far as an assessment is concerned at the moment that you’re there or do you think you’ve got…?”

Ochala: “No, I still think (…) things I have, I will need to learn. Because I mean, we work differently to the way they work upstairs and it’s still the same assessment sheets, (…) slight differences, so, similar (…).”

Pam: “What we need to do is perhaps think about something that you need to take with you to the next placement that you can improve on or anything that you think that you might need to, well, you’re not perfect yet anyway, you can’t be because you’re only a second year student.”

Ochala: “Still learning, yeah.”

Pam: “So, there’s obviously learning that you’ve got to do and if, try and identify anywhere that you think you may need to work a bit harder or you just need to get more experience.”

Pam: “We’ve gone through everything, so everything can be achieved, everything you’ve got a complete plan there to achieve everything, haven’t you?”

Ochala: “Yep.”

Pam: “Right. Anything else? Or do you think we’ve covered everything?”

Ochala: “What do you think?”

Pam: “You’re the student. You have to tell me. What do you think? Are you happy?”

Ochala: “Yeah. We’ve covered every aspect of it. There’s just the science…”

Pam: “Have you got any problems? Have you got any issues?”

Ochala: “Yes, there is some. I thought I had achieved that, but we have to go back to doing the orange, I don’t know.”

Pam: “What do you think? Say that again? You think you’ve achieved them?”

Ochala: “Yeah. But I really, really don’t know. But, I’ll definitely still go back with these and compare with it and do exactly what you’ve just told me to do and…”

Pam: “And with that, you should be, we should achieve, so what I’ll do is, I’ll meet with you again next week.”

Ochala: “She’s always willing to answer, and if she explains if she feels Oh, I didn’t explain this properly, she would like, ‘Did you understand what I’ve just said’ and I’d be like, ‘I didn’t quite catch that’, and she would definitely re-phrase it or explain it further. Which is really, really good for my learning.”

Alison Clark, Ochala Ojonugwa & Pam Winn (School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy).

Extracts from meetings between student nurses, their professional mentors and an academic, and interviews with the participants, produced as part of a CEPPL funded project on placement learning.

This article was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection. Produced January 2010.

Posted in Placements and work based learningThe role of the teacher