The Role of the Mentor in Facilitating Learning for Short Placements

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The Role of the Mentor in Facilitating Learning for Short Placements


During their second year, pre-registration nursing students come to the community for a short twoweek placement to gain an understanding of primary care and community nursing skills. The purpose of this essay is to explore the experience of mentoring students during these two weeks. I intend to reflect on factors which impact on learning and ways of maximising learning opportunities to make this a positive learning experience for the student.


Students often come to the community with pre-conceptions about the role of community nurses, fearing that most of the caseload consists of patients with leg ulcers.  District nurses are now at the forefront of providing care in the community, working alongside G P’s in the delivery of care to patients.  The District Nursing service is constantly undergoing change due to the increasing demands of patients on the NHS.  Earlier hospital discharges and an increasing elderly population who require their health needs to be met in their own homes add to demand.  The expectation that the service can deliver more complex care within the home and support patients who wish to die at home requires specialist skills.  These factors offer a wealth of learning opportunities for students to explore and make the two weeks an enjoyable and stimulating experience. As mentor to these students I need to make them aware of these opportunities in order to facilitate their learning, this will have an influence the students experience of the placement.


 The Code of professional conduct clause 6.4 (Nursing and Midwifery Council 2002a), states that qualified nurses have a duty to “facilitate students of nursing and midwifery and others to develop their competence”.  Nicklin and Kenworthy (2000) argue that the preparation of qualified nurses for their role as teachers and assessors is essential to maintain the quality of patient care.  The role of mentor has emerged and direction on how to undertake this role is published in the recent document Preparation of Mentors and Teachers (ENB/DoH 2001b).  The document states that mentors are qualified and experienced practitioners who are equipped to “assume responsibility for the student’s learning in the practice setting”.  Under the guidance of practice educators they will facilitate learning, supervise and assess students.  The document Placements in Focus (ENB/DoH 2001a) declares that mentors should be good role models who value learning and facilitate reflection.  The mentor’s responsibility for accurate assessment of students should not be neglected as this has the ability to influence the quality of future care provision.  The role of mentor is a duty that should not be underestimated, and support for those that take on this responsibility is vital (ENB/DoH 2001a).  


Second year students undertaking competency module 2 have a two week placement in the community, during the placement they must complete one mandatory and two optional skills.  To prepare for their community placement they have had theoretical preparation and undertaken relevant skills training in the laboratory.  During their placement the student needs to gain clinical experience in situations that allow them to meet their learning objectives. If the student can relate the clinical experience to the previously explored theory then this will bring about meaningful learning (Smith 1992).  A sense of achievement can be gained from this learning, which is said to help to increase motivation (Hinchliff 1999). One of the responsibilities of being a mentor is to facilitate this learning by identifying learning needs, helping them to integrate theory and practice and identifying experiences to meet their learning needs (ENB/DoH 2001b).  Careful planning for the two weeks is essential to allow the student to meet their learning outcomes. Facilitation is described as a process to enable change, which is both, negotiated and collaborative (Cross 1996), Rogers (2001) describes it simply as to make easy.  

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It is accepted that there are many aspects, which affect a student’s ability to learn (Hinchliff 1999), and a vast array of theory relating to learning, which can be utilised.  No two students will be the same, as age and life experiences will vary, although they will have some characteristics in common (Rogers 2002).  This will create a need for the mentor to be flexible and creative to facilitate learning outcomes.  An understanding of a student’s preferred learning style is an area that could be explored at the start of ...

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