There are many faces to nursing. The nursing role includes various responsibilities, including more than nursing patients, all having the same objectives with the aim to producing whatever might improve the development of nursing, which will eventually be of benefit to patients.
Patients do not realize that nurses need to prepare and guide students to help them become competent nurses. Student nurses have to go through a three year program to become a nurse, but the academic side of learning is not enough to become a good nurse. A nurse must practice to master all the skills required to be able to care for patients in a professional manner. The educational nursing process has continued to evolve and new challenges are being raised. One of the great challenges in development is the process of mentorship and supervision of nursing students, where the main goal is to guide students through their clinical placement, to make sure that they become the most competent practitioners.
This process is called ‘mentoring’. A mentor is a practitioner who facilitates learning by supervising and assessing the nursing students in their clinical practice area.(English National Board For Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting & Department of Health (2001) Preparation for Teachers and Mentors: A New Framework of Guidance. ENB/DH, London.). Mentors helps to bridge the gap between the theory and practice, and so nursing students develop an understanding about their profession. There are clinical tutors available from nursing universities who can guide students in clinical practice, but mentoring by the nurse working in the ward of practice has the most advantage since the latest techniques, tools and protocols are familiar and used continuously. Jarvis (1992) argued that teachers of nursing cannot be up to date with practice if they are not practicing. A mentor who is non active cannot give expertise guidance to real life scenarios.
A relationship needs to be formed between the nurse and the student, which should be motivated by the fact, that by sharing their knowledge, they are helping to improve the entire health system, through improving the quality and quantity of more competent newly qualified nurses, who will eventually become their own colleagues. Consequently, the more reliable new colleagues will be, the more responsibility and workload in the ward can be shared, and managing the ward can become straightforward. Managers should be more understanding and compliant to mentoring in the wards, as lack of time is the biggest restriction that obstructs supervising. Time which nurses can dedicate to mentoring is very limited in the wards, as these have to perform their nursing duties as usual.
In the past mentors did not exist and student nurses had to learn the hard way, many times through trial and error, which frequently could have been detrimental to the patients. There was no one delegated, with the duty to guide the student nurses, who were young, fragile and afraid when entering this real life scenario. Due to lack of staff, student nurses were used as an extra pair of hands, sometimes doing tasks which they had not mastered. Some were so naive, even confessing to the patient ‘this is the first time I’m doing this procedure’, and the patient already frightened from being in hospital, has to endure the knowledge that he is being used as a guinea pig. Nowadays patients are not going through these experiences anymore. Today nursing students are in hospital to learn and acquire experience under supervision and are not given tasks to practice on patients, unless a mentor is convinced the student has acquired the ability to perform such tasks. Procedures are explained to the mentee so that they can understand while observing their mentor and later bring forward any difficulties or suggestions.
Part of mentoring is being a role model, to be of inspiration to others. A role model does not need to be in the highest rank, just a qualified nurse who carries out a role in a manner that makes others desire to be just like him/her. Gordon (2003) suggests that role modelling, has a very strong influence on forming how students perform. We are all inspired to become a role model and finding one, who fulfils our expectations, gives us a clear vision of what we want to achieve and what we want to become. Students who are well motivated and have a sound theoretical knowledge can learn a lot through observing a good nurse while practicing. It is easier for the student to retain practical knowledge when it is visualized than when it is thought in the classroom. Students will realize what has been learned from observing, only when given the opportunity to try out the procedure for themselves under supervision.
Producing competent professionals, with all its complex combinations of knowledge, performance, skills and attitudes needs contribution from nurses, patients and managers. Without effective mentoring, and knowledge acquired through the professional education, it is difficult to achieve this state of competence
Beyond doubt mentors have a leading role in our profession; their importance is vital in the continued success of nursing and to make the student feel connected to the placement area. A mentor can be seen as an advisor, teacher, role model and counsellor, adapting to different situations. Allowing students to participate in patient care under supervision, while giving them opportunity to experience and practice a variety of skills, will surely result in better quality care delivered to patients.
To conclude “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” John C, Crosby (1859-1943). American politician