The aim of this essay is to explore the attributes and qualities that impacted upon my effectiveness as a mentor and also explore the characteristics that influenced my successful mentoring of a second year student nurse.
My area of clinical practice is a medical/surgical ward which is a positive environment conducive and appropriate to learning.
According to Gopee (2008), a Mentor is a designated person who takes time out to help people to learn during their developmental years, to progress towards maturity and establish their identity.
Mentoring is a very important aspect of nurse’s role which has to do with teaching, educating and supporting students which make them become competent in their practice, confident through experience, thereby, enhancing their skills and knowledge.
According to Gopee (2008) there are many characteristics of an effective mentor which to mention a few are: patient, good communication skills, teaching skills, good role models ,trusting, confident and ability to build positive working relationship. For the purpose of this essay, three of these characteristics will be discussed. These are ability to build a positive working relationship, role modelling and teaching skills.
Able to Build Positive Working Relationship
At this initial stage, our past experiences and achievements were shared to establish good understanding and rapport. Personal issues that may affect her learning were also discussed such as the need to promptly overcome a serious family problem that could have adverse effect on her concentration. I informed her of the start and finish times of shifts, break times, sickness reporting and being part of the team, although supernumerary in status.
It was important that we were on good terms and understanding because the relationship between a mentor and mentee is very important to facilitate effective learning and good working relationship. According to Rogers (1994), cited by West, S. et al (2007), the mentor-student relationship is based on: Genuineness (the ability to be seen as a real person and acting one’s self in the presence of the mentee), Trust (belief in the mentee and the ability to respect her as a person), Acceptance (not being judgemental about my mentee regardless of her backgrounds or ethics) and Emphatic Understanding (placing myself in her position). For anyone, a new environment can create nervousness with the concern of not fitting into the clinical area.
These feelings of anxiety can overwhelm students and affect their ability to do well (Welsh and Swann 2002). She was accepted without condition (having a professional relationship with her independent of personal feelings) by me and other team members thereby meeting her need for affection, one of the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I respected her views and objectives in all situations not undermining her as a student but by allowing her to participate and contribute in assessments, planning, implementation and evaluation of care of patients under supervision. I commended her actions and corrections were also made when necessary. These made her think critically and research more about situations before taking decisions. She confided in me by the second meeting and that she liked the way other team members and I have accepted her as one of us, answering her questions and allowing her to participate in patient care plans, involvement in their general care, emphasizing that all these were not so in her former placement.
I explained to her that I used to have very little experience just like her but through determination to learn, positive attitude and perseverance, I had acquired skills and knowledge. Benner (1984).
At busy times on the ward, I was there to give her tasks relevant to her learning needs and ensuring she was not terrified by the situation which would otherwise lead to a bad experience, which might make her lose interest in Clinical Nursing. I always reassured and encouraged her continuously. Her progress was reviewed halfway, areas of concern were documented and a final meeting for her self-assessment was carried out.
Bandura (1977), cited by Gopee (2010: 23) defined a role model as “a feature of social learning theory which states that substantial learning occurs through observation of appropriate professionals”. Thus, a deliberate practice of nursing duties to a very high standard with best conducts would motivate the learner to admire, value and emulate.
She was warmly welcome into the ward by me and fully orientated into the hospital environment.
Throughout her placement period, I made sure that nursing duties like : washing of hands before and after procedures, using strict aseptic techniques where applicable, making sure the right medication is given to the right patient at the right time, using the right route of administration and ensuring that patients take their medications in our presence, gaining of informed consent from patients before procedures and respecting their wishes, to mention a few, were done properly and competently according to hospital protocols and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) guidelines and the rationale behind them were explained to her. I modelled myself in all areas especially by being punctual, flexible, ensuring proper documentation, good telephone manners, confidentiality of patient records and being accountable for my actions.
My learner was happy, very proud of me and she started to emulate me. She told me before the completion of her placement that I have been able to bring her theory into practice. According to Schon (1983), much of the learning which takes place in professional education happens in the practice setting. Research has shown that students look up to respect and admire mentors when mentors consistently demonstrate up to date knowledge and skill in all aspect of practice.
At the first meeting, I identified my learner, her learning needs and our learning styles to help me in teaching strategies to use for her.
As an adult, I used the theory and approach of Malcolm Knowles (1990) who developed Andragogy, based on the assumption that adult learners have different ways of obtaining skills and knowledge when compared with children. She was keen to learn, ambitious, career minded and focused.
Knowing the learning needs and objectives of the student learner helps in drawing an action plan to evaluate the progress of her learning and giving feedback on my performance as a mentor to the student (Quinn 2007).
Kolb (1984) says four forces shape the learning styles of an individual namely: early educational experiences, educational specialisation, professional career choice and current job role. Using the Honey and Mumford (1992) questionnaire, my learner was a “Reflector” and I, an “Activist “. I was always happy to demonstrate procedures while she was happy to watch and learn.
She watched my actions and explanations of all procedures and tasks undertaken were given including answering her questions. Research through the internet, books and opinions from colleagues were also useful. I gave her assignments to increase her knowledge, motivate her to learn and material resources were also provided for her. To make her learning needs achievable, the ‘SMART’ tool inspired by Bloom (1998) meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-appropriate was also used. She was able to demonstrate wound dressing aseptically (one of her learning needs) competently within the stipulated time giving her a sense of accomplishment. According to Maslow each individual has needs which they want to achieve. This is a motivating force and if not met, may de-motivate the learner (Quinn 2007).
Her efforts were praised and encouraged (a behaviourist approach to learning by Skinner as described by Atkinson et al (1996) as ‘shaping behaviour’). Regular formative feedbacks were given which made her feel recognised, valued, respected and thus increasing her self-esteem. She attended teaching sessions arranged for her in areas of her needs.
This experience has helped me to see myself as an effective mentor who saw it as a challenge initially, but through determination, good support from colleagues and having a keen and focused student, was able to go through it successfully.
I have been able to mentor my student from the initiation phase, through the working phase and the termination phase. The ability to build positive working relationship with my student made her feel trusted as an individual, respected and all anxiety removed because she was accepted by other team members and I who willingly helped her in my absence.
As a good role model setting standards both in clinical and non clinical matters, I have been able to bring her theory into practice and she has started to emulate my actions.
My teaching skills made her feel valued, respected and her self-esteem was high as she had been able to achieve her goal in the placement of performing wound dressing aseptically within the stipulated time.
Apart from fulfilling the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) criteria that nurses should be mentoring students, I have been able to develop myself through research on the internet, books, advice and opinions from colleagues and putting into use previous acquired skills and experiences so as to be able to give her the best and not to fail as a mentor. It also made me to continuously reflect, analyse, assess and evaluate my actions, to promote my understanding and skills, (Hull & Redfern 1996).