For a Student, learning in a Clinical Area can be rewarding and challenging but some experiences undertaken can be a waste of time to the student (Baraz et al, 2015). As part of the Student Nurses course, placements are an essential part so that they can gain knowledge and skills with the support from the Mentor. A theme has been found that Mentors can be too busy to provide the support needed for that individual Student Nurses ability. Mentors have found that due to staff shortages, decreased time and reduced number of resources that there are barriers to teaching Students (Emanuel and Pryce-Miller, 2013).
Students have found that some Nurses will keenly support and allow them to make mistakes in a setting where they will still be valued and respected. However, some Nurses find the accountability of supporting Student Nurses tricky and do not try to hide their annoyance of having a Student. On these days, Student Nurses felt useless, their eagerness to learn was reduced and concluded them to be wasted learning days. Student Nurses are aware of how busy the Clinical Environment can be and what really are needed are employees not Students. This meant that Students were appreciated by some nurses and felt as part of a team because they were being engaged and supported to learn new skills. This meant that they had increased confidence and recognised as capable in certain tasks (Levett-Jones et al, 2008).
Unsupportive Mentors at times have underestimated the skills that a Student already has. Another factor is that at times Mentors can have too many Students assigned them which means that the Mentor is not able to spend an equal amount of time with each one of them, therefore the support they need is not available (Hughes & Lyte, 2009). In the eyes of a Student Nurse, a mentor may be unsupportive because they are not taking the role of being a Mentor seriously. This may be because the Mentor has not recognised the Students enthusiasm which could lead to a breakdown in communication and therefore affect their self-esteem (Kinnell & Hughes, 2010).
The Royal College of Nursing (2017) states that Students ‘should not be placed in a situation where adequate levels of support cannot be guaranteed.’ If the placement area is known to be unsupportive to students, the area may not be the first place students who are qualifying soon choose to come to. If students have a successful placement and a supportive Mentor they may be persuaded to apply for a job there as a Newly Qualified Nurse (Elcock and Sharples, 2011). Mentors have said that they have felt overwhelmed and inadequately prepared for the role and difficulty filling out their placement document due to lack of support. (Veeramah, 2012).
To be an effective learning environment, this needs to be a place where students can be allowed to learn about new skills and specialties in a place where they feel safe and have the ability to complete their competencies (RCN, 2002). On a ward where I work, Students can learn about how to take care of patients who have long term conditions which is a specialised area and have the opportunity to visit different areas which other students are not able to experience such as learning about Dialysis. It has been suggested that pre-registration students should have opportunities to discover and take part in the changing needs of the patient (Harrison-White & King, 2015).
Students in my area are able to learn from the patients themselves as they are knowledgeable about their condition which can help the student relate the latest evidence they have learned and how this affect the patients care (Emanuel V et al, 2011). As a mentor it is important for them to be kept up to date on latest evidence because this is stated in our code that we have to follow.
For Nursing Students, the learning environment and the role of the mentor is crucial because this allows students to develop knowledge, learning and the competencies needed to become registered with the NMC (Vinales, 2015).Nursing students who have mentors who have worked in that particular area for a long time can lose their skills (Morris, 2005) which means that Students may not able to learn and become competent in skills due to them not being used in that speciality/area.
To make the Placement area a more effective learning environment, there needs to be time for the mentor and other members of experienced staffto be able to teach the student however there needs to be sufficient time but factors for this not happening includes teamwork, availability and communication (Fretwell, 1980). The student needs to feel that the mentor has time for them and this starts at the very beginning when the initial interview takes place. They also need to feel that they are part of the team and be able to meet members of the team and explain who they are to them (Smith & Craig, 2014). The Student Nurse also needs to be informed about their role on the ward and the responsibilities that are expected from them
Students look to their mentor as role models so some mentors may use this as a teaching method. This may be used due to time constraints on the mentor however this may not be the most suitable way for the student to learn in the environment. This would involve changing the behaviour and ways of the student to be more like the mentor, but if the mentor shows poor practice in the learning environment, the student would learn that these are the norm. Effective mentors need to build up a relationship between themselves and the student where the student feels free to ask questions without feeling unwise (Ellis and Hartley, 2000).
Poor role modelling behaviour would include the student feeling like there was an atmosphere between them and the mentor and not being able to trust them. Positive role modelling should start from the bedside and student nurses should have occasions to watch how the mentor interacts and take part when they feel confident (Murray & Main, 2015). As a Staff Nurse, part of the NMC code of Conduct states that we have to be a role model to students and Newly Qualified Nurses (NMC, 2015).
In conclusion if the student has a pro-active mentor, the student will feel confident and able to learn well in the clinical environment however due to challenges, mentors feel that they cannot fill their role to their full potential. It has been raised in the Francis report (2010) that ‘clinical placements are unable to take on students or trainees in areas which do not comply with fundamental patient safety and quality standards.’ This means that to provide a safe learning environment where students can learn and be assed, Mentors need to face daily challenges to ensure that students who visit the clinical placement area receive high-quality mentorship they need and at times maybe Mentors need support in this role.
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