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RCN backs Shape of Caring review's call for specialist mentor roles

Lord Willis' Shape of Caring report recommends changing the mentorship model – and the RCN is investigating alternatives

The RCN’s head of education has backed a call by Lord Willis in his Shape of Caring review to see the nurse mentor become a specialist role rather than expecting all nurses to fulfil such duties.

In his report into nurse education and training published this week, the House of Lords life peer Lord Willis of Knaresborough said that most registered nurses are encouraged to act as mentors to nursing students ‘regardless of whether they function as informed role models or are motivated to fulfil this role’.

The report recommends that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) review the current mentorship model and standards.

In an interview with RCNi, RCN head of education Stephanie Aiken said: ‘The role of coaching and supporting student learners is everyone's business. Nurses should be cognisant of the need to support learners they are working with.

‘But there ought to be a role – a more specialised role – where it is recognised that there are specific skills and knowledge for developing the future workforce.’

The RCN is completing its own work, including a literature review, to gather more evidence about mentorship.

Lord Willis also proposed a new model for the pre-registration nursing degree in which students follow two years of general training before specialising in their third year, which he hoped would improve their learning of fundamental skills.

He said that under the current model, newly qualified nurses can feel ‘really insecure doing simple things like taking blood’.

Dr Aiken said: ‘We need to recognise that the fundamental skills of nursing need to develop with changes in the complexity of care.

‘Is it a broad enough skill set or do we need to think about whether or not to add different skills to pre-registration education?’

At the request of the college’s student committee, the RCN is developing a survey to establish the skills nurses have at the point of qualification.

The aim is to send it to all RCN student members in April, after the NMC has completed its own survey into pre-registration education standards.

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