Career advice

How to thrive as a mentor and build positive relationships with students

Mentoring should be a rewarding experience for mentor and student, but the relationship needs to be handled with care.
Mentoring

Mentoring should be a rewarding experience for mentor and student, but the relationship needs to be handled with care

A recent study by Louise Hunt at Birmingham City University found that mentoring relationships that are based on unrealistic expectations can result in bullying and other manipulative behaviours from students.

To prevent such situations developing, it is important that you are clear about what your role as a mentor entails, as well as how to set the foundations for a productive relationship.

Students absorb good and bad practices from those around them. The Nursing and Midwifery Council requires all nurses to support students learning, but mentoring offers tailored support to enable the development of effective clinical and interpersonal skills.

Through acting as a role

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Mentoring should be a rewarding experience for mentor and student, but the relationship needs to be handled with care

A recent study by Louise Hunt at Birmingham City University found that mentoring relationships that are based on unrealistic expectations can result in bullying and other manipulative behaviours from students.


Be clear and consistent in exploring what you expect from students, and your role as a mentor. Picture: iStock

To prevent such situations developing, it is important that you are clear about what your role as a mentor entails, as well as how to set the foundations for a productive relationship.

Students absorb good and bad practices from those around them. The Nursing and Midwifery Council requires all nurses to support students’ learning, but mentoring offers tailored support to enable the development of effective clinical and interpersonal skills.

Through acting as a role model and guide, demonstrating compassion and dignity, and consistently delivering high quality patient-centred care, you can have a powerful impact on the student’s experience. In turn, this can help the student to bridge the gap between classroom learning and becoming an accountable professional.

What can go wrong

You may come across students who do not seem to have the necessary skills and aptitude to become a nurse. Although you can coach and advise, some will not adapt or learn from feedback and may even blame you for their failings.

Remember that your ability as a mentor is not directly related to the number of students who successfully pass their placements.

Tips for a successful relationship

• Adopt a collaborative approach: Ask your student what they want out of placements and explore any fears or anxieties. Listen to what is being said as well as what is left out. As the placement progresses, encourage the student to self-assess their behaviours and clinical acumen. Jointly agree any action points.

• Be clear and consistent: Roles, expectations, boundaries and timeframes should be clear. For example, tell the student that you will give ongoing feedback and stick to agreed times for one-to-one sessions.

• Be open and honest: This means with yourself as well as your student. Be aware of any pre-conceived ideas or judgements you may hold that could affect your ability to remain impartial.

Be constructive: Ensure feedback and action plans are factual and solution-focused. When pointing out anything negative, always back this up with advice or support and ask for your student’s reflections.

• Raise concerns as soon as possible: Consider all evidence and seek the views of other nurses. Ask your student to reflect back the nature of your concerns so that you are confident they understand.

• Keep robust documentation: This promotes clarity and can protect you if disagreements occur.

 

As with any role you undertake, you need to ensure you have adequate support and commit to ongoing personal learning. Network with other mentors or practice facilitators and take time to reflect on your role, and what you could have done differently, particularly in challenging situations. 


Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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