Advice and development

How to get the best from mentoring

Every nursing student needs a mentor – someone who can be a practical teacher, guide and role model. But students also need to do their part to get the most out of the relationship.

 

Every nursing student needs a mentor – someone who can be a practical teacher, guide and role model. But students also need to do their part to get the most out of the relationship.

 

Mentors are working while they are mentoring. They have patients to take care of while helping students to learn valuable skills at the same time. Adding to the difficulty of their role, mentors will often be mentoring multiple students, so it is important for students to expect to learn some skills on their own.

 

Students should have mastered basic skills by the time they are being mentored, and be ready to demonstrate efficiency. They should be prepared to help in any way they can. As soon as they see something they can do unassisted, they should offer to do it, and not wait for the mentor to point out the opportunities. However, students are practising under their mentor’s licence and need to be cautious about the consequences of their actions.

 

Communicate often and communicate effectively is the message. Students need to find out what the mentor wants communicated to them immediately, and what else can wait. While normal actions can be charted and filed, the mentor needs to be alerted about abnormal findings immediately so the appropriate action can be taken. Any errors or oversights need to be reported; mentors are mostly non-judgmental and will advise on minimising the damage caused. Charting all actions as close as possible to the time they are performed will also assist the mentor.

 

If students are assigned specific patients, they should remember they are their nurse. Students are still their patients’ caregiver and advocate. Patient safety and health takes priority over learning. Students need to constantly demonstrate they are acutely aware of their patient’s condition and have their best interests in mind. This will build their self-confidence as well as the mentor’s trust in the student’s nursing ability.

 

Students benefit from taking time to go over each day with their mentor. This is a chance to examine actions and ask what could have been done differently or more efficiently. This is hard to master because the student and mentor will always be running short on time, but even a few minutes spent reflecting on the day can be invaluable.

 

A mentor is an integral part of any nurse’s education. They are important role models and can often become the first referees for students during their job search. Remember that the relationship is one of give and take – and it depends on the student to grow and nurture it.

 

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