Find a wealth of information to help you as you mentor or assess the midwifery student assigned to you - from guidelines for mentoring, to useful toolkits;
There is no standardised terminology applied to mentoring because the definition depends upon why, where, and with whom it is being used.
Professional, Statutory and Regulatory bodies (PSRBs) use terminology specific to each profession. However, what all professions have in common is the commitment to teach, support, coach, facilitate, assess, and supervise students in practice, providing professional role modelling to ensure that they are fit for practice.
This is supported by models advocating self-directed, evidence-based and problem-based learning.
Defining a Mentor
A multi-professional working group of academic staff and practice partners has considered the various definitions used and has agreed that there needs to be a clear role descriptor and guidance, with an agreed title, applied to this role.
Therefore, the term 'Mentor' will be used unless there is a specific mandatory requirement from a PSRB.
A mentor is a registrant who has successfully completed an approved preparation course/programme that is required by their professional body and has achieved the knowledge, skills and competence to undertake the assessment of a student's fitness for practice. Mentors are accountable for the decisions made about a student's competence and must have 'due regard'.
A Mentor's role
However, where the mentor role is a standard set by a professional body, a mentor who applies due regard must be on the same part or sub-part of a professional register and working in the same field of practice as the student and has ultimate responsibility for signing off proficiencies / standards / competencies.
Where the mentor role is a standard set by a professional body, a mentor who applies due regard must be on the same part or sub-part of a professional register and working in the same field of practice as the student, and will have ultimate responsibility for signing off overall proficiencies / standards / competencies.
It is important that mentors are there to support students as well as to ensure professional standards are maintained and evidenced by students.
The conduct of meetings
Mentors and students should expect to be treated with courtesy and mutual respect.
The mentor and the student should ensure that any disruptions are minimal throughout any meeting, e.g. not answering phones or emails.
Mentors should be compassionate, tactful, approachable and consistent in their dealings with students. Students should feel valued and it is important to remember that a student may have different requirements from one meeting to the next and also different requirements from those of their peers.
Specific matters raised in a student-mentor meeting are confidential.
Mentors must inform students that the confidential nature of the meeting may be breached if the student or the mentor wishes a third party to be present (i.e. if the student or the mentor needs additional support or advice from a University tutor, Placement Practice Manager (PPM), union representative or other individual). Third parties may attend the meeting only if agreed by both parties.
Mentors must inform students that although they will always endeavour to place the best interests of the student first, there may be rare occasions when they believe that the content of the discussion is detrimental to the student's health and well being or public safety and should be taken beyond the meeting. In such circumstances, the mentor must make clear to the student the nature of any confidentiality being offered. If confidentiality must be breached, advice should be sought from the relevant staff in the placement and / or University.
A record of all formal meetings, including telephone and electronic communication should be kept within the student's practice documentation. The student is entitled to request a copy of any if this is not already in their practice documentation.
Enquiries from parents and other family members in relation to students need to be referred to the University.
Additional support, advice and guidance
Mentors should be prepared to assist students in seeking guidance from the appropriate source(s) on a range of pastoral matters. These matters may include homesickness, loneliness, relationship issues, bullying, bereavement, health issues, concerns relating to academic ability, and financial issues.
Where the mentor considers it appropriate, they may advise that the student seeks additional support from individuals or support services more appropriate to the specific requirements of the student, which are available in the student handbook.
Students may approach their mentors to request that they support them at a University Committee or Panel (e.g. Extenuating Circumstances Committees). It is perfectly acceptable for a mentor to support their student in this way providing there is no conflict of interest (i.e. if the mentor is already involved in the issue concerned).
Professional body requirements
Practitioners who undertake the role of mentor for students on programmes approved by PSRBs (such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Health and Care Professions Council) must fulfil the following criteria:
- Have developed their knowledge, skills and competence beyond registration, and be registered for a minimum of one year, or in accordance with their professional body requirements.
- Have the ability to select, support and assess a range of learning opportunities in their area of practice for students undertaking programmes approved by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies.
- Be able to support learning in inter-professional environments, selecting and supporting a range of learning opportunities for students from other professions, and supporting the assessment of other professionals who are under the overall supervision of an experienced assessor from that profession.
- Be able to make judgments about achieving by students undertaking a programme of study.
- Adhere to the requirements where a professional, statutory or regulatory body has approved a programme of study, and where there is a mandatory requirement for mentors to be on the same part of the register and in the same field of practice as that which the student intends to enter.
- Be accountable for making decisions about a student's fitness for practice in accordance with professional, statutory and regulatory body Codes of Practice and Conduct.
- Health and Care Professions Council requirements and standards.
- Nursing and Midwifery Council requirements and standards.
- For some there is a requirement for mentors to sign off proficiency at the end of a programme confirming eligibility to enter the professional register (sign-off mentor).
It is a Nursing and Midwifery Council requirement that all midwife Mentors must have met the additional criteria for sign-off Mentor. This also applies to Mentors who sign off the final placement document of a pre-registration student nurse. Practice teachers have the responsibility for signing off Specialist Community Public Health Nurse Students. NMC sign-off Mentors must also satisfy the requirement for due regard.
Establishing effective working relationships
Mentors will have effective professional and inter-professional working relationships to support learning for students whose name will be entered on to a professional register or where placement learning is part of an academic programme.
- Organise and coordinate students' day-to-day learning opportunities and activities in practice.
- Have knowledge and understanding of factors that influence how students integrate into practice and provide ongoing and constructive support to facilitate from one learning environment to another.
- Supervise students in learning situations and provide them with constructive feedback on their achievements.
- Engage with students to apply and monitor the learning outcomes provided to the particular practice setting.
- Assess a student's total performance - including skills, knowledge applied to practice, values, attitudes and behaviours relevant to the stage of the programme.
- Liaise with others where relevant, e.g. mentors, sign-off mentors, practice facilitators, practice placement managers, practice teachers, personal tutors, programme directors and the Department of Practice Learning personnel, to provide feedback, identify any concerns about a student's performance and implement an agreed action plan as appropriate.
Facilitation of learning
Mentors will facilitate students' learning in practice by:
- Using their knowledge of the student's stage of learning to select appropriate learning opportunities to meet their individual needs.
- Facilitating the selection of appropriate learning strategies to integrate learning from practice and academic experiences.
- Supporting students in critically reflecting upon their learning experiences in order to enhance future learning.
Assessment and accountability
Mentors will undertake assessment of students' practice and be accountable for the decisions made, by:
- Having an in-depth knowledge and understanding of their accountability at every stage of a student's programme of learning. Be accountable to the professional body for the decision they must make to pass or fail a student when assessing proficiency / standards / competency requirements.
- Fostering professional growth, personal development and accountability through of students in practice.
- Demonstrating a breadth of understanding of assessment strategies and the ability to contribute to the total assessment process as part of the learning and teaching team.
- Ensuring they meet with students as defined in the students' practice learning documents, which may be initial, midway and final assessments.
- Providing constructive feedback to students and assist them in identifying future learning needs and actions.
- Managing failing students according to due process (which may include the production of co-operative action planning with other team members) so that they may enhance their performance and capabilities for safe and effective practice or be able to understand their failure and the implications of this for their future practice.
- Being accountable for confirming that students have met, or not met, the professional body as required in practice.
- Maintaining contemporaneous and factual records of each student's achievements in practice and signing their practice documentation to indicate that they have met the programme and professional body requirements and are fit for practice.
Evaluation of learning
- Contribute to the evaluation of student learning and assessment experiences - proposing any aspects for change resulting from the evaluation.
- Participate in self-evaluation to facilitate their personal development, and contribute to the development of peers.
Context of practice
Identified learning opportunities outside the immediate placement are encouraged so that students can gain a breadth of experience. These opportunities help students to gain valuable insights into different aspects of voluntary, statutory and regulatory work as well as inter-professional learning opportunities.
The facilitation of such learning opportunities will be the responsibility of the mentor, observing due regard where required.
To achieve this, mentors will:
- Contribute to the development of a safe environment in which efficient care is achieved, an effective learning environment is maintained, and effective practice is fostered, implemented, evaluated and disseminated.
- Set and maintain professional boundaries that are sufficiently flexible to enable inter- professional care and pathways.
- Support students in identifying ways in which policy and legislation impacts upon practice.
- Cases of students reporting, or being reported for, sub-standard practice will be dealt with through the appropriate placement and University procedures. Mentors should be supportive of students throughout the process.
To contribute to the establishment and maintenance of evidence-based practice in the practice placement area, mentors will:
- Identify and apply research and evidence-based practice to their area of practice.
- Contribute to strategies to increase or review the evidence-base used to support .
- Support students in applying and using an evidence base to their own practice.
Continuing professional development
Mentors are required to update their knowledge and skills annually where required by a professional body. This can be undertaken in a variety of ways but must meet the requirements of the relevant PSRB, for example; NMC registrants are required to have a face-to-face update annually.
- Group Update - by attending a planned update session at work, organized by the PPM/Practice education support staff;
- Update via School of Professional Practice meetings, Programme Team meetings or Subject / Programme Quality Days;
- Using material from the Department of Practice Learning Newsletter to demonstrate updating;
- Update online;
- Update one-to-one - for some staff, these updates may be preferable dependent on their needs and the needs of the placement. This can be discussed with the Practice Placement Manager or Practice education support staff;
The Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences in agreement with practice partners, recommends face-to-face delivery on an annual basis to ensure that Mentors are familiar with changes and developments in the programmes of study where they are supporting students.