Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

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Facilitating learning in practice

1.1 Expectations of a mentor

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Figure 2 What are your expectations?

In the following video, student mentor Ann Marie describes what expectations she had of a mentor when she commenced the pre-registration nursing programme. She also shares her experiences of being mentored and what she feels that she will bring to her future mentoring practice.

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Fiona Dobson:
Hello Ann Marie, now I know you’re a staff nurse at Northampton General Hospital, but I want to go back to the time when you were a nursing student with The Open University studying to become a registered nurse. And I want to ask you about what your expectations were when you first started as a nursing student with respect to your mentors. What were you hoping that your mentors would be able to support you with?
Ann Marie McKeegans:
Well I was hoping to be taught the clinical skills within the ward and be able to function as a nurse and get the proper skills for registration. It doesn’t work like that, actually. I was taught a lot of different skills it wasn’t just clinical skills which included the everyday running of the ward and everything it entails.
Fiona Dobson:
So as you moved around then, because you got experienced in different practice environments didn’t you, did your expectations of the mentors change? Were you looking for something different, or ...?
Ann Marie McKeegans:
I had spent a long time as a healthcare assistance in my home base. So I knew everybody and I was comfortable but going to a new area and a new discipline was quite scary at the beginning. But I learnt loads by going to different areas. And I had done community, oncology and the medical so I learnt new skills there and I could bring them back to the ward as well.
Fiona Dobson:
So what did you find particularly helpful about spending time with the mentor out in community?
Ann Marie McKeegans:
Well it taught me that ... we do a lot of discharges on the ward and a lot of the patients that I seen in the community were patients who had been discharged. And it was quite an eye opener because you see things in a different light, you see people in a different light. So it taught me whenever I went back to the ward that I had to be a bit more careful about how we done discharges and I was able to reflect on it more. You know, if a patient went back home and they didn’t have the right equipment or it may be that they were struggling a little bit with their health and they had told us on the ward that they were doing fine and things like that. And then you discover once you go out in the community it’s a bit different from what you’re being told. And it’s just...we can enable safer discharges by experiencing discharges in the community. So that was really, really helpful.
Fiona Dobson:
So thinking about the various mentors who you spent time with then, what did they help you to achieve in terms of both your personal and professional development Ann Marie?
Ann Marie McKeegans:
Both mentors that I worked with, I aspire to be just like them. They were lovely to aspire to and they taught me how to be professional but to be relaxed with my patient and to be able to have good communication with my patient at a professional level. They helped me in a personal aspect of my life as well. So when I was struggling at times, you know, going through the course because it’s a bit like a roller coaster, they were egging me on telling me, ‘come on you can do it’. And they helped me through it. And they sat with me a lot and, you know, went through a lot of the coursework with me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for those mentors that I had.
Fiona Dobson:
Super. So I know that you’re a qualified mentor yourself now Ann Marie. What is it that you try to bring to the role yourself when you’re supporting nursing students?
Ann Marie McKeegans:
Well the biggest thing is to make them more relaxed, you know, feel that they’re part of our team because if you don’t feel part of the team you feel really out of it. And to make sure that they understand what our roles are and objectives are and we work towards them. But I didn’t realise all this whenever I started as a student that the accountability ... where the accountability lay and the accountability lay with the mentor and not with the student. And it’s a big responsibility. It’s important to have a relaxed attitude with your student but to ensure that they do know their professional boundaries and they do learn their clinical skills, using national and local policies. And ensuring best practice is used to ensure the safety of patients.
Fiona Dobson:
So it really sounds as though you’ve taken your learning as a student and seeing your mentors performing in practice and now you’re trying to sort of emulate their approaches and bring it to your own practice now as a mentor.
Ann Marie McKeegans:
Yes, most definitely. If I can be a mentor like the mentors that taught me, I will be a happy mentor.
Fiona Dobson:
Excellent. Thank you every so much for your time, I really appreciate you sharing your ideas with me Ann Marie, thank you.
Ann Marie McKeegans:
You’re welcome, thank you.
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From this video you are able to see what Ann Marie looked for in mentors and what impact these practitioners had on her personal and professional development. Ann Marie was also able to reflect on how these experiences have impacted on her new role as a developing mentor.

It is impossible to ensure with certainty that students and mentors enter the mentoring relationship and are always able to establish positive working relationships. This theme will be addressed in Week 4, when you will explore conflict, and in Week 7, when you will look at the thorny issue of managing the ‘failing’ student. What is the impact on learning when relationships go astray?

It is also worth noting at this time that it is highly probable that both mentors and students enter into a mentor relationship with preconceived expectations. This will in part be examined in Week 4, but you might wish to consider how this might impact on your developing mentor role and why it is essential that you are aware and own these features so that you are able to guide and support the student to achieve their optimal performance.

Activity 2 ‘Toxic’ mentoring

Allow 30 minutes

Watch the following video, which was designed by the University of Hertfordshire:

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Unknown:
Hi, Rory. This is Kate. She's from UPCG training.
Rory:
Rory interrupts: I wanted to talk to you about the email I got from the head, last night, about the boot sizes, next year. Twenty new toll, there's no way that we can possibly sort of ...
Unknown:
Pulls Rory away and says: Can we just go over here?
Kate:
Should I wait in the classroom?
Rory
Uh, is it steph?
Kate:
Kate
Rory:
Steph, what you could do: up there, turn right, turn left, second door on the right I think it is ...
Kate
Ok, thank you.
Kate:
Hi Rory. Can you tell me a little bit about my scheme for work that I'm going to be looking at, this year?
Rory:
Uh, scheme to work, um, yeah um well take that’s the scheme to work for year 7 to 13. While your at it you probably need the staff handbooks, as well. I'll tell you what, actually, if you have my notes on the year 11 class you'll be teaching, that would be great, and while your at it that's the ppc file. This is the exam spec for the year 10 group that were going to be doing together and that's my register, so if you'll look after that one, that would be great. Can you also have a look at these sketch books because those sketch books will help you understand what the year 7s are doing, and Patrick Harrin you're going to be looking at him and doing some work on him, later on.
Kate:
Ok, thank you.
Kate:
Greets Rory on her way in to work. Good morning, Rory, how are you? Rory dismisses her, not returning the greeting.
Rory:
Oh, there you are. Kate? Are we supposed to meeting now? I've got a meeting with (cannot make out what he is saying, here) just to talk about the timetable for next week. Can we leave it maybe do it next week or the week after, or something, is that ok?
Kate:
Hi Rory. Sorry to disturb you. Can you give me a hand with thinking up some strategies for my year 9s who are misbehaving?
Rory:
Yeah, umm, are these the same one's as before? I think it's best to just carry on with them, Kate. Yeah, um, yeah, ok. Which year 9s are these?
Kate:
The ones that we spoke about before.
Rory:
Oh, no, not those ones, I thought we talked about those. Why haven't you sorted it? I thought we had some strategies? I mean, just carry on as you are. You just have to get it sorted, really, Kate. Kate, I've got to get through this. Is there anything else you want to talk about?
Kate:
No, don't worry about it ...
Rory:
So Kate, your year 8 lesson. How do you think it went?
Kate:
I think it went quite well.
Rory:
Nooo, it didn't Kate. I mean, you know, if I go through it, we had a focus on learning objectives and the learning objectives were just not clear enough. You weren't elaborating on what they were, them, you didn't recap them, you didn't, sort of, continually raise them as signposts, during the lesson.
Kate:
I wrote them up on the board.
Rory:
Well, only half way through the lesson, and frankly they weren't clear in terms of your unpacking them. I'll go through the lesson, I mean the introduction, they came in in a very disruptive way. You didn't take time to get those that are in late, they weren't called to account or anything. Your drawing was exemplar. I mean, it wasn't a very good drawing; they weren't particularly impressed by it.
Kate:
I was quite proud of that drawing.
Rory:
Were you? Well, I think you need to look at that, perhaps. Content was ok. There wasn't a brilliant atmosphere because of the two lads kicking off.
Kate:
They were all working; they were all busy.
Rory:
Yeah, but busy what? I mean, not all of them were doing what you asked them to. Anyway, to go onto clear up, I mean I spent a half an hour cleaning up after you left, and basically, there was no plenary. You didn't go back through the learning objective, did you?
Kate:
I didn't refer back to the learning objective but they did have to mark themselves out of 10 which I thought was fair enough.
Rory:
Well, I don't think so. I think you've just got to look at all those things and work on them, really, because we have been going through learning objectives for quite a long time, now. OK?
Kate:
Mmm-hmm. Yeah.
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Although designed around a trainee teacher’s experience, the six ‘should not’ behaviours identified in the video can easily be transferred to nursing. Consider each behaviour and answer the following questions:

  1. Reflect on whether you have experienced or observed each ‘toxic’ behaviour in practice.
  2. Consider the impact that this behaviour had on learners and on the process of learning.
  3. Consider the actions that you can take to direct you away from these identified negative behaviours to enable more successful interaction with students.

Discussion

Three initial observations of the mentor are that he:

  • was completely uninterested in the mentor or the mentoring relationship
  • continually failed to listen
  • lacked any focus on the learner or aspects of possible learning.

The six ‘should not’ behaviours identified were:

  • don’t make the person feel unwelcome
  • don’t overload the learner with mountains of information
  • don’t fail to make time of the learner
  • don’t cancel mentoring sessions as they are important
  • don’t fail to listen
  • don’t discourage – always try to give balanced feedback.

All these behaviours seemed to have significant and detrimental impacts on the student’s ability and opportunities for learning. You only need to consider the changes in the trainee teacher’s non-verbal patterns to realise the effect that her mentor had on her personally. As you develop your mentoring skills, these behaviours should be avoided; instead, you should look to adopt practices that where learning is optimised rather than affected negatively. Tied into this is the need to recognise and accommodate differences – whether those differences are associated with personality traits or cultural manifestations.

As a developing mentor you need to get under the surface and recognise, for example, that an overtly enthusiastic person may not necessarily always be a good student; you should rely on a number of observations to inform your judgement on a student’s competence and confidence.

Mentorship programme

If you are studying this learning as part of an NMC mentorship preparation programme, develop this activity further to consider Question 3 in greater detail. In the Introduction and guidance [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   section of the course you were directed to an action plan that could be downloaded from the resources website for KG006 Facilitating learning in practice: mentorship portfolio assessment. Download this action plan and identify at least five actions that you can take to improve the success of your mentoring practices. This is especially important given that you will be supporting students in environments that are often very busy and where you may feel under pressure.

Why don’t you talk your thoughts through with your supervisor, who will be guiding your practice and determining your competence to take on the role of mentor, and use this reflection and discussion time as part of your record of ‘protected study’? Remember that you should aim to keep your action plan dynamic – that is, you constantly add or amend it as your competence increases. It is likely that the action plan could contribute to essential pieces of evidence that you use to demonstrate achievement of competencies in your portfolio.

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