Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

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Facilitating learning in practice

4.1 Other types of professional conflict

In addition to relational conflict and negative behaviours, for those of you who are studying this course in preparation to become a nurse mentor there are other types of professional conflict that can arise.

Activity 6 Insights into potential conflicts within the mentoring role

Allow 15 minutes

Watch the interview with Amy Johnson, an experienced mentor who identifies some of the other types of conflict that she has encountered in her role.

Download this video clip.Video player: kg005_week4_640.mp4
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Fiona Dobson:
Hi Amy, hi. Could you tell me a little bit about your role as a mentor?
Amy Johnson:
Well I work at Berrywood Hospital which is a mental health inpatient setting. I’ve been a qualified nurse for twelve years now and I’ve been mentoring for ten of those.
Fiona Dobson:
So can you give me an example then of something that you feel causes you to be in conflict in terms of your role, Amy?
Amy Johnson:
Well as mentors it’s important that we give students a chance to practice skills, to reach their competency level. However, sometimes this can take them extra time. So sometimes we might need to intervene in order to get that task completed before the patient becomes distressed and agitated but while still giving the students the learning opportunities that they need.
Fiona Dobson:
Yes, it’s quite a challenge that balance isn’t it between enough time to practice but not sort of distressing the patients really.
Maybe you’ve got another example, Amy, of something that might be sort of causing conflict in the mentor role?
Amy Johnson:
Something that I find quite common actually is that students come to you as their mentor and they expect you to identify all of their learning needs. Whereas actually I feel that a student should take onus of that and identify their own learning needs. Especially as we move on to later stages of the training.
Fiona Dobson:
So how do you try and manage that when it happens and if a student is not sort of being responsible for their own learning?
Amy Johnson:
I actually like to look at their past experiences and say to them, well how did you identify that, you’ve obviously achieved it. What now have we got left to work on? What do we need to achieve now? And guide them to make their own conclusions about where they need to go.
Fiona Dobson:
Yeah. I think that’s so important. It’s really good to hear you sort of guiding them to take responsibility.
Do you find sometimes that students don’t recognise that level of professional responsibility that’s required?
Amy Johnson:
I did have a situation once where I had a student nurse on the ward and whenever relatives were actually admitted to our care I explained to her that you’re going to have to inform your practice tutor. They need to know the situation we’re in because it’s not professional for you to be here providing care to your relative. They didn’t seem to want to do anything and they left the situation. So I actually informed the practice tutor and made arrangements for the student to go and achieve their practice learning opportunities elsewhere.
Fiona Dobson:
And hopefully the student did learn from that and realise that actually they have to recognise those situations and be responsible themselves really.
Amy Johnson:
They did.
Fiona Dobson:
I think one of the other sort of situations that can sometimes happen is you feeling that you need to stand up for your student. So have you come across that as a situation?
Amy Johnson:
Personally it’s never really happened to me. I think I’ve been quite lucky. But I have had a colleague who was mentoring a student on quite a busy ward and the manager just saw that student as an extra pair of hands to complete everyday tasks.
While I agree that it’s important that students do learn the task, such as making beds, we all make beds as nurses, that shouldn’t be at the detriment of other learning opportunities. So if they’re told to make beds when they should be learning medication administration, for example, then that’s when we need to step in.
The mentor did go to the line manager, explained that the student was missing out on vital learning opportunities. Unfortunately it made the mentor quite unpopular and I feel that was really unfair.
Fiona Dobson:
That’s disappointing isn’t it? Because the mentor was really demonstrating their professionalism and accountability weren’t they in supporting that student.
One of the other things that I think can sometimes be a problem is as a mentor you’re there to develop and support the student but also you do have to make judgements about their performance. So do you find that difficult?
Amy Johnson:
It’s important that we judge our students to be safe and to be competent. It’s even more important when you’re a sign off mentor that they are competent in the task that they’re going to be completing.
If you reach that stage and you feel that a student hasn’t reached the desired level for competency you can feel like you’ve let them down and that it’s your fault as a mentor that they’ve not got there. But sometimes by saying to the student, I can’t sign you off for that task yet, they realise the importance of it. And they will go away and they will practice more to make sure that they reach the level they need to be at.
And sometimes students do try to run before they can actually walk. So they’ll see a task, they’ll say well I want to do that. I tend to say to my students, let’s look at the level you need to be at for where you’re at in your training. Let’s ensure that that level is reached to a high standard and then we’ll move on.
Fiona Dobson:
I think that’s a really good way of approaching it isn’t it? It gives them a really solid foundation to sort of move on and then develop the more complex skills and become competent at them.
That’s been so helpful Amy, it’s given a really good insight in to the different sort of challenges that a mentor can face in practice. So thank you ever so much for sharing your thoughts.
Amy Johnson:
Thank you. I hope it helps other nurses become mentors.
Fiona Dobson:
I’m sure it will.
Amy Johnson:
Thank you.
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Write a short summary of the types of conflict that are described.

Mentorship programme

If you are studying towards an NMC mentor qualification, here is a final activity relating to this week’s learning that you might undertake in the practice setting in order to develop evidence for your portfolio, in the following domain:

  • Leadership.

Arrange a meeting with your own supervisor to discuss the types of conflict described by the experienced mentor.

Share your summary of the types of conflict described (you might do this before the meeting to give your supervisor the opportunity to consider the issues).

Discuss with your supervisor the actions or approaches you feel it would be appropriate to take for each of these conflict types.

Add these actions or approaches to your summary as a reminder of safe, effective and professional mentoring practice.


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