2 Perceptions and expectations
You may be asked to mentor a student who has experience from a previous placement, or it may be a first placement for a student who has no care experience at all. Each student will have different learning needs and will have formed perceptions of the practice area prior to commencing their placement experience. They may have already created expectations of you as their mentor and the possible learning opportunities that they believe will be available. These may be based on:
- preconceived ideas based on other students’ accounts
- their understanding of the clinical area from media sources
- personal experience
- academic sources relating to their study.
Students commencing a new placement may be extremely apprehensive, no matter what stage of their studies they have reached. For others, it may be a placement they are really looking forward to, or one they feel confident that certain skills they have learned previously will be transferable to this area. Perceptions of a placement area can be constructive but may also be destructive (Brennan & McSherry, 2007; Houghton et al., 2013), so it is important to take time to discuss these perceptions with the student, and work together to develop a realistic action plan of learning opportunities. A clear overview of the clinical environment, including the type of patient care interventions that they can expect to see, will help the student focus on the reality of the learning experience.
The next activity encourages you to think about your own perceptions and learning opportunities for a variety of placement environments.
Activity 1 Perceptions of learning environments
Figure 1 shows different practice areas – some of them you may be familiar with, some you may not. For each one, consider the following questions and make some notes:
- What are your perceptions of these environments?
- What do you consider are the possible learning opportunities available for students?
This activity may have led you to think about your experience as a learner. We all learn from experiences, good and bad, but the most important thing is that we have the capacity to reflect, learn and subsequently improve practice. By doing this activity you will have explored:
- your current thinking about learning opportunities
- perceptions of clinical environments that may be rooted in personal experience
- what you would want to learn from these practice areas
- the knowledge/skills you already have that could be transferable.
When discussing student perceptions, it is important to reflect the positive learning opportunities of the placement environment, even though this may not reflect their expectations.