Mentorship: Explore Your Role As An Assessor Of Student In A Clinical Setting

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Mentorship is a vital part in the role of a nurse as a health professional. It is the most successful approach to pass along the standards, morals, and traditions that is crucial to the survival of the profession (Wilson and Elman 1990). Whether with students on clinical placement or with colleagues helping the other to complete day to day tasks, it is a fundamental part of the practice that demands responsibility and accountability to promote interpersonal and professional development (Ali & Panther 2008). The National midwifery and nursing council (NMC 2008) mandates responsibilities grounded on competencies and outcomes which are as follows:

  • Establish effective working relationships
  • Facilitate learning
  • Assessment and accountability
  • Evaluate learning
  • Create an environment for learning
  • Context of practice
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Leadership

This essay will have two parts. The first part will show a demonstration of the application of different assessment strategies on student evaluation and it’s outcomes in a given clinical setting. The student mentor was an associate mentor in the surgical placement to a 2nd year ODP student which in this essay will be referred to as Student X. Another ODP student whom the student mentor looked after in the absence of the student’s assigned mentor will be referred to as Student Y. The second part is centered on the facilitation of adult learning through a teaching demonstration of the correct Argon beamer usage where the audience comprises a diverse group of individuals.

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In the first week of Student X’s placement, an informal assessment was made to gauge the learning needs of the student and plan a comprehensive and workable action plan based on a student’s experiences, weaknesses, and achievements (Kilgallon & Thompson 2012). The student mentor must recognize what type of learner Student X is to be able to use the appropriate methods that would complement the student’s learning preferences. Learning includes the acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and social/cultural values and behaviors (Kilgallon & Thompson, 2012). Honey and Mumford (2000) categorized learning styles into four: activist, pragmatist, theorist, and reflector. Activists learn through active participation in challenges, problem solving and role play. Theorists acquire knowledge through detailed and systematic information gathering and tutorial sessions. Reflectors like to be given sufficient time to analyse the problems and reflect on the situation to find solutions. Pragmatists prefer learning through demonstration and needs to understand the significance and practical benefits of what they are learning. Knowing the specific learning style that agrees most with a particular student will allow the student mentor to lay out appropriate teaching strategies that will inspire maximum learning output from students.

There are also learning theories worth mentioning that can be of help in managing the more difficult and perplexing students. Shaw & King (2015) listed four main theories: behaviourist, cognitive, humanistic and social and situational approach. In the behaviourist approach, the student mentor arranges a stimulus to elicit a desired outcome which will then be rewarded when achieved by the student. The reward resulting from the achievement will then give students a sense of fulfilment and continue their endeavours in achieving excellence. The cognitive approach involves the use problem solving to engage the student in reflection thereby stimulating internal mental processes to bring about change in behaviour (Kilgallon & Thompson 2012; Shaw & King 2015). Humanistic approach centres on a student’s feelings, needs, and experiences as motivation for learning and personal growth. It includes the self-actualisation theory by Maslow (1971, cited in Shaw and Fulton 2015:19), which suggested that basic needs had to be fulfilled before succeeding to a higher phase of learning. Lastly, the social and situational approach is a type of learning gained through the learner’s interaction and relationship with the community in a social environment. In this theory, the mentor-mentee relationship is of great significance because the mentor acts as role model for the student to learn from. Knowledge of the existing learning styles and theories has helped the student mentor to make use of the appropriate teaching styles with regard to the student’s learning preferences.

Student X could comprehend more information when principles behind a case were first explained by the student mentor followed by a demonstration of the specific task. The student exhibited inclinations toward both theorist and activist learning style. The student also responded well to cognitive and social and situational approach.

Setting goals and new challenges along with proper time management and individualised student work plans within the course of the placement were identified as key components for an effective mentoring relationship (Eller et al. 2014; Cruz 2009). With the student’s learning needs and preferences in consideration, the student mentor utilised the goal setting theory by Locke & Latham (1990) to motivate and challenge the learner toward personal growth and development. Locke & Latham (1990) highlighted five principles that were important in setting goals. These principles are as follows: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and task complexity. Setting clear goals allows the student mentor to measure progress. “The more specific or explicit the goal, the more precisely performance is regulated”, Locke (1996:118) stated. It also encourages students to read on assigned topics beforehand and keeps them motivated by being aware of the opportunities to look forward to, giving them a sense of achievement when tasks are completed.

The established goals should also be challenging and thought-provoking as this will more likely motivate individuals (Anonymous 2012). When an individual believes that a goal is attainable and understands the significance of completing the said goal, the individual is considerably more committed (Locke 1996). Following these principles the student mentor established clear, stimulating goals that are achievable within the available timeline and are agreed upon by both student and student mentor.

In order to set clear goals with ease and efficiency, the student mentor used the S.M.A.R.T approach. The SMART approach is a popular organisational mnemonic originally coined by Doran aiming to offer clear and simple framework gives clarity to projected goals (Doran 1981; Haughey 2014; The College for the People 2016). The original definition by Doran (1981) are as follows: specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related. The mentor used an alternative version of the S.M.A.R.T. goal approach.

  • Specific. Aside from daily and weekly goals (mastering the anatomy, suture familiarisation, etc.), both Student X and mentor agreed that by the end of the practice placement, the student would be able to scrub for a major case with minimal supervision.
  • Measurable. The mentor was able to monitor the student’s progress and growth throughout the placement by the achievement (or lack thereof) of the assigned set goals.
  • Attainable. The tasks were designed by the mentor to establish the basic fundamentals of the practice in the theatre and to equip the student for increasingly demanding and difficult tasks in the future.
  • Realistic. The mentor established goals that are within the student’s learning capacity and distinctive practical skills as observed by the student mentor beforehand. The goals were individual and group tasks were performed intended to ease the student’s transition into the theatre setting.
  • Time-related. The objectives conceived were in consideration of a 12-week placement period and both the student and mentor’s schedules to manage time more productively and be able to set tasks at an appropriate pace (Eller at al. 2014).

While using the SMART approach has its benefits, it carries with itself drawbacks that when overlooked could offset the desired objectives. Sycth (no date) stated that when pursuing a goal that is too specific, it can lead to tunnel vision making an individual fixated in one specific goal that the essence of the learning journey and moral principles are ignored. Excessively isolated goals also limit the students to a specific set of learning that their potential and creativity is actually constrained rather than encouraged. For this reason, the student mentor only used the SMART approach as a guide and not a conclusive tool for student performance. Failure to complete the agreed upon tasks does not necessarily mean failure for the student. The student mentor also reassured the student that although failure is disheartening, it is an eventuality for every learner that is in pursuit of becoming a professional and instead should be used as a stepping stone to further advance in their professions.

Vance & Olsen (2006) talked about the mentor connection. This is a developmental relationship established over the course of time that empowers both mentor and mentee in their professional development. To mentors, it is a type of investment for the future by passing accumulated knowledge on the next generations to create competent practitioners and thereby strengthening the profession (Vance & Olsen 2006). To students, a valuable opportunity to be shaped and nurtured by the collective experiences and information of those who established the profession before them. It is basic knowledge that mentors must first be competent and skilled in their professions to be able to empower and inspire students. Mentors must be equipped with updated evidence-based practices in recognizing student’s skill and ensuring that they are presented with sufficient opportunity needed to maximize student learnings and potentials (Kilgallon & Thompson 2012; Pollard 2006; Stone 2007). Eller at al. (2014) identified several components that are essential for an effective mentoring: open communication and accessibility, goals and challenges, passion and inspiration, caring personal relationship, mutual respect and trust, exchange of knowledge, independence and collaboration, and role modelling.

After establishing the basic fundamentals in the surgical setting, the student mentor allowed Student X to observe in minor cases. Following every case, the student mentor and learner would allow time for reflection. Positive and constructive feedback was continuously given by the student mentor and the learner was given time to respond to it (Stone 2007; Schwiebert 2000). This resulted to arising concerns being immediately acknowledged and given clarification or solution. Within the second week, Student X was able to scrub with minimal supervision for minor cases such as: examination under anaesthetic, excision of the pilonidal sinus and marsupialisation, and open and laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair with mesh. Both mentor and mentee worked in a system of continuous support and mutual respect. This kind of exchange allowed the student to be encouraged while easing the way into becoming an independent, confident, and capable professional (Pollard 2006; Grossman 2012). By the tenth week the student was able to scrub for major cases including open total gastrectomy and laparoscopic anterior resection. Student X was punctual, organized, displayed confidence, respected the mentor’s teachings, and was eager to complete tasks for the purpose of discovering new information. Student X was able to meet the mentor’s expectations by showing initiative and willingness to learn the profession. By the end of the placement, Student X has successfully completed all the necessary requirements for her level as assigned by the university.

Student Y came into the student mentor’s care after Student X left. Student Y was originally assigned to a mentor that was leaning to give the student a failing mark. The student talked to the deputy team leader about having problems with the assigned mentor but only came forward with one week remaining on the placement. With a week left, the student mentor evaluated the student’s learning progress and it was revealed that there were a lot of things to accomplish. Student Y admitted that the formerly assigned mentor always pointed out the student’s errors but failed to instruct on the appropriate ways to execute it. The assigned mentor also did not allow Student Y to rotate in the different areas of theatre setting thereby limiting the student’s learning potentials. The student, extremely discouraged by the assigned mentor’s treatment, was hindered in the learning process. The student mentor observed Student Y’s actions for the remaining week and gave truthful assessments about the student’s performance – commending on tasks well done and highlighting the areas that are in need of improvement. The student mentor also encouraged the student to exercise self-assessment allowing her to reflect on her own performance (Shepard 2009).

Despite the intervention done for the student, it was evident that Student Y was not ready to proceed to the next level of learning. The student mentor validated this assessment by consulting with two other colleagues who were also helping Student Y and the theatre supervisor. Everyone came to the same conclusion and decided for Student Y to extend another four weeks in the theatre placement.

After the four-week extension, under the student mentor’s supervision, Student Y completed all the necessary requirements needed for the placement. This conundrum could have been avoided had there been a supportive mentor-mentee relationship to encourage, nurture, and establish student learning and potentials (Holland et al. 2010; Kailanen et al. 2013; Theobald & Mitchell 2002).


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