|Teaching and Learning Forum 2011 [ Refereed papers ]|
Caroline J Vafeas, Melanie Lauva and Tania Beament
Edith Cowan University
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In large academic institutions, students often feel very lost, confused, lonely, and anxious or even a fraud at being there. At Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, researchers identified a gap in provision for Nursing Students which addresses these concerns. This study used a qualitative case study utilising rich narrative and aesthetic expression to explore and describe the experiences of both student mentees and academic mentors over the trajectory of the student's Bachelor Degree programme. Findings emerging show students both want and need academic mentorship but the form upon which that takes is highly individual and changeable as the individuals professional competence and confidence increases; and as a positive and mutually accountable relationship is formed between the parties. While there is overwhelming empirical evidence to support mentorship for students in academic institutions and mentorship for newly Registered Nurses, a paucity of literature exploring academic mentorship of student nurses exists. This research aims to contribute to an emerging yet vital body of knowledge surrounding the notions of support and nurturing of health professionals of the future. A philosophical model proposed by the researchers has been identified as the foundation for this research and will also be explored within this paper.
Mentoring is an alliance, that creates a space for dialogue, that results in reflection, action and learning (Rolfe, 2003).The term mentor has its foundations in Greek mythology and refers to the role modelling, nurturing and trusted advisory relationship a knowledgeable individual takes on with a less experienced person (Roberts, 1999). Mentoring within nursing education appears to have various meanings and interpretations. Watson (1999) suggests that the term mentor must be clearly defined to ensure roles and relationships are understood by all parties; these including mentees, mentors and educators.
The concept of the mentor suggests that the role of the nurse preceptor in this regard is simply "what one defines it to be" (Barnum, 2006, p.1) though Barnum (2006) highlights that there is a difference between precepting and mentoring. Oliver & Enderby (1994) observed that the terms mentoring and preceptorship have been used interchangeably within the nursing literature and do have common features. Olive & Enderby go on to assert that while preceptorship is part of the mentor role, mentorship is not inherent in the nurse preceptor role.
While literature certainly suggests mentors embody desirable leadership qualities such as empowerment, importance of interpersonal relationships (Morton-Cooper, 1993) helping, guidance and counsel (Watson, 1999), mentorship is not possible in the undergraduate nursing education context due to the limited continuous time spent in clinical placements and the role of the nurse preceptor and mentor being fundamentally different (Mills, Francis, & Bonner, 2005). Research by Billay & Yonge (2004) explored the concept of preceptorship from the perspective of the nurse preceptor through the analysis of interdisciplinary literature. The findings showed that preceptorship was distinct from mentorship although a positive consequence of a preceptored relationship may involve the evolution of that relationship into a mentorship.
This research aimed to explore the form and function of the mentor-mentee relationship when implemented among first year undergraduate nursing students. During the proposal phase of this study, the researchers identified six concepts (see Figure 1- The Stairway to Success) which were felt to be important functions of both the mentor and mentee in ensuring positive outcomes for both parties. These concepts identify the underlying philosophical model for this project and are explored in more depth below.
Figure 1: The Stairway to success
In addition to the one-on-one sessions, the group of mentees were offered two meetings as a large group with the mentors during the semester. These sessions were facilitated as focus groups and tape recorded.
Each mentee was given a diary in order to record reflections as often as they chose. The researchers review entries with the students at planned meetings. Diary entries are photocopied, de-identified, coded and analysed.
The mentors add contextual notes and engage in peer debrief and reflection throughout each semester. These notes and discussions form part of the data being continuously analysed.
The researchers additionally set up a web site housed within the university online management system (BlackBoard). The site is accessible only to mentee students and the assigned mentors. Over the course of the semester and in response to mentee requests, various information and resources were added. The site also housed a blog and discussion board where mentees could collaborate and discuss.
Over the first week, four participants withdrew from the study and an additional two were recruited after emailing the researchers directly expressing interest in participation.
Responses from an initial questionnaire revealed what the students expected from the Academic Mentor and included;
Assistance with areas of my study which I may be finding difficult as well as being someone to talk to about other issues which may affect my academic performance.When asked what they thought the mentor does, responses included the words;
I tend to keep to myself a lot so don't have anyone to throw around ideas with - say regarding assignments. An academic mentor may just give me the edge I need.
I think you can offer me someone to turn to about all the unknowns about the health industry which will make it easier or a little less scary as a student nurse.
Previously studied nursing in the UK and had a mentor there. Could not imagine anyone surviving without one.
Guiding, encouraging, genuine, motivate, feedback, listen, advice, honesty and support.Excerpts taken from the student journals during the first 12 months included;
I was very excited to be chosen for the mentoring programme. I think it will help me with my studies and improve my learning.Comments from the academic mentors also demonstrate the mentor/mentee relationship as a positive experience;
I like the idea of going to speak to our Mentor on a one to one basis. It speaks volumes to me. It shows that someone is willing to get to know more about me and my journey as a nursing student.
I absolutely know that I have made the right decision to do nursing - I just need to arrange my time better. The staff at ECU are very committed to supporting the students to achieve their goals.
Everything is just so hard being a student nurse. I am having to be mum, partner and often counsellor to my fellow students. Sometimes I feel that there is just not enough of me to go around.
I have two assignments due and a debate to prepare. So much pressure. Pressure to keep up. Pressure to pass. Pressure to get assignment in. Pressure from work. Pressure from family. Don't want to fail anything.
I am pleased that I have found the motivation and courage to follow my dream to become a nurse.
Have just finished my first week of prac and feel tired. I loved being on the wards, being of service to patients. I feel that I contributed significantly to my patients, but also received a lot in return from them.
For me, being a mentor is about giving something back. I came through a system where I was nurtured by some wonderful nurse educators who taught me about the value of people and what it really meant to be a nurse. I want to give my students that opportunity; to involve them in a process that creates a meaningful connection and takes us a place where they feel comfortable to ask the questions and share the experiences that sometimes can change the course of the careers.The students and academics associated with the mentoring programme have reflected positively of their involvement with the programme and intent to continue. While there are undeniably challenges associated with the role of mentor, the benefits as reported in these early stages appear to far outweigh the difficulties.
I feel that being a mentor is a fundamental role of the lecturer. The lecturer has been a nurse and has experienced the highs and lows that go with the journey. The student needs to know that they are a person and not just a student number and that someone will listen when things are hard. For me, being a mentor means I can offer some clarity and direction when things look or feel blurred.
For me, being a mentor gives me the opportunity to make a difference to the support and education that our undergraduates receive. I think often there is a perceived barrier between academics and students and I would like to bring down these barriers and make academics more assessable to students. I was very thankful for to receive wonderful support and guidance during my nursing training, and I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I am able to o provide my students with the same opportunities.
Mills, J. E., Francis, K. L., & Bonner, A. (2005). Mentoring, clinical supervision and preceptoring: clarifying the conceptual definitions for Australian rural nurses. A review of the literature. The International Electronic Journal of Rural and Remote Health Research, Education, Practice and Policy, 5(410), 1-10. http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=410
Morton-Cooper, A., & Palmer, A. (1993). Mentoring and preceptorship: A guide to support roles in clinical practice. London: Blackwell Scientific Publications.
Oliver, R., & Enderby, C. (1994). Teaching and Assessing Nurses: A Guide for Preceptors. London: Balliere Tindall.
Roberts, A. (1999). Homer's mentor: Duties fulfilled or misconstrued? Retrieved 21/11/2006, from http://www.nickols.us/homers_mentor.pdf
Rolfe, A. (2003). Core concepts of mentoring. Retrieved 07/05/2009, from http://mentoring-works.com/definitions_of_mentoring.html
Watson, N. A. (1999). Mentoring today - the students' views. An investigative case study of pre-registration nursing students' experiences and perceptions of mentoring in one theory/practice module of the common foundation programme on a project 2000 course. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 29(1), 254-262.
|Please cite as: Vafeas, C.J., Lauva, M. & Beament, T. (2011). Cultivating care: Nurturing nurses for a new tomorrow. In Developing student skills for the next decade. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 1-2 February 2011. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2011/refereed/vafeas2.html|
Copyright 2011 Caroline J Vafeas, Melanie Lauva and Tania Beament. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format, provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.