Mentors are some of the most important people that student nurses come into contact with whilst on their training. We look up to our mentors, we want to be just like you “when we’re all grown up”. But, mentors have the power to either positively or negatively impact a student nurse. They can make or break us.
When we get given our placement details one of the most common quotes I hear is “I hope my mentor is nice”. We get told that even through our negative experiences, this can be a learning opportunity to show us what we don’t want to be like. But should it be this way? We are in a profession that’s main aim is to care and heal others, yet this industry is rife with bullying tactics, intimidation, and being made to feel that you are a burden as a student. It’s those mentors that take their time with you and to take you under their wings that for me – makes me want to become the best nurse I can be and to do the same for others.
It makes all the difference to a placement when you have a good mentor. I know how difficult it can be for them, as student we seem to give our mentors so much more extra paperwork that can be quite inconvenient to fill out! To us, that bit of paperwork is the most important thang. That lot of paperwork will help us progress in our training to be that one step closer to being on that almighty register. Yet for some mentors, it’s not important at all. They give off the attitude that they don’t have time to fill out our inconvenient paperwork – they have too much to do with running a ward! Having a mentor that doesn’t want you there (obviously or not) can really impact how you feel about that environment. Do other nurses feel this way? Is it just my mentor that doesn’t want to teach me?
I have been very lucky and have had some wonderful mentors – but I have also experienced the other side of things. Being made to feel as if I’m not part of the team, that I am just filling gaps in the continuing low staffing numbers. Not being able to make the most of my learning opportunities because I am “the student” whose mentor doesn’t seem to want to know, and rest of the team not wanting to help neither. For me that made my placement experience a lot harder, I was afraid to ask questions, I didn’t feel supported and ultimately I don’t want to work in that environment. A place that is crying out for staff, is also turning future staff members away.
I recently heard the term “we don’t get paid extra to be mentors” but we don’t get paid to be students. We need to work together – you need to help mould us into the colleagues that you wish to work with. We can help each other. We can bring the future of nursing, the new ideas, the fresh pair of eyes that can help solve a problem that may or may not have been spotted. Ultimately we are your solution to your wards’ and services’ staffing crises. You can help us to help you.
I can’t thank the experience of my positive mentors enough. Although they have created a bit of a problem in that I do not know where I would like to eventually work! Whenever I get a placement with an inspiring mentor and I always want to end up working there. They bring out the best side in students. They make us passionate, inquisitive, and wanting to be the best that we can be.