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Clinical placement mentor: Nicola Pullen

Clinical placement mentor Nicola Pullen explains her role as a student mentor.
Student mentor

What makes a good mentor?
· Knowledge
· Ability to teach
· Patience
· Time
· Approachability
· Willingness to admit that they don’t know something.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a mentor?
If a student has not had a good mentor previously, they can come with out of date or incorrect information (it is so hard to contradict a colleague without making them look bad), or sometimes even a lack of willingness to learn or participate due to how they have been ‘worked with’ in the past.
What difficulties/issues have you had/things would you change as a mentor?
Referring to my previous answer – it would be good if there was a chance maybe monthly for mentors to get together and discuss issues, review changes to policy/national guidance for example, to keep us up to date and help reduce the likelihood of contradicting a colleague, and help broach issues where colleagues need to be brought up to date.
What attributes in a student make them more/less likely to succeed while on a clinical placement?
· Intelligence and common sense
· A willingness to learn
· The ability to observe, participate, and question to enhance knowledge
· A desire to access other learning materials to support teaching

What would your advice be to students who are on or facing their clinical placement? What issues might they come up against?
· Your mentor cannot teach you everything – be prepared to take responsibility for your learning.
· Have an idea of things you would like to learn on placement (learning outcomes) and be prepared to be challenged if you are aware of something your midwife mentor is not.
· Have confidence to speak up for things you know are wrong or out of date.
· Ask for help if you are not sure and admit your limitations.

How effective are the simulation rooms in preparing student midwives for practice?
It depends how they are run. When I did my training, I found that they were not nearly realistic enough – a real-time simulation room would have been better for me. The trust I work with now doesn’t have any kind of simulation room.

If you were honest, do you think that some students swap shifts and hence potentially mentors because of personal issues and therefore aren’t helping themselves in their training?
I think if a student swaps shifts and mentors due to a personality clash/inability to learn from a mentor because of how they work, this is acceptable – friction between mentor and student can spill over into problems in the workplace. But if the swapping is occurring because of an unresolved issue (previous argument), the mentor and student need a mediator to help it be resolved.

Do you think that there is a big gap between theory and practice?
With some skills – yes – but only because you can’t give students practical experience at everything (resuscitation springs to mind).

What aspects of training best prepare students for becoming a newly-qualified midwife?

I think placements are key, and the mentors are the crucial players in this. Observing good practice, from quality mentors who guide and support early steps in placements is invaluable. This translates into more able and confident students who can communicate and work effectively to become part of the team before they qualify and also afterwards.