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Clinical placement mentor: Nicole Callender

Clinical placement mentor Nicole Callender explains her role as a mentor.

Holding out hand

What makes a good mentor? 
A good mentor is aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses – someone who is not afraid to say that they don’t know. A person who is able to impart knowledge, encourage thinking outside the box and know when to hasten or slow the pace of teaching/supporting for individual learners.

What's the most challenging aspect of being a mentor?

Time – sometimes not being able to provide the level of support that the learner requires.

What difficulties/issues have you had/things would you change as a mentor?

It is difficult to motivate some learners. It is equally difficult to maintain professionalism when the learner or the mentors have personality clashes/differences. It would be easy to re-allocate the learner but this is not always beneficial.

What attributes in a student make them more or less likely to succeed while on clinical placement?
Motivation, acknowledging when they need more help/support/longer time in placement to consolidate learning.

What would your advice be to students who are on or facing their clinical placement?
Firstly, be honest with yourself and mentor regarding the pace and style at which you learn. Take notes; question your notes, research answers to your own questions alongside discussing ideas with your mentor. Revisit areas where you feel there is more to learn. Plan your time well. What issues might they come up against? They may experience other members of staff who are unaware of the process for RTPs for example. They may come up against time constraints for example delivery suite may be high risk for a number of shifts and the learner requires experience with low-risk care. They may see practice that was deemed ‘out of date’. This is not exhaustive.

How effective are the simulation rooms in preparing student midwives for practice?

The facilitator’s skills are more important than the room, although there are some aspects of good lighting, room size, and ventilation for example, that is vital to learning.

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?
Definitely, it questions their future practice, how would they cope when qualified? Would they always be the midwife who turns up for work late, not at all or off sick regularly? At times students swap shifts due to bullying, childcare or family or personal issues.

Do you think there is a big gap between theory and practice?
Yes, I have had the privilege of working in both the HEIs and the clinical environment. Many students are unaware/lack acknowledgement of basic nursing care and with women being more high risk, this is a potential issue. The biggest issue is the fact that there is a lack of anatomy and physiology being taught in the classroom, which has a knock-on effect in the clinical environment.

What aspects of training best prepare students for becoming a newly qualified midwife?
Students need to understand the culture of the NHS, they need to be aware of their guidelines and some of the external processes that affect midwifery. They should also spend as much time as possible reflecting on their practice with their peers and mentors.