Theresa May’s vision for the NHS includes a commitment to career development and alternative routes into healthcare roles. Recruitment, retention and engagement are her focus. More than 35,000 nursing vacancies, questions surrounding the impact of Brexit on the NHS and the end of the tertiary bursary are a growing concern. Widening access for care assistants and apprentices to enter nursing is a national priority. Yet providing quality on the job learning in an environment known for its lack of resources will be a challenge.
Mentors shape future nursing professionals and the potential of the nursing profession. However, mentors face challenges that make it difficult to fulfil their role. Time constraints and a lack of support are hampering mentoring effectiveness in NHS workplaces. In the UK, nursing students must spend 2,300 hours in a hospital, surgery or other practice before they can qualify. Up to 1,000 apprentice nurses could join the NHS each year. Yet the UK uses a one-on-one mentoring system, where other nations have moved to a one-to-many model.
According to the Royal College of Nursing, the most promising nurse mentoring models are peer and team based. One-to-many clinical facilitators drive this model, within a supportive organisation.
Collaborative Learning in Practice model
The University of East Anglia & Health Education England East of England is piloting Collaborative Learning in Practice (CLiP). This one-to-many mentoring model supports nursing day-to-day learning in practice. The approach is student-centred. Based on coaching principles, up to 20 students work together in one learning environment.
In this mentoring model, a cluster of roles facilitate on the job learning:
1. Clinical educator
This pivotal new role will directly influence the quality of the learning environment. Clinical educators oversee a maximum of two wards or practice areas. They provide on-site support and guidance to coaches, mentors and students.
2. Named mentor and sign-off mentor
Students spend a minimum of one hour per week protected time with their sign-off mentor (as recommended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Standards to Support Learning Assessment, 2008).
On each ‘shift’, a coach supports two to three students to provide total care to a group of patients.
4. Day coach
This new role is suitable for any registered nurse who works within the practice area. They support student learning.
The model is student-led and focused on peer learning. Students have no more than three patients allocated to them. These are linked to their developmental stage, level of competency and the complexity of the patient’s needs.
Students who have completed the program report they are becoming more confident in practice. They say the mentoring models provide a supported and safe environment. More importantly, patients have noted they are enjoying helping students to learn.
Consistent mentoring is key to effectiveness
Anne Corrin, Head of Education at the Royal College of Nursing, agrees delivering a consistent standard of training in a hospital environment is difficult.
‘There are some challenges in quality assurance when training is delivered through an apprenticeship, because some workplaces are not the best learning environments. Employers need to think carefully about how to make health and social care settings good learning environments for all learners. That will be a real challenge,’ she said.
Managing on the job career development opportunities
In under resourced healthcare settings, facilitating quality on the job learning opportunities is perplexing. Technology can assist by managing, measuring and scaling mentoring programs.
WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform accelerates peer-to-peer learning and development. Algorithms digitally match students with mentors, stretch assignments and multi-disciplinary teams. WERKIN’s mobile application prompts students to join teams and meet with mentors. The WERKIN app schedules meetings, tracks results and prompts mentees to rate their experience. This dynamic approach is time efficient, measurable and scalable.
Creating a supportive and productive learning environment for nursing students is critical to the future of the NHS. Technology can support best practice mentoring programs in high pressure, time poor workplaces. WERKIN can accelerate on the job learning by applying the latest advances in technology to the unique needs of healthcare workplace settings.