Supporting students' learning and professional development through the process of continuous assessment and mentorship.Nurse Educ Today. 2000 Aug; 20(6):463-74.NE
This paper is based on the results of two studies carried out by the writer, over a period of 6 years (1991-1996), aimed to establish what happens in nursing practice in relation to assessing clinical competence of nursing students and the support they receive during their Nurse Education Programme. Study number one (1991-1995) was based upon the experiences and perceptions of 155 skilled practitioners and 300 students from three Colleges of Nursing and 45 interested practitioners, who volunteered to join the research at a later date because they were experienced assessors and mentors. Many themes and categories emerged. One in particular was that of the role of the practitioner who has been charged with the responsibility of assessing student performance on practice placement. Initial interviews with 155 practitioners of varying experience as assessors were used to design a questionnaire containing both context free and context specific items. Subsequent follow-up interviews were undertaken with both students and practitioners and non-participant observation of practitioners working with students were carried out. The majority of students accepted the dual role and at times, even the triple role of assessors, mentors and/or supervisors forced upon practitioners, provided that the practitioners assessing them were well prepared and 'trained' as assessors, were perceived to be 'fair', 'competent', 'skilful' and 'knowledgeable' (Neary 1997a). Study two (1992-1994) aimed to establish the process and outcomes of practitioner-teachers and mentorship in Wales, and was based on the data from a much extended period of semi-structured interviews with policy makers, managers, teachers and nurse practitioners (n = 360, 330 analyzed in detail) spanning 10 months, which gave an invaluable pictures of ongoing changes in the placement areas and the basis from which to construct a widely administered questionnaire (n = 1332) dealing with context-free and context-specific factors underpinning the definition of the mentor role, selection and relationship with students. Similar logic lay behind the use of reflective semi-structured diaries which asked 138 students and 133 practitioners to keep during practice placements. This study showed the practitioners readily adopted the term 'mentor' to describe their role in their relationship with students in clinical practice. How they were selected for this role proved to be more complex (Davies et al. 1994). for the purpose of this paper the data from both studies is merged to give a stronger and more focused picture of how both students and practitioners perceived their roles in the assessment and support systems which were in action at the time of the studies.