Aims. (i) To assess whether mentors had a positive or negative attitude towards their role; and (ii) to discover what aspects of the role they found easy or difficult.
Background. The fact that mentorship is an important element in nurse training was recognized by Sir Leonard Peach, the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and the Nursing and Midwifery Council which has recently published new standards to support learning and assessment in practice, which include standards for the preparation of Mentors, to be implemented by September 2007. There are many anecdotal reports of the problems which face mentors, but little firm evidence.
Method. This paper reports a study of those problems. It used a Thurstone scale to assess role satisfaction among mentors (n = 86, response rate 89%) and two Likert scales to assess where problems, if any, lay.
Results. Unlike anecdotal reports, the Thurstone scale found that, overall, mentors regarded the role positively. In addition, a principal components analysis of responses to the Likert scales showed that there were two clearly delineated factors. The first (interpersonal/organisational factors) had been widely discussed in the literature. The second (cognitive/intellectual factors) has been rarely discussed and could with profit be more strongly stressed in mentor training.
Conclusions. (i) Mentors had a positive attitude towards their role and enjoyed it. (ii) When looking at what caused mentors difficulty, in addition to the commonly discussed dimensions of organisational constraints (workload, skill mix) and interpersonal factors, there was clearly an additional cognitive one. Knowledge, not just personality, mattered.
Implications for clinical practice. Mentors and those who train them could with profit pay more attention to cognitive components of the role, even if that meant laying a lesser stress on the interpersonal ones.