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Keywords:

  • clinical placements;
  • experience mentors;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • preregistration education

Aim.  This paper explores the role of the mentor in contemporary nursing practice in the UK. It presents findings from a recent study which investigated the impact of a locality-based nursing education initiative on students, practice mentors and academic staff and draws on another study, conducted in the same setting and two Australian sites, to examine the perceptions of nursing students and mentors.

Background.  Within nursing, mentorship is integral to students’ clinical placement experiences and has attracted increasing interest among researchers. Despite a plethora of studies focussing on mentoring and its nature and application within the practice setting, limited attention has been paid to the extent to which guidelines provided by regulatory bodies for nursing inform and influence the practice of mentoring in contemporary health-care settings.

Design.  The study used a two-phased design with data on mentorship being focussed on the second phase.

Method.  Data were collected using an online survey questionnaire of pre-qualifying students and a postal questionnaire for practice mentors.

Findings.  The findings highlight the importance of mentorship for prequalifying students and emphasise the need to provide mentors with adequate preparation and support. They confirm previous research, but also highlight improvements in bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality for mentorship. Results are further strengthened when compared with those of the second study.

Conclusions.  Findings provide new evidence of a narrowing of the gap between the theory and practice of mentoring and for the continuing implementation of national standards to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the mentor. They also suggest the benefits of developing such standards in countries with similar systems of support for nursing students.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Mentorship is pivotal to students’ clinical experiences and is instrumental in preparing them for their role as confident and competent practitioners.