It is now official. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has replaced mentors with assessors and supervisors. This is part of the overhaul of nurse education.
This is one of the changes that will ultimately lead to the replacement of the standards that were adopted in 2010. Discussions about these changes took place on 24th May 2017 during a meeting of the NMC Council.
In this article, we will first define a mentor, then look at the roles that will replace those of the mentor. Next, we will look at the rationale for these changes and what different groups say about the new changes.
Understanding the Mentor’s Role
Before we go very far: Who is a mentor?
In the previous system, the mentor acted as a learning facilitator, supervisor and assessor.
The term “mentor” refers to a registered nurse who acts as a learning facilitator, supervisor and assessor for nursing students in their practice. Before mentors were removed, each nursing student had one.
Three Roles Will Replace the Single Role Played by the Mentor
The NMC has instituted three roles to replace the role previously played by the mentor.
The first role is that of the practice supervisor. This role will be taken up by any registered health and social care professional to support and facilitate students during their learning.
The mentor role is now replaced by assessors and supervisors to ensure that nurse students always have someone assessing their progress.
The second role and third is that of the practice assessor and academic assessor. A registered nurse will assume these roles to confirm student learning on placement without actively participating in their learning.
What will the job of these three roles be?
The practice assessors will assess and confirm the students’ readiness for practice learning. They will also recommend students who are best suited for partnership with the academic assessor.
Practice supervisors will supervise students who are on placements. As long as one is a social care professional or registered health professional, they are qualified to take this role.
Finally, academic assessors will measure and confirm how much theoretical learning the student has achieved.
Who Will Appoint the Practice Supervisor or Practice Assessor?
Healthcare organizations are allowed to choose the practice supervisor based on whom they deem fit. The selected individual should be able to give quality assurance that satisfies the NMC.
So long as one is on the NMC register, even if they are newly qualified, they will be qualified to take up the role of a practice supervisor. The only thing is that they have to understand the new roles and standards.
Hospitals and universities have the responsibility to select people to hold the supervisor and assessor roles.
Some parties have raised concerns that the quality assurance by different practice supervisors and practice assessors will vary. There are concerns that because of pressure, some supervisors may pass students who should fail.
The professionals who championed the new changes expressed their critique on the mentorship program. With the new system of practice supervisors and practice assessors, students would always be supervised.
This eliminates the need to wait until the mentor is free to get supervision. Another new change is ensuring that all nurses can perform mental health first aid and can encourage patients to have healthy lifestyles.
All the four major nursing fields will remain (child, adult, learning disability and mental health). However, the new changes will ensure that nurses have a better understanding of the other fields.
Competence in Giving Prescription
The new standards also cover prescriptions. Nurses who have been recently registered will not be allowed to write basic prescriptions or giving intravenous injections as they were allowed under the previous standards.
Instead, they will be required to prove that they can competently deliver these services. Nurses will be expected to demonstrate their capacity after a short training period.
Nurse students are not allowed to give prescriptions of injections until they prove that they are competent enough.
Under the new standards, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s competency framework, as well as that on medicines management, were excluded.
Objections to the New Changes
Some nursing academics have expressed their disagreement with the NMC to allow registered nurses from any field to assess and sign off a student’s learning.
According to the Mental Health Academics UK Group (MHNAUK), it is important that any assessment of a student in practice be conducted by a registrant who holds the relevant expertise.
Nonetheless, MHNAUK agreed with the NMC’s plan to allow student nurse supervision by other healthcare professionals. They noted that allowing supervision by professionals outside nursing offered extended placement opportunities for the students.
Some groups, including the MHNAUK insist that the NMC should add a light touch to the new changes to ensure that only deserving students pass.
MHNAUK noted, however, that there is the potential for abuse. The academic and practice assessors coming from outside the field could undermine the students’ capabilities with regards to mental health.
New Timeline that Led to the New Changes
The new standards represent two years of work and have been developed with the help of nurses, students, educators, charities, healthcare professionals and patient groups throughout the UK.
The NMC has changed the way mentoring works by splitting the role of the mentor into supervisors and assessors.
Also, the new education standards remove the cap on simulated practice hours. By doing so, the NMC believes that it will be easier for nurses and midwives to return to practice.
The assessors will either be “nominated practice assessors” or “nominated academic assessors.” These will either be registered nurses or midwives.
The problem is, according to the academics, that the NMC does not plan to set proficiencies for either assessors or supervisors.
Besides, the MHNAUK suggests that the NMC make improvements in how it trains assessors so that they are in line with some national standards. The MHNAUK’s comment reflects what the Royal College of Nursing said.
The Royal College of Nursing supports the decision to split the mentor into assessors and supervisors. It, however, expressed concerns over the support and training that would be available for the assessors and supervisors.
A spokesperson from the NMC said that all these views would be taken into consideration. These views will either be approved or rejected as the NMC finalizes the proficiency standards and education framework.
The NMC has introduced the roles of the academic assessor, practice supervisor and practice assessor to replace the role previously help by the mentor.
Both employers and universities are supposed to determine who will best fill out these positions. Organizations are expected to ensure that people who assume these new roles have the proper support and preparation.
Practice assessors will assess and confirm the students’ achievements for practice and learning. They will also recommend the students who are suitable to partner with the academic assessor.
Practice supervisors will offer supervision to students who are on placement. Any registered health professional, be they nurses or midwives can undertake this role.
Finally, academic assessors will match and confirm the students’ learning and theoretical achievement.
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