The government believes early intervention, ensuring families get the best start, will help to build a strong and stable society (DH 2011). The Implementation Plan 2011–15 (DH 2011) detailed the need to invest in a robust health visiting service, by increasing health visitor numbers by 50%. One key deliverable was increased training places delivered by Higher Educational Institutions and supported by Practice Teachers in the community setting. To facilitate the extra training places for students, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC 2011) produced guidance in utilising mentors, usually involved in pre-registration student nurse training, to work alongside the Practice Teachers in educating health visitor students.
This project involved participants in a process of inquiry to evaluate a service delivered by Practice Teachers, to support mentors and mentoring in Student Health Visitor education. Consideration of Stringer and Genat (2004) Look, Think and Act approach to Action Research led to the development of the research plan. A purposive sample of Practice Teachers, Student Practice Teachers and mentors participated. Data was collated through semi structured interviews, transcribed verbatim and analysed utilising a framework analysis approach.
The key findings were a positive evaluation of the support for mentors through supervision sessions, the lack of support around preparation of the mentors, the lack of support from management and the importance of support from team members. Failing students were seen as problematic. Willingness and an interest in education were crucial mentor attributes and future training was seen to lie with Practice Teachers and not mentors. Recommendation for practice highlighted the work that Practice Teachers and managers need to undertake in developing group supervision sessions, determining the future roles of Practice Teachers and mentors, evaluating the mentor training sessions and considering systems to support mentors with failing students.
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