An Exploration of the Experiences of Mentors Supporting Clinical Skills’ Development in Student Nurses in Very Remote Rural Scotland

Smith, Tamsin (2021). An Exploration of the Experiences of Mentors Supporting Clinical Skills’ Development in Student Nurses in Very Remote Rural Scotland. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study explores the experiences of mentors working with student nurses in a very remote rural setting in Scotland. Student nurses’ clinical skills’ development and acquisition is the responsibility of the mentor in practice, with the mentor being viewed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as the ultimate gatekeeper into their profession, due to their specific role in assessing students. However, there is a dearth of research undertaken within the UK context that focuses upon clinical skills’ teaching by mentors in clinical practice and, specifically, within the Scottish and very remote rural context. This study sought to determine what nurse mentors consider to be the clinical skills that they teach student nurses and how they teach these in clinical practice.

A case study approach was used to provide a rich narrative, illuminating the experiences of mentors in this setting. Three focus groups of mentor teams working in community settings in one very remote rural Health Board in Scotland outlined their experiences of supporting pre-registration nursing students, all of whom were living and working away from their home or main university campus.

The key findings of this study revealed that mentors use a wide range of ‘scaffolding’ behaviours to teach clinical skills in practice, and that they were influenced by the mentor preparation programmes they had undertaken prior. Furthermore, the mentors in this study did not distinguish between psychomotor skills as being clinical skills but deemed all care to be clinical skills. Another key finding highlighted the needs of student nurses when faced with the challenges of learning to nurse in this environment and has shown that aspects such as geography, environmental factors, communication, and the nature of health care provision have important effects, not only on the mentor role but also on the support students require in practice. Furthermore, the concept of the ‘triad’ relationship between student, patient and registrant is suggested and a model of learning in community practice that recognises that this relationship is central for student nurse learning is introduced. This model acknowledges the influence of both physical and social geography on student learning in practice.

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