Critical Examination of the Role of the Mentor in Nursing

Over the years, the global advancements spreading in the field of medicine have gradually revolutionized the health care delivery spilling a new wave of nursing requirements in the patient units. For that reason, professional progressions for entrants in the nursing field require a program nurtured through daily interaction with the guiding instrument both in the learning environment and practice placements. However, adapting to nursing requirements for a beginner has never been easy in practice as it seems in theory. For instance, a nursing student learns how to assume the role of a professional nurse at the bedside setting: developing technical skills, and incorporating the attitudes, values and beliefs of a practicing nurse (Coffey, n.d, para 1). In view of that, a nursing student learns from both the clinical setting simulated in the classroom and the patient unit interacting with the real application of the transferable skills into a compelling reality. Constructive feedback from the mentor greatly facilitates the development process of gaining clear decision making skills by inculcating a critical thinking culture to solve present and emerging challenges in nursing.

Nevertheless, concentrating on learning nursing concepts and various areas of specialization is never enough as it requires identifying an active interaction with experienced professionals in the nursing field. Active learning approach through reflecting on one’s past and present practice is essential to correct the insufficient functioning to gain competence in nursing. Accomplishment of such objectives demands a supportive mentor offering tactful corrections while demonstrating professional objectivity through positive criticism. Establishing a strong interpersonal connection to the mentee is essential for the student to bridge the gap existing between learnt theory and application of skills in practice. Normally, the role of the mentor revolves around two objectives including facilitating students’ learning and strengthening students’ professionalism (Chandan& Watts, 2012, p. 3).

Mentoring involves sharing knowledge to others for them to understand better their attitude and propensity for the learner preparedness in improving ones academic performance and self-satisfaction in nursing. For instance, the experience that a mentee obtains in a nursing mentoring program to assist in the identification of areas of progress and decide their future course of action, as a nurse practitioner, nurse educator or nurse manager (Ali & Panther 2008, p. 35). Ordinarily, the word mentor implies an individual performing supervisory role to offer advice and guidance during the development of a novice while interacting with the reality of the profession. Consequently, outlining the assumed roles is an endless list expected of a dedicated professional with a real desire to further the profession of nursing by giving their time and energy to passing on their knowledge, skills, attitude and intuition to others(Walsh, 2010, p. 18).

Accomplishment of clinical competence in nursing is a compulsory requirement underpinned by the provisions of the NMC to ensure a safe healthcare environment and safeguard the general public. In view of that, giving feedback helps the student narrow the gap concerning their actual performance and the desired performance by illuminating their strengths andfacilitatesthe improvement process in their career paths(Dawson, Cook, & Holliday, 2012, p. 16).This requires a mentoring relationship developed under the principle of visionary and mutual understanding crucial to the transition process till the student attains proficiency of a qualified health practitioner. Going beyond the various mentoring approaches, NMC outlines that mentoring role entails action learning and a guiding forum of nurturing, role modeling, focusing on the professional development of the mentee while sustaining a caring relationship over time (Gopee 2011, p. 11).

Typically, the ability to offer and receive feedback in the professional workplace requires a receptive relationship sustained though a good rapport for the common success of the mentoring process. Giving feedback involves performing regular assessments of the student progress by a skilled questioner to ascertain future learning needs arising from insufficient functioning. Contrary to the general assertion that nurses always perform a great job, providing a positive feedback is an essential reinforcement tool, seeking to strengthen the likelihood of continuing desired practice. However, providing constructive feedback in the ordinary hectic schedule of the health care units may lack leading to declining nursing services. In readiness to prevent such disastrous eventuality, constructive feedback is an effective tool in boosting much-needed morale, supporting career progression and encouraging good teamwork in clinical environments (Pearce, 2007, para 4).

Giving constructive feedback involves offering an opinion to another individual after evaluating one’s performances and conduct. For instance, feedback may take a recognition form after a difficult shift or a chance consultation in the corridors of work. Basically, feedback may take either informal or formal structure. Giving an informal feedback involve providing commentaries when one bumps into a student while formal feedback prioritize provision of structured appraisals and consequent documentation of the findings (Pearce, 2007). Mentoring should focus on sustenance of a receptive environment that orients the mentee to approaches broadening ones professional horizon in a competent reinforcement and accelerated transition. Accordingly, mentoring comprise of a flexible program directed toward facilitating new learning experiences, guiding professional career decisions while providing emotional and psychological support by assisting the mentee build professional networks (Elliott, Aitken, &Chaboyer 2011, p. 10).

In practice, providing constructive feedback is attained through the focus of the student as the center of the entire mentoring process. This is possible by maintaining the principles outlined by the Johari window model. Application of the model in the provision of feedback involves realization of the four areas identifying with the student’s position to maintain an open communication channel in the relationship. Characteristically, the public area represents what is known to others and the individual following conversations where one shares information with others. Secondly, the blind area entails what others know about the student but unknown to the self. On the other hand, the hidden area represents what one knows about the self but remains undisclosed to the public. Lastly, the unknown area represents what others and the self has not succeeded in knowing.Combination of feedback and disclosure allows individuals to increase the open area, reduce the blind and hidden areas while producing more information to unearth the unknown area(Borkowski, 2009, p. 75).However, with the dynamism evident in every single sector, the mentor is expected to drift away from the procedural structure while providing feedback in a healthcare setting.

The prime role of offering constructive feedback to a student is enabling them to appreciate what they have done, the present performance and valuing the existing differences. At this point, the mentor is to prioritize constructive discussions before criticizing to inculcate a culture of learning to think critically despite the nature of the situation at hand. Giving and receiving feedback revolves around the transformative impact and exchange force in areas the receiver is willing to pursue (Lowy & Hood, 2011, p. 260).Surprisingly, constructive feedback involves a powerful force in one’s personal growth and professional progress. For that reason, it demands careful treatment and honesty during the evaluation stage of the individual assessment and communicating the findings to adjust the future course of action.

Giving constructive feedback by the mentor should always aim at correcting the problem not browbeating the student capabilities whether in person or one’s performances. The feedback process is based on objectivity on specific observations where the mentor should avoid prejudgment to ensure a smooth positive course for the student. Empirically, the first aspect of providing constructive feedback involves the content documented on the findings of the specific performance of the student. Here, the mentor commends the student on areas of sufficient functioning while highlighting areas demanding improvements (Pearce, 2007).

Secondly, the manner of providing feedback is essential to ensure smooth implementation of the findings by focusing on the challenge and not the student. Here, the mentor is to deliver a direct and consistent report and avoid instances of conflicting messages. Decisively, the feedback should be privately provided to protect the participants from public embarrassments. Simultaneously, the mentor assumes a collaborative role by involving the student in active finding of the solutions (Pearce, 2007). However, at this stage the mentor is armed with solutions to students with difficulties in gettingto the required level and who need appropriate support to initiate independency.According to Wilkes (2006), a mentor should establish a bond with the student at a professional level as developing too deep makes it difficult for the mentor to act professionally and compromise objectivity in the feedback(Walsh, 2010, p. 22). Mentoring seeks to provide an insight essential to instill confidence and assist the student assume an accelerating initiative for one’s own development.

Time after time, giving positive feedback is anticipated to create the desired effect in the student competency development. With that in mind, feedback should always be provided within the framed time to avoid holding for too long since it may lose its intended impact. Although finding time is the hardest part of the mentoring relationship, it is crucial for the mentor to maintain consistency of agreed meetings to build trust(Walsh, 2010, p. 22).However, it is vital for the mentor to locate adequate time to learn more from the feedback before discussing it with the affected student. Lastly, the mentor ought to determine the frequency of providing positive feedback by ensuring that it outweighs negative feedback at all times (Pearce, 2007). At this juncture, feedback is tailored to offer reassurance and a course-plotting path towards a critical and objective thinking on the basis of clinical setting. Constant criticism will lead to declining performance as a result of the unsupportive tag to the mentor.

Certainly, mentorship provides explicit arenas for the student to acquire an articulation awareness of one’s current progress in both professional and private life. However, gaining heightened awareness of the inherent complexities requires in-depth sessions of constructive criticism. At the outset, the mentor should realize that different individuals possess a varying ability to change and are willing to grow their personal, organizational, and professional knowledge. Consequently, the mentor should aim to provide an objective standpoint and avoid instances of negative feedback to the students. Maintaining a negative feedback to the students makes the practice educator unapproachable and unsupportive, thus putting off the student from one’s development path as a result of fear and tension created (FDTL, 2006, p. 15). For instance, the nursing mentee will always execute actions cautiously under tension of making mistakes while not asking for assistance following the negative reputation attributed to the mentor.

Advantages of Constructive Feedback

Firstly, maintaining constructive feedback during the mentoring relationship involves maintenance of honest guidelines in a reflective manner where problems are dealt with when identified. In particular, providing timely communications of circumstances likely to curtail the student’s skills, attitudes and behavior in nursing, maintains a stable point of reference and initiate realistic expectations of the student (FDTL, 2006, p. 15).Secondly, constructive feedback generates the courage in the student and equips one with transferable skill to face up with sequential situations. This emphasizes the role of the mentor as one bringing experience, learning perspective, and professional objectivity in the mentoring relationship. Mentoring activities involve offering technical assistance, clarifying roles, and responsibilities; identifying and analyzing learning experiences, opportunities, and gaps; encouraging analysis and reflection; structuring learning and work and confronting through questioning, listening, and giving feedback (Hatter, Jollie, &McKimm 2007, p. 4).

Giving constructive feedback is founded on the general rule stating that an isolated individual rarely garners perfection. This outlines the importance of reflective learning by maintaining consistent communications between the mentor and student. For instance, student health care practitioners are oriented to maintain a reflective diary for recording their experiences in the nursing field (FDTL, 2006, p. 4). Inculcating that habit for the mentee generate self-awareness for future evaluation sessions and solving potential challenges affecting the learning path. For the most part, mentors enhance learning through feedback in a framework exposing the student to scrutiny and positive criticism of others. Sustaining such a framework gradually transfers the responsibility of monitoring learning to students themselves, thus equipping them for ongoing independent learning throughout life, careers and further study in nursing (Farrell, Devlin, & James, 2007, p. 12).

Creating autonomy through a clinical experience for the student is a primary role for the mentor by designing forums for regular assessment and providing prompt and detailed feedback. The attainment of that objective involves scheduling feedback sessions where the student is exposed to an opportunity to nurture one’s understanding in the light of responses in a much broader concept than simply comments on the development cycle (Farrell, Devlin, & James, 2007, p. 12). The mentor is expected to initiate analytical schedules where student reviews learning outcome to gain sophisticated skills in increasingly complex problems and apply theoretical expectations in practice. Giving constructive feedback to the student stimulates critical thinking during problem solving forums where the student assumes the focus on solving present and emerging challenges in nursing.

In the context of nursing practice, the mentor has a chief role to play in evidence-based approach for the students gain a breadth of knowledge and insights beyond the immediate learning environment. This is facilitated through constructive feedback during evidence based assessments to ease the prospective barriers to quality health care services. For instance, within the complex and changing health care environment providing evidence-based feedback involves analyzing, critiquing and using evidence in practice, disseminating research findings, and adapting where appropriate (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2009, p. 7). At this point, the mentor and the student create formative occasions where they unanimously identify areas of interests of the student to familiarize with action plans. The role of the mentor involves initiating a learning exploration of what has been learned, what still needs to be learnt, guidance on gathering evidence and the quality of the evidence of student achievements (Lawson, 2011, p. 16).

The key role of the mentoring program is to enhance autonomy and independence attained when the mentee acquires the competency required to practice in the field. On that note, the mentor serves the role of problem solver by inculcating specific competencies during the induction programs which develop ones critical skills, problem solving skills, and decision making skills in the professional portfolio (Ali & Panther 2008, p. 36). Offering constructive feedback is beneficial to the student from analytical skills attained which one can utilize later in solving problems that emerge during development of one’s career. Additionally, the mentoring program serves as an expansive source of reference during subsequent instances similar in nature where one would successfully implement solutions or use previous strategies to devise new ones that are applicable to the situation at hand. Competencies built on good problem solving skills stimulate an effective transition producing knowledgeable practitioners with up-to-date solutions in the field of practice. This encourages future collaborative thinking in a win-win partnership in an integrative style permitting students’ orchestrates expertise to bring new ideas into being (Wittmann-Price, Godshall, & Wilson, 2013).

Constructive feedback during the final placement of the nursing student is a vital component in one’s career to correct where the student insufficiently functions. Positive criticism enables the student meet the proficiency of the expected level to enable one to perform like a practicing nurse. The role of the mentor is prioritizing and laying emphasis on the student transferable skills and the ability to perform safely in any environment related to their field of nursing (Black, 2011, p. 117). Under a positive mentoring approach where the student is exposed to challenging situations of equal nature that a registered nurse would handle. Professional criticism highlights the students’ performance problems that would see carried forward during practice if not addressed earlier and avoids according the benefit of doubt that would contribute to poor health care services (Black, 2011, p. 225). This criticism enhances a safe environment where nursing standards for the next generation of nurses are observed for the sake of the patient well-being.

Disadvantages of Constructive Feedback

Taking criticism meant to improve one’s personal growth and professional development is never easy given the human nature to overreact. Firstly, the recipient may get overly defensive denying the student opportunity to reflect and learn from the insufficient functioning. Criticism affects an individual’s pride in one’s capabilities making one feel worthless and lose confidence to proceed in the nursing career.This arises when the mentor lacks the capacity to assess a performance of understanding in which it can be demonstrated that students have acquired a thorough integration of knowledge, reflexivity and intuitive action required for exceptional nursing practice at all levels(Callara, 2008, p. 15). Secondly, criticism causes resentment when the student feels that the mentor attempts to lower one’s level, discouraging open communication in the mentoring relationship. Additionally, anticipation of constructive feedback on a student with exemplary performance generates anxiety of appreciation which may never be forthcoming owing to biased criticism from the mentor.This may generate exchange owing to the discrepancy between self-appraisals and mentor’s feedback(Marquis & Huston, 2009, p. 578).


Under constructive feedback, the mentor seeks to avoid professional negligence arising from failure to highlight instances of insufficient functioning of one’s transferable skills in nursing.The mentoring program retains its integral contribution through the role played by the experienced personnel in assisting the beginners and students shape their professional development. The role of the mentor involves bridging the professional deficit unresolved in the classroom teaching by conducting the student transition into the realm of patient’s unit as a compelling reality for quality outcome. The performance of the mentor’s role requires active interaction to solve challenges curtailing effective mentorship process and providing constructive feedback as a powerful force influencing one’s personal growth and professional progress. For that reason, it demands careful treatment and honesty during the evaluation stage of the individual assessment and communicating the findings to adjust future courses of action.


  • Ali, P. A., & Panther, W. (2008). Professional Development and the Role of Mentorship. Nursing Standard, 22 (42), 35-39.
  • Borkowski, N. (2009). Organizational Behavior in Health Care (2 ed.). SUdbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Callara, L. E. (2008). Nursing Education Challenges in the Twenty First Century. New York: Nova Publishers.
  • Coffey, L. (n.d). Role of Practice & Feedback in Student Nursing Education. Retrieved June 24, 2013, from
  • Dawson, P., Cook, L., & Holliday, L.-J. (2012). Oxford Handbook of Clinical Skills for Children’s and Young People’s Nursing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Farrell, K., Devlin, M., & James, R. (2007). Nine Principles of Guiding Teaching and Learning . Retrieved June 23, 2013, from
  • FDTL. (2006). Reflection on Practice. Retrieved June 23, 2013, from
  • Gopee, N. (2011). Mentoring and Supervision in Healthcare (2 ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Hatter, M., Jollie, C., & McKimm, J. (2007). Mentoring: Theory and Practice.
  • Lawson, L. (2011, March). Mentor’s Handbook Supporting Student’s in Practice. Retrieved June 23, 2013, from
  • Lowy, A., & Hood, P. (2011). The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2 x 2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. J. (2009). Leadership Roles and Management Functions in Nursing: Theory and Application. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council. (2009). Standards for Pre-registration Midwifery Education. Retrieved June 23, 2013, from
  • Pearce, C. (2007, November 2). Giving constructive feedback. Retrieved June 24, 2013, from
  • Walsh, D. (2010). The Nurse Mentor’s Handbook: Supporting Students in Clinical Practice. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill International.
  • Wittmann-Price, R. A., Godshall, M., & Wilson, L. (2013). Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) Review Manual (2 ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Before you go, you are invited to support a noble cause on IndieGoGo:
HTML Snippets Powered By :