An Exploration of Novice Nursing Student’s Experiences of Mentoring in Practice Placement Settings in the United Kingdom

  • Darren Brand University of Brighton
Keywords: mentor, nurse, placement learning


TThis study focuses on the experience of new UK student nurses of being mentored in the workplace (placement) setting. There is only limited nursing literature that focuses on the experience of being mentored, whilst there is significant material that examines the role of the mentor. With half of the course being spent in the placement setting, the role of the mentor is pivotal in supporting the student and their learning. Adopting a qualitative design, data was collected through small-group interviews with a cohort of first-year nursing students. Data analysis followed in the form of standard thematic analysis. The Communities of Practice model developed by Lave & Wenger was applied as a theoretical lens. Two main themes emerged from the analysis process: the process of belonging; and that of developing identity as a learner. Whilst there was consensus with the literature in that it was felt that the mentor had a key role to play in supporting and facilitating learning, the participants also felt that the mentor supported them to settle into the team. Further, it was found that until the learner felt part of the wider placement clinical team, the process of learning may be hindered. An argument is presented advocating better preparation of students for learning in the workplace setting as this will enable them to assimilate better the learning offered by mentors and the wider healthcare team.


Andrew, N., McGuinness, C., Reid, G., & Corcoran, T. (2009). Greater than the sum of its parts: Transition into the first year of undergraduate nursing. Nurse Education in Practice, 9(1), 13–21.

Avis, J. (2010). Workplace learning, knowledge, practice and transformation. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 8(2), 165–193.

Baglin, M. R., & Rugg, S. (2009). Student nurses’ experiences of community-based practice placement learning: A qualitative exploration. Nurse Education in Practice, 10(3), 144–152.

Barry, D., Houghton, T., & Warburton, T. (2016). Supporting students in practice: Leadership. Nursing Standard, 31(4), 46–53.

Billett, S. (1996). Towards a model of workplace learning: The learning curriculum. Studies in Continuing Education, 18(1), 43–58.

Billett, S. (2001). Workplace affordances and individual engagement at work. Griffith University, Queensland.

Billett, S. (2002). Critiquing workplace learning discourses: Participation and continuity at work. Studies in the Education of Adults, 34(1), 55–67.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Cahill, H. A. (1996). A qualitative analysis of student nurses' experiences of mentorship. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24(4), 791–799.

Casey, D. C., & Clark, L. (2011). Roles and responsibilities of the student nurse mentor: An update. British Journal of Nursing, 20(15), 933–937.

Clutterbuck, D. (2004). Everyone needs a mentor: Fostering talent in your organization (4th ed.). Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

Collin, K., Sintonen, S., Paloniemi, S, & Auvinen, T. (2011). Work, power and learning in a risk filled occupation. Management Learning, 42(3), 301–318.

Cooper, J., Courtney-Pratt, H., & Fitzgerald, M. (2015). Key influences identified by first year undergraduate nursing students as impacting on the quality of clinical placement: A qualitative study. Nurse Education Today, 35(9), 1004–1008.

Courtney-Pratt, H., Fitzgerald, M., Ford, K., Marsden, K., & Marlow, A. (2012). Quality clinical placements for undergraduate nursing students: A cross-sectional survey of undergraduates and supervising nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68(6), 1380–1390.

Denscombe, M. (2014). The good research guide for small-scale social research projects (5th ed.). Open University Press.

Doornbos, A. J., Simons, R. -J., & Denessen, E. (2008). Relations between characteristics of workplace practices and types of work-related learning: A survey study among Dutch Police. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 19(2), 129–151.

D'Souza, M. S., Karkada, S. N., Parahoo, K., & Venkatesaperumal, R. (2015). Perception of and satisfaction with the clinical learning environment among nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 35(6), 833–840.

Duffy, K. (2013). Providing constructive feedback to students during mentoring. Nursing Standard, 27(31), 50–56.

Felstead, A., Fuller, A., Unwin, L., Ashton, D., Butler, P., & Lee, T. (2005). Surveying the scene: Learning metaphors, survey design and the workplace context. Journal of Education and Work, 18(4), 359–383.

Fenwick, T. (2008). Understanding relations of individual-collective learning in work: A review of research. Management Learning, 39(3), 227–243.

Flick, U. (2014). An introduction to qualitative research (5th ed.). Sage.

Flott, E. A., & Linden, L. (2015). The clinical learning environment in nursing education: A concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72(3), 1–13.

Foster, H., Ooms, A., & Marks-Maran, D. (2015). Nursing students' expectations and experiences of mentorship. Nurse Education Today, 35(1), 18–24.

Franklin Torrez, C. A., & Krebs, M. M. (2012). Expert voices: What cooperating teachers and teacher candidates say about quality student teaching placements and experiences. Action in Teacher Education, 34(5–6), 485–499.

Gale, J., Ooms, A., Sharples, K., & Marks-Maran, D. (2016). The experiences of student nurses on placements with practice nurses: A pilot study. Nurse Education in Practice, 16(1), 225–234.

Gidman, J., McIntosh, A., Melling, K., & Smith, D. (2011). Student perceptions of support in practice. Nurse Education in Practice, 11(6), 351–355.

Gillespie, M. (2017). Student nurse preferences for their first clinical experience: A thematic analysis. British Journal of Nursing, 26(2), 104–108.

Guile, D., & Griffiths, T. (2000). Learning through work experience. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 113–131.

Helminen, K., Tossavainen, K., & Turunen, H. (2014). Assessing clinical practice of student nurses: Views of teachers, mentors and students. Nurse Education Today, 34(8), 1161–1166.

Henderson, A., Cooke, M., Creedy, D. K., & Walker, R. (2012). Nursing students' perceptions of learning in practice environments: A review. Nurse Education Today, 32(3), 299–302.

Hepburn, A., & Bolden, G. B. (2017). Transcribing for social research. Sage.

Hinton, J. (2016). An exploration of Operating Department Practice students' experiences of placement support during their first perioperative clinical placement. Nurse Education in Practice, 16(1), 242–250.

Houghton, C. E., Casey, D., Shaw, D., & Murphy, K. (2013). Students' experiences of implementing clinical skills in the real world of practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(13–14), 1961–1969.

Ironside, P. M., McNelis, A. M., & Ebright, P. (2014). Clinical education in nursing: Rethinking learning in practice settings. Nursing Outlook, 62(3), 185–191.

Jokelainen, M., Turunen, H., Tossavainen, K., Jamookeeah, D., & Coco, K. (2011). A systematic review of mentoring nursing students in clinical placements. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20(19–20), 2854–2867.

Kleinman, S., & Copp, M. A. (1993). Emotions and fieldwork. Sage.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.

Levett-Jones, T., Pitt, V., Courtney-Pratt, H., Harbrow, G., & Rossiter, R. (2015). What are the primary concerns of nursing students as they prepare for and contemplate their first clinical placement experience? Nurse Education in Practice, 15(4), 304–309.

Nursing Times Contributor. (2014). Sustaining and assuring the quality of student nurse mentorship: What are the challenges? Nursing Times, 110.

Manning, A., Cronin, P., Monaghan, A., & Rawlings-Anderson, K. (2009). Supporting students in practice: An exploration of reflective groups as a means of support. Nurse Education in Practice, 9(3), 176–183.

Materne, M., Henderson, A., & Eaton, E. (2017). Building workplace social capital: A longitudinal study of student nurses' clinical placement experiences. Nurse Education in Practice, 26, 109–114.

McCallum, J., Lamont, D., & Kerr, E. -L. (2016). First year undergraduate nursing students and nursing mentors: An evaluation of their experience of specialist areas as their hub practice learning environment. Nurse Education in Practice, 16(1), 182–187.

McIntosh, A., Gidman, J., & Smith, D. (2014). Mentors’ perceptions and experiences of supporting student nurses in practice. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 20(4), 360–365.

Mead, D., Hopkins, A., & Wilson, C. (2011). Views of nurse mentors about their role. Nursing Management, 18(6), 18–23.

Moran, M., & Banks, D. (2016). An exploration of the value of the role of the mentor and mentoring in midwifery. Nurse Education Today, 40(May), 52–56.

Mulholland, J., Anionwu, E. N., Atkins, R., Tappern, M., & Franks, P.J. (2008). Diversity, attrition and transition into nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 64(1), 49–59.

Ness, V., Duffy, K., McCallum, J., & Price, L. (2010). Supporting and mentoring nursing students in practice. Nursing Standard, 25(1), 41–46.

Nursing & Midwifery Council. (2008). Standards to support learning and assessment in practice. Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Nursing & Midwifery Council. (2010). Standards for pre-registration nursing education.

Nursing & Midwifery Council. (2018). Realising professionalism: Standards for education and training: Part 2: Standards for student supervision and assessment.

Price, B. (2012). Key principles in assessing students’ practice-based learning. Nursing Standard, 26(49), 49–55.

Pryjmachuk, S., Easton, K., & Littlewood, A. (2009). Nurse education: Factors associated with attrition. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65(1), 149–160.

Rainbird, H., Fuller, A., & Munro, A. (Eds.). (2004). Workplace learning in context. Routledge.

Royal College of Nursing. (2006). Helping students get the best from their practice placements. Royal College of Nursing.

Royal College of Nursing. (2007). Guidance for mentors of nursing students and midwives. Royal College of Nursing.

Rylance, R., Barrett, J., Sixsmith, P., & Ward, D. (2017). Student nurse mentoring: An evaluative study of the mentor’s perspective. British Journal of Nursing, 26(7), 405–409.

Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). Sage.

Thomas, J., Jinks, A., & Jack, B. (2015). Finessing incivility: The professional socialisation experiences of student nurses’ first clinical placement, a grounded theory. Nurse Education Today, 35(12), e4–e9.

University of Brighton. (2015). Research ethics policy. University of Brighton.

Walker, S., Dwyer, T., Broadbent, M., Moxham, L., Sander, T., & Edwards, K. (2014). Constructing a nursing identity within the clinical environment: The student nurse experience. Contemporary Nurse, 49(1), 103–112.

Wallin, K., Fridlund, B., & Thorén, A. -B. (2013). Prehospital Emergency Nursing students’ experiences of learning during prehospital clinical placements. International Emergency Nursing, 21(3), 197–203.

Walsh, D. (2010). The nurse mentor's handbook: Supporting students in clinical practice. McGraw-Hill/Open University Press.

Watson, R., Gardiner, E., Hogston, R., Gibson, H., Stimpson, A., Wrate, R., & Deary, I. (2009). A longitudinal study of stress and psychological distress in nurses and nursing students. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18(2), 270–278.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Harvard Business School Press.

Woodward, S. (2013). Student placements need to be positive. British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 9(4), 161.

Yeo, R. K. (2008). How does learning (not) take place in problem-based learning activities in workplace contexts? Human Resource Development International, 11(3), 317–330.

How to Cite
Brand, D. (2020). An Exploration of Novice Nursing Student’s Experiences of Mentoring in Practice Placement Settings in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 8(1), 73-85.