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An exploration of undergraduate nursing students' experiences of mentorship in an Irish hospital

11 August 2022
16 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 15



Mentorship is the support model of choice for nursing practice in Ireland and although it follows a similar approach to that provided thus far in the UK, there is little available evidence about the students' lived experience of mentorship and the extent to which it facilitates their development.


To explore undergraduate nursing students' experiences of mentorship in hospital.


The study used a qualitative approach. Newell and Burnard's (2011) 6-stage pragmatic approach to qualitative data analysis guided the collection and analysis of data. A purposive sample of six was drawn from fourth-year students who participated in a semi-structured interview.


Six main categories emerged from the data: reality versus expectation of mentorship; student's perception of self; personal feelings and expectations of mentorship; perception of workload; barriers and enablers of mentorship; student perceptions of mentor preparedness. Interpersonal relationships between student and mentor were a pivotal concept in all of the categories. Despite its flaws, participants felt that the concept of mentorship was valuable and worthwhile.


This study has shown that the personal and interpersonal aspects of mentorship can have both positive and negative effects on the participants' development as nurses. Although students felt that they achieved their learning outcomes, there were times when this was despite guidance from their mentors. Although this was a small study, the generalisability of the findings and conclusions to similar clinical contexts is likely to be high.

Since the introduction of undergraduate nursing programmes in 2002 (Hegarty et al, 2008), Ireland has increased its reputation for producing highly qualified, competent and motivated nurses. This has been supported by its ability to provide adequate mentorship for student nurses during their clinical placements, which make up over 50 per cent of their course (Department of Health (Ireland), 2012).

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) is the governing body for nurses and midwives practising in the Republic of Ireland. They oversee many aspects of continuing professional development, including mentorship preparation. Nurses must have 6 months' post-registration experience before enrolling on locally designed short courses. These courses should meet the seven national core learning outcomes; however, there is no standardisation as to how this training is delivered.

In Ireland, the term ‘preceptor’ is the preferred term to ‘mentor’ and refers to a registered nurse who supports undergraduate nursing or midwifery students during their clinical placements. These preceptors assume the role of supervisor and assessor of students in terms of the achievement of learning outcomes and competence (NMBI, 2015). The preceptor's role is similar to the UK equivalent of a mentor (McSharry et al, 2010), although participants in this study preferred to use the term mentor.

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