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Are mentors failing to fail underperforming student nurses? An integrative literature review

28 February 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 4



this review aimed to identify and review primary research to address the question: ‘Is there evidence that mentors are failing to fail underperforming student nurses?’ Design: this was an integrative literature review.


online databases (Medline, Scopus, PsycINFO, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL)) were searched using specified inclusion and exclusion criteria to focus the review. Critical appraisal was undertaken and key findings, outcomes and emergent concepts were identified from each study. These were then collated and synthesised into themes.


five articles met the criteria and review aim. Three main themes were identified. These were the mentors' relationship with the university, documentation when failing a student, and psychological and emotional impacts.


the phenomenon of failing to fail continues to concern the nursing profession but there is limited primary research evidence to inform contemporary discussions in the UK regarding the management of this in practice.

Ensuring that pre-qualifying nurses achieve specified standards for safe and competent practice is essential for nurse education and practice in the UK (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) 2018a; 2018b) and internationally (Clark et al, 2011; Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2015; Zasadny and Bull, 2015). Competency-based education aims to generate a nursing workforce with the skills and flexibility to function within global markets (Foth and Holmes, 2017) and fulfil employer requirements for graduates who are fit to start employment without the need for extensive further training (Black et al, 2008). Competency-based education focuses on what nurses need to know to function safely and effectively in the clinical environment (Foth and Holmes, 2017) and can be defined as:

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