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Nurse mentors have a duty to maintain the
reputation of the nursing profession and be the advocates of the profession and
the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) professional register (Vinales 2015).
There are many ways by which nurses can preserve the integrity of the nursing
profession and promote safe practice. One of which is creating valid and
objective assessments when mentoring student nurses in the clinical area. A
robust assessment process, when done properly, will ensure that only competent
students can register as nurses.


Assessments can either be formative or
summative. Formative assessment provides essential information to facilitate
teaching and learning while they are taking place (Garrison & Ehringhaus
2007). In practice, formative assessment takes place during the initial and
midpoint interviews where mentors provide students with feedbacks which will
help the students to further improve their performance in the clinical area. If
the student fails to achieve the learning outcomes, an action plan will be
devised in order to reinforce the learning experience. On the other hand,
summative assessment is utilised to determine whether the student has achieved
the desired level of competence against a set criteria (Walsh 2010).  This usually takes place during the final
interview where mentors make their judgment of either passing or failing the
student based on the student’s overall performance.

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When doing an assessment, mentors should
ensure that the factors which contribute to the assessment outcome are valid
and that mentors should not lose their sense of objectivity and fairness when
making their judgment. An assessment is valid if it measures what it is
purposed to measure (Phelan & Wren 2006). It has to be fair and objective
and must be made without reference to outside influences (Slack 2014). To make
a valid and objective assessment can be complicated as there are plenty of
factors that might influence the outcome of the process. These factors may
result from lack of understanding and careful planning between mentors and


One factor that affects the validity of an assessment
is the duration of the process itself. Students should be observed on a number
of occasions over a certain period of time to give a better reflection of their
abilities to perform the task and so that evidence of competence can be
collected (Sharpies et al 2007). For instance, during practical assessments,
there are intellectually gifted students who are well-versed but get distracted
easily when being observed by their mentors, and these students often make the
most trivial errors. If their mentors are too hasty with their judgment and
deny them the chance to correct their mistakes, they would definitely fail.
But, if the students are provided with adequate time to prepare and be more
confident, mentors will be able to see their true capabilities at the end of
the assessment process. In addition, spending more time to assess students can
help mentors to gauge the cultural sensitivity of the students (Dogra &
Wass 2006). Students will get to meet patients from all walks of life with
different temperaments and behaviours. Mentor will have a better view of their
students’ values and attitude as future nurses.


Another factor that impacts validity is the
number of methods mentors use in the assessment process. The inclusion of
multiple methods of assessment can help students to integrate, synthesise and adapt
to the theoretical components of the significant learning outcomes with
clinical application in practice (Quinn & Hughes 2007). These methods can
be in the form of interview or observation. Interview gives mentors the
opportunity to ask probing questions to measure a student’s knowledge and
understanding of a subject matter. It also provides mentors the chance to
establish rapport with students especially during the initial stage of
assessment. Observation, on the other hand, is a process by which the mentor
can directly witness how





students perform in the clinical area. During
an interview, mentors can view multiple learning components at the same time.
It does not only focus on the student’s cognition, but also

measures the physical, social and cultural
capabilities of the student. Combining these methods enhances the validity of
the assessment as it allows mentors to implement the process using a holistic


Oral and written feedback from colleagues and
other professionals involved in the students’ learning experience contributes
to a valid assessment (Walsh 2010). Feedback from others can reassure mentors that
their decision is valid (Hand 2006). In difficult situations wherein mentors
cannot make the judgment whether to pass or fail a student, mentors can consult
with the practice development nurse or other senior colleagues to help them
carry out a fair and valid assessment. Together, they will be able to make a
sound judgment based on each other’s clinical competence and expertise.


Lastly, to increase the validity of the
assessment, it is imperative that both mentors and students make sure that the
assessment goals and objectives are clearly aligned. These objectives should be
discussed during the initial stage of the placement and must recognise
potential problems that could arise during the assessment process. Mentors will
then create a learning environment that maximises the likelihood that students
will engage in activities designed to achieve the intended outcomes (Biggs,
2003). In effect, students will learn what they think will be assessed on and
mentors can easily determine how well the students have attained these outcomes
against a chosen set of criteria.


Objectivity is just as important as validity
when doing an assessment. An objective assessment should be free from personal
bias, thus the mentor should distance himself or herself from his or her own
personality, beliefs and values and focus on the performance of the student
alone (Payne G. & Payne J. 2004). One factor that affects the objectivity
of an assessment is the use of a predetermined criteria for the student to
meet, such as the NMC outcomes (Aston & Hallam 2011). Criterion-referenced
assessment is defined as an evaluative description of the qualities which are
to be assessed without reference to the performance of others (Brown 1988). It
is different from norm-referencing, which provides information about the
student’s performance against that of others. The use of NMC standards, the
Royal Marsden manual of nursing procedures, and familiarity with the hospital’s
rules and policies in the clinical area are some of the examples which the
mentor can use in the teaching process. The use of predetermined criteria
enhances the integrity of the mentor’s decision during the final interview as
the result is based on how well the student performed against the criteria. In
addition, mentors will be able to present the arguments which support their
judgment in case students challenge the outcome of the assessment process.


Anxiety, when it affects the students, can
impact the objectivity of the assessment process. Students who are very anxious
often fail to perform at an ideal level. Most of the students’ energy, which
can be used in the learning process and help them raise their academic
succession, are wasted (Hashempour & Mehrad 2014). It masks the students’
potential and knowledge and can lead to false negative assessment outcomes. For
instance, anxious students with good nursing background may still fail their
placement as the anxiety prevents them from delivering a good performance in an
observed assessment. In this situation, it is vital that the mentor helps the
student to feel confident and be in control of the situation. Offering
reassurance and support and providing feedback are just some of the ways by
which a mentor can do to lessen the emotional stress from the student.
Likewise, a mentor’s judgment can also be negatively influenced by overwhelming
anxiety. This happens when a mentor is not confident in his or her role (Duffy
2004). Some mentors may perceive that they are inadequate in teaching and
guiding students, more so in assessing their performance. This creates personal
bias and reduces the integrity of the mentor’s judgment.






Finally, the relationship between the mentor
and the student can also define how objective an assessment is. Friendship can
develop between the mentor and the student, and whilst this enhances the
placement experience, it raises concerns that the student’s achievement may not
be a true reflection of his or her competency because the mentor’s assessment
may be subjective

(Wilkes 2006). Mentors may overlook a
student’s shortcomings and be lenient in making their judgment. Mentors should
be careful in establishing relationships with students and set clear boundaries
to make sure that their roles do not conflict. These roles should be defined at
the start of the placement to allow mentors and students to have realistic
expectations of their relationship


In conclusion, assessment is an essential role
which mentors carry through in the clinical area to ensure that only the
rightful students will progress and become nurses. It is also through making
assessments that mentors can participate in the promotion of safe clinical
practice and advocate for the nursing profession. In order to be successful in
this crucial task, mentors should be conscious of their own set of values, be
fair in their clinical decisions, exhaust all the possible measures in carrying
out their judgment, and utilise the expertise of the people they work with to
guarantee a rational and robust assessment outcome.















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