The cultural change from mentor to practice assessor/supervisor

This week’s Blog is written by Lorraine Highe, Senior Nurse Education Team, Cambridge University Hosptials.

Alongside many placement providers in Sept 2019 the Trust in partnership with our HEIs implemented the new NMC Standards for Supervision and Assessment (NMC, 2018a). Twelve months of display stands, presentations, posters, teaching sessions and drop-in clinics resulted in the successful orientation of over 800 staff to the new NMC standards.

As with any change we were met with suspicion and apprehension, however the opportunity for creative placement provision and a team approach to assessment was welcomed and seen as an opportunity to improve our student experience.  The overall aim of the new standards is for our students to learn safely and achieve both proficiency and independence in their chosen field. Fostering a culture of good supervision has a positive impact on an organisation’s performance, supporting staff to practice well and encouraging them to deliver the best possible care to our local community.

Some of our students however have mourned the loss of their mentor under the SLAiP standards (NMC, 2008), finding the new standards a challenge when completing their assessment documents.  The responsibility for supporting students is now every NMC registrant’s responsibility (NMC, 2018b), but it is clear that some of our students preferred the model of having one mentor who took full responsibility for their learning.  The HEE (2018) RePAIR (Reducing Pre-registration Attrition and Improving Retention) project confirms this viewpoint by pointing out that the ‘student mentor relationship was central to the success of their clinical learning outcomes’.

With the departure of the mentor, our clinical learning environments who have effectively embraced the new standards have achieved this through adopting the following strategies:

  • Limiting the number of practice supervisors for each student.
  • Formulating teams of supervisors who develop expertise in nurturing students during a specific part of their programme.
  • Managing expectations of the students by identifying individuals in the team who are supportive of students undertaking new skills.
  • Teams who openly communicate with the students giving balanced feedback through their practice learning document regularly.

In the near future with the standardisation of the practice learning document across our HEI’s, this will also assist in facilitating the standardisation of practice outcomes and clarifying expectations for both students and their supervisors / assessors.

Implementing a cultural change in the healthcare environment is frequently documented as notoriously difficult, but through sharing some of our more successful strategies we hope to stimulate further debate and learn about other successful approaches in the implementation of the NMC Standards for student supervision and assessment (NMC, 2018a).


Health Education England (2018) Reducing Pre-Registration Attrition and Improving Retention, Health Education England Accessed [8th February 2020]

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) Standards for Supporting Learning and Assessment in Practice (SLAiP) Nursing and Midwifery Council UK: London

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2018a) Part 2 Standards for student supervision and assessment, (SSSA) Nursing and Midwifery Council UK: London

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2018b) The code: Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses, midwives and nursing associates. London: Nursing & Midwifery Council.


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