The StN Project

Dear Mentor / Dear Student

This weeks blog is written from both the perspective of both a student nurse talking to their mentor, and a mentor talking to a student nurse. We hope that you enjoy reading these as much as the team did putting them together…

Dear Mentor,  

I’m excited to come to your ward, I’m itching to learn and I’m ready to get involved so when I walk into reception and the first thing I hear is “another student? We weren’t expecting one, now we have two!” it kinda bursts my bubble of excitement mixed with a few nerves and replaces it with pure anxiety.
Us students don’t mean to be a pain, we are there to learn and to be part of the team for those few weeks or months we are on your ward. We want to help, we want to be useful! We call beforehand to tell you we’re coming; and it would be great if that information got passed on to the nurse on shift when we arrive. We understand you’re very busy, we understand patients come first, we don’t expect a red carpet and champagne, but we do expect a “hello my name is Mary and I’m the nurse in charge today, nice to meet you.”

We know that not everyone is a teacher and wants to mentor us, but especially on that first day it would be nice if you just took a deep breath when we ask, “where do the patients do their washing as Bob is asking to do his?”. I don’t know Bob, or his risk assessment or where the risk assessments even are. It’s my first day, I’m on a ward I’ve never been to before, with patients I don’t know. Please understand I’m not trying to be annoying by asking questions, I just want to deliver safe patient care.

As for rotas, I will plan my life around placement, I won’t book shifts or plan to see family or friends unless it’s my day off, but I need to know my rota to plan my life. So please treat us like you would any other member of your team and give me my rota in good time so I can make sure my family are sorted too, we do have a life outside of placement too.

A good mentor is invaluable. I feel like I’m becoming a nurse created by all the different skills I’ve learnt from each mentor I’ve had over the past few years. Like a blanket of patchwork all stitched together apart from the patchwork is different skills and the blanket is Mental Health Nurse Abby.

I’ve learnt communication and compassion from Marie, I learnt how to speak up and be part of a MDT from Sarah, I learnt about wound care from Kate, I learnt about empathy when applying the MHA and to continue fighting for your patients from Jill, I learnt about the importance of documentation from Jack and I learnt the importance of being non-judgmental and social care from Heather.

A good mentor can make or break a placement for us, and you can shape the nurse who we will be in the future and where we may work. We don’t ask for much, please make us part of your team, learn our name and try your best to make some time to teach us and in return we will try our best to be a great contributing team member on your ward.

Thank you,

A Third Year Student Nurse 


Dear Student Nurse, 

Hi! My name is Debs, I’m going to be your buddy mentor on this placement. I’m looking forward to working with you, and I think we’re both probably nervous about getting off on the right foot. 

Please bear with me if I ask you your name a hundred times in the first few days of your placement. I don’t want to call you “The Student” and you’re not “my student” – I hated that when I was a student nurse. I know some of my colleagues might say “oh that’s Debs’ student”, but it’s not that they don’t want to work with you, we just try to give you a named someone to work with each shift, so that you have an anchor point, a friendly face in the midst of a new environment. 

We may be a bit of a funny bunch on the ward, it took me a while to get used to the banter as I didn’t have a placement with them. We have running jokes and reference things you might not understand, we tease each other like a family does but we’re also there for each-other when times are hard. I hope you don’t think we’re being cliquey, or that we’re trying to exclude you but while we want to make sure you enjoy your placement and learn loads, we will be here month in and month out, we need to look after ourselves and each-other. 

Each placement area is unique and I am sure you are very capable and knowledgeable, but I also realise you’re trying to apply that knowledge to a new area and that can be confusing. I’m going to ask you questions and I want you to ask me questions too. We need to figure each-other out, how we both work and what we each know. Don’t be afraid of not having the answers, it gives us areas to work on and no doubt you’ll ask me things that I don’t know the answer to. We can learn together, that’s part of the process. 

I’m going to push you, to encourage you to learn and be more proactive, as I remember that’s what my best mentors did. Sometimes when I’m working with STNs it is easy to forget what year you’re in and what sort of level of experience you have so I need you to be an active learner and help me to help you. It might help to remember that I’m not going to be blasé about what I push you towards, as the safety of our patients, our colleagues and each-other depends on us working well within the wider team and knowing our own limits. 

As a more junior nurse, I have limits to my scope of practice at the moment, I’ll be learning too and I need you to remember that. Sometimes I won’t be able to let you shadow me as I’ll be with a more senior nurse being supervised myself, or I’ll feel anxious about the task at hand – you know that having an audience is always more daunting! I hope you see this as an example of the continual learning process involved in nursing, and understand that I need to learn myself in order to teach you things. 

Lastly, I hope you can be honest with me and your other mentor if you’re struggling. I know there is so much to do alongside your placement hours; your academic work rarely stops and personal/family things happen all the time. Please tell me about any upcoming deadlines or if there’s anything happening that may impact on your placement, I want to help you if I can as I’d help any colleague who’s struggling, I want to invest in you as a potential future colleague. 

Looking forward to working with you! 

This blog was written in collaboration by @MHNurseAbby and @DebsCooper131

4 thoughts on “Dear Mentor / Dear Student

  1. Interesting read and no surprises from either side.🤔👏🏽👏🏽.We all need to consider each other’s perspectives,expectations and demands.It’s all about tolerance and empathy,good team working &communication.


  2. Thanks to both of you for this excellent blog. It’s a tricky role for both student and mentor with time pressures always adding to the stress. I’ve really enjoyed reading and reflecting on this

    Liked by 1 person

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