Developing mentors to support students in practice, Part assessment and Accountability; – Assessment in practice. Summary

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Learning Activity 2

Go to the NMC website and download the relevant Standards for Pre-registration Midwifery or Nursing Education (2009 or 2010) or the Standards for Specialist Education and Practice (2001) or the Standards of Proficiency for Specialist Public Health Nurses (2004a) that to relate to your student. Review the relevant standards that relate to the students that you mentor.

Review the ‘Domains’ and ‘Standards of Proficiency or Competency’

How do these relate to your practice area and the practice assessments you use to assess the students?

Locate the Essential Skills Clusters (ESC) (if applicable). How do these relate to your practice area and the practice assessments you use to assess the students you have in practice?

Which of these proficiencies or competencies and ESC can a student achieve within your practice placement? State how you would assess a student against these identified proficiencies or competencies and ESC.

Mentors and practice teachers need to be fully aware that the theory to practice ratio for all students on an NMC approved programme is equally weighted and thus the practice assessments contribute to a student’s progression and successful completion within the programme. The Pre-registration Midwifery Programme must be compliant with the standards to grade practice. Thus, assessment of clinical practice which must involve direct hands on care is graded by the midwifery sign off mentor and counted as part of the academic award. Midwifery students are required to meet the stated competencies and Essential Skills Clusters (ESC) at the relevant points within the programme. Before continuing into the next academic level midwifery students must achieve all the outcomes within the progression point period and these need to be confirmed within 12 weeks of entering the next academic level (NMC 2009). Therefore, it is important for mentors to work towards the given deadline dates and plan the formative and summative assessments within the required timeframe. This 12 week time limit includes both theory and practice. Midwifery students must complete all assessments successfully prior to completion of the programme before they can be entered on the NMC register (NMC 2009). A student midwife must achieve these standards under the supervision of a sign off mentor who is a practising midwife.

Nursing education across the United Kingdom (UK) needs to respond to the changing needs, developments and priorities in health and healthcare. The NMC Standards for Pre-registration Nursing Education (NMC 2010) has recently replaced the NMC (2004b) ‘Standards of Proficiency for Pre-registration Nursing Education. These standards apply to all new pre-registration nursing education programmes from September 2011. The NMC (2004b) Standards of Proficiency remain current until at least 2014. Thus mentors and practice teachers may well be supporting and assessing students on either the Standards of Proficiency (NMC 2004b) or the Standards for Nursing Education (NMC 2010) depending on the year of programme that the student is currently working towards. Mentors and practice teachers need to be familiar with both of the pre-registration standards if this applies to them. However, many of the Pre-registration Nursing Education standards (NMC 2010) are based on previous rules, standards and guidance, whilst others have been introduced after extensive consultation to incorporate the findings of the review ‘Nursing Towards 2015 (NMC 2010). Some of the changes that mentors and practice teachers will note on reviewing the Pre-registration Standards Nursing Education (NMC 2010) are the inclusion of two progression points separating the programme into three equal parts. Mentors and practice teachers must become familiar with the identified skills and professional behaviours that a student must demonstrate by the first progression point (end of year one) and the minimum requirements that must be demonstrated by the second progression point (end of year two). Much like the midwifery standards discussed above, the requirements for each progression point must be demonstrated by the student in order to progress to the next part of the programme. Mentors and practice teachers should note that within the Standards for Pre-registration Nursing Education (NMC 2010) nursing students are working towards and must meet the generic and field specific competencies as well as the stated ESC by the end of the programme. In order for the students to meet the requirements for each progression point they are required to have a minimum of a 4 week practice placement at the end of each year and undertake at least a 12 week practice placement towards the end of the programme. Thus, it is important for mentors to be aware of the timeframes in which the assessments need to take place.
The Standards for Specialist Education and Practice (NMC 2001) is founded on common principles that offer a common core preparation and common core learning outcomes followed by specific learning outcomes for the area of practice that the student is working towards, for example; community nursing or general practice nursing. Therefore, sign off mentors or Practice teachers must become familiar with the core common standards and also the specific learning outcomes pertaining to the area that the student is trying to achieve. Students working towards any of these standards are required to exercise higher levels of judgement discretion and decision making focusing on clinical practice, care and programme management, clinical practice development and clinical practice leadership (NMC 2001).
The Standards of Proficiency for Specialist Community Public Health Nurses (NMC 2004a) consist of ten key principles of public health practice and are grouped into four domains of which the practice teacher must become familiar with in order to support and assess the student in practice. Like other NMC programmes it involves 50% practice and 50% theory across the whole programme with a consolidating period of practice equivalent to at least 10 weeks to consolidate their education and competence in the practice field.
Mentors and practice teachers must be aware that a student who is unsuccessful in passing all elements of the defined assessment strategy approved by the NMC will not be eligible to register as a nurse or midwife or record their qualification at the end of the programme (NMC 2001, 2004a, 2009 and 2010). However this must not sway their assessment decisions. Thus mentors and practice teachers need to ensure the assessment strategies that are used in practice are valid and reliable in order to support and justify their decisions.

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