Frequently Asked Questions

​This section answers the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) posed by mentors.

If your question is not fully answered or not included in the list, please email your question to us at  and we will reply directly to you. Your contribution to the FAQs will help to develop and improve this site to meet the needs of mentors.
Clinical Skills

Student’s achievement of clinical skills are demonstrated in their Scottish OAR.  Attendance at a clinical skill session is recorded at the front of their OAR.
Scottish Ongoing Achievement Record (Scottish OAR)
There is some FAQ’s on the Scottish OAR here 
What mentorship preparation is required to become a mentor?
Guidance about the preparation required to become a mentor is outlined in the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC 2008) document – Standards to Support Learning and Assessment in Practice. This standard stipulates that after one year of post registration practice you need to undertake a mentor preparation programme. This is delivered by Edinburgh Napier University, in partnership with University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University and NHS Lothian.  It involves face to face study days and online learning.  5 days (37.5 hours) are protected learning time with the remaining 5 days (37.5 hours) to be practice-based. The module requires the development of a portfolio outlining how you have met the learning outcomes of the programme through completion of activities.   The module is to be completed within 15 weeks. There is an option for credit at academic level 9 which occurs once a year.
This full preparation applies to nurses who registered from September 2006.   However, all mentors need to meet the 2008 standards, regardless of how long they have been qualified. If you joined the register before September 2006 you should contact Edinburgh Napier University ( or your Practice Education Facilitator (PEF). You will need to undertake a mentor self-assessment questionnaire to identify the aspects of mentoring where you may have a knowledge or skill deficit and then if required, undertake the required components of the mentor preparation programme to ensure you are competent to practice as a mentor.
What are the responsibilities of a mentor?
The objective of mentoring is the personal and professional growth and development of the student. Within this, the mentor has a role to facilitate the student’s learning through organising and co-ordinating the learning experience with the student in the placement. It involves welcoming the student, helping to socialise them into the environment and acting as a role model or coach. The mentor has to supervise the student, assist them in developing their clinical competence, assess their progress, provide constructive feedback and make decisions about whether the students have achieved their expected learning outcomes.
Responsibilities of the mentor:
1. Keep up to date with respect to the structure and content of the pre-registration programme and NMC (2010) standards.
2. Provide support and guidance to the student when applying new knowledge.
3. Act as a resource to the student to facilitate learning and professional growth.
4. Directly manage the student’s learning in practice to ensure public protection.
5. Directly observe the student’s practice, or use indirect observation where appropriate, in order to ensure that NMC defined outcomes and standards of competence are met.
6. Assess the student and complete all relevant documentation.

Please note: All entries must be signed or countersigned by a mentor.  In the situation where someone is acting as a supervising mentor for someone undertaking mentorship preparation (student-mentor) then you must countersign all entries made by the student-mentor in the students’ practice learning assessment documentation.
How do I keep updated as a mentor?
As with all your professional development, you are required to collect evidence of how you are maintaining your knowledge and skills as a mentor in the form of a portfolio. This can be used to inform discussion during your annual appraisal. Your ‘portfolio of evidence’ could include details about how many students you have mentored, learning activities you have undertaken with them, skills teaching sessions etc.
To remain current on the Mentor Database (the record held electronically by NHS Lothian and your workplace), you should have mentored at least 2 students within a 3 year period and keep evidence of this for a tri-ennial review. You should also ensure that you updated your knowledge annually in relation to student assessments / programme changes for the students you are mentoring, as well as participating in discussion with other mentors and can be used as part of NMC revalidation process. Another form of update can be through a face to face session with a PEF or engaging with a link lecturer.   NHS Lothian also provide access to a mentorship learnpro module.
The Scottish Ongoing Achievement record (OAR) requires every mentor at the start of a practice learning experience to complete their details of last annual update and triennial review.  If these are out-of-date, please contact your PEF to update and ensure you are current on the mentorship database.
Is it possible to use my previous mentor training in a new area?
You will have to contact your area PEF or Edinburgh Napier University. It may be that your previous mentor preparation and experience will enable you to become a mentor as the course can be transferred.
How much time should a mentor and student spend working together?
The NMC (2008) recommend that a student should spend a minimum of 40% of their time each week being supervised by their mentor. Supervision can mean working one to one with their mentor or being on the same shift, working alongside others but being supervised in their activity by their mentor.  Attendance records in the Scottish OAR require the mentor to highlight which shifts have been worked with their student.

Who else can support a student in a practice learning environment?

Students will be allocated a mentor to supervise their overall placement experience and facilitate their learning. The student can also work with any member of the team.  This can include co-mentors to enable them to develop their clinical knowledge and skills.
A co-mentor is a registered nurse and may assist the named mentor in supporting students, assessing competencies. This individual is recorded on the local on the Mentor Database and may be the named mentor for another student.
Student Issues

Are students allowed to undertake 12 hour shift patterns?
During the student’s education, the NMC requires all students to undertake practice learning that enables them to experience the full 24 hours, 7 days a week care of patients.  When students are in the practice learning environment, they are normally expected to work a minimum of 30 hours per week and a maximum of 48 hour per week.
Students are expected to work the shifts allocated to them and any changes in shift patterns for any reason should be made to the practice learning environment manager and the liaison lecturer (LL).  This is determined by the nature of the care environment and is the decision of the manager, who will ensure that the student is able to experience a wide range of potential learning experiences through the shift pattern adopted.
Students are expected to work shifts which will allow them to gain a range of experiences and work with their allocated mentor whilst supporting the area and patient care.  It is usual that the shift pattern will follow the mentor and be in line with the regular working pattern in the clinical area they are attending.  This includes working nights and weekends, and either short or long days.  Shift patterns are at the discretion of the practice area and charge nurse/manager. 
Can students organise their own off duty?
Students are required to work 40% of their practice time with their mentor which must be reflected in changes to shift pattern/rota. Some practice placement areas allow the student to organise the off duty around their mentor. However, this may not be possible in practice areas where there are several students at any given time. Managers and mentors may prefer to organise the shifts so that students each have exposure to appropriate practical tasks and opportunities. It is recognised that students benefit from the experience of working a range of shifts to enable them to participate in the variety of learning opportunities in the placement area.
Mentors are required to determine the amount of direct and indirect supervision needed by each student, however at least 40% of students’ time must be supervised directly or indirectly by a mentor whilst giving care within the practice setting (NMC 2008).
Students must ensure that any other work that they regularly undertake does not result in them working more than 48 hours per week. This is to ensure the health and safety of the student nurse, their colleagues and the patients and clients that they care for
Are students allowed additional study time?
The pre – registration programme has allocated study days and directed learning days for students throughout the programme to prepare students for assessment, reflection and exams. These dates are noted on the allocation sheets sent to the practice learning environment. In practice it is expected that students fulfil a 37.5-hour week and have access to resources and materials to aid their learning in practice.  For example, if a student has a study day of 7.5 hours, only 30 hours is required that week in the practice learning area.  This should be noted on their time card and signed by the mentor.
Students are not permitted to extend their placement or start prior to their allocation.  Any concerns with this should be discussed with the LL, PDT and PEF as students cannot change their placement dates without University involvement.  This is a requirement for safe practice, accountability of the student and also can affect allocations.
What do I do if my student goes off sick whilst on placement?
Students are expected to contact the practice learning environment of sickness or absence, as well as the HEI as per local policy.
If a student does not attend for placement, the university should be contacted through the placements team office and the LL. ( This should be done as soon as possible by the clinical staff to ensure student safety.
The mentor should ensure that the students’ attendance record is up-to-date and signed with an accurate account of hours worked. If a student is reported as absent then the mentor must mark as S (sick) or A (absent, not sick).  If a student is absent they must inform their personal development tutor (PDT) and the mentor should inform the LL and PEF. If mentors have concerns that the objectives cannot be achieved due to their absence please contact the LL and PEF.

Can students negotiate their annual leave while on placement?
Students annual leave dates are timetabled into their programme. Mentors should alert the university if a student takes unauthorised leave which has not been allocated.   Unauthorised annual leave may result in a student Fitness to practice panel.
Who can fill in a student’s attendance record sheet?
Attendance records are important documents, in that they provide evidence to confirm that students have achieved the minimum NMC requirement of 2,300 hours of practice during the pre-registration nursing programme.
Both students and mentors are responsible for ensuring attendance records are accurate and signed.
Attendance records should accurately reflect the number of hours of practice undertaken.
The student (in the OAR) should keep a photocopy of each attendance record for future reference.
Attendance records should not be signed in advance. If the mentor is not going to be on duty during the last few days of a student’s PLE the attendance records for these days should be signed by another member of staff.
What does ‘supernumerary status’ mean in practice?
Student nurses are additional to the established workforce numbers and they should not be counted as part of the normal staffing numbers. Clearly, students have to learn the art of nursing and need to be involved in direct patient care under the supervision of an appropriately qualified practitioner. As part of the care team, students may undertake any aspect of care for which they are competent and it is the mentors’ responsibility to assess the student’s level of competence. For further information please refer to Edinburgh Napier University for information on Supernumerary Status.

Is there guidance on dealing with student or placement issues?

A flow chart is available to resolve a placement issue and is in both the Lothian and Borders Practice Placement Standards Handbook and the Mentor Handbook – Facilitating Students’ Learning in Practice. This is titled ‘Mentor Guide – How to deal with a Student Issue’.
The Liaison Lecturer from the University and Practice Education Facilitator can also provide information and support.


Where can I locate a copy of the students Scottish OAR?
Copies of the electronic field specific Scottish OAR are available on the Mentor Centre.
Where can I get guidance about using the Scottish OAR?
Guidance about using Scottish OAR is provided in the introductory section of the OAR.  Further support is available from either the PEF or LL for the practice placement area.   There is also information on the Mentor Centre Website.
Who should I contact if I have concerns about a student or the practice learning experience?
In the first instance it is best to discuss this with the nurse in charge of the placement to seek their guidance and make them aware of the situation.  If the concerns remain unresolved contact the PEF and the LL for the practice area as early as possible. It is important that you and your student get support when there are concerns about a student’s progress. Documentation to support this is part of the OAR, and the interim assessment is also an essential opportunity to discuss with your student how they are progressing in development of knowledge and skills in their practice learning experience.
Where appropriate the student needs the opportunity to devise a plan of action to develop their knowledge and skills and resolve concerns. Clear achievable objectives need to be agreed with the student and ongoing feedback given.
It is important to pursue the issue to ensure that the student has every opportunity to improve their performance. If their performance does not improve this will have implications for achieving their learning outcomes.

What happens if a student fails a placement?

It is unfortunate if a student fails a practice placement. The LL and PEF should be involved as soon possible when there are any concerns about a student’s progress and possibility that they may not meet their learning outcomes or competencies. See FAQ 4.3. They will be able to offer support and guidance to both the mentor and the student. In this situation it is important that the concerns, and the interventions to support the student, are documented (and counter signed by the student) to demonstrate the evidence used to inform and support the decision. This should include an objective account of your (and other team members’) concerns regarding progress, action plans to help the student develop their knowledge and skills, and an outline of the areas where the student has failed to achieve. Sometimes it is possible to arrange an extension of their placement experience if it is thought that this would enable them to achieve the learning outcomes.


Should students adhere to local uniform policy on placement?
Yes. They also have a uniform policy outlined by their university which provides guidance as to what is permitted.  If students are in a practice learning environment where it is appropriate to wear their own clothes then they should be clean, neat, and appropriate and guided by the local dress code and policy. If the person in charge of the placement considers that the student is dressed in an inappropriate manner, then the student may be asked to leave the area and modify their dress.
When is student permitted to escort patients out with the practice area?

There are different rules for different stages in the students’ programme, details of which can be found in the students’ assessment books relevant to each year and should be reviewed when considering if it is appropriate to allow students to participate.  Please seek advice from local policy and PEF/ LL.

There are different rules for different stages in the students’ programme, details of which can be found in the students’ assessment books relevant to each year (except Child health) and should be reviewed when considering if it is appropriate to allow students to participate.
The key principles are, that in 1st year students should only accompany patients out with the placement area for social companionship. Students in 1st year can only “escort” a patient if also accompanied by a suitably trained person.
In year 2, different rules apply to placements throughout the year.
Placement 1 is the same as year 1. By placement 2, students can escort patients at the discretion of the mentor but must consider local policies and procedures. E.g. escorting patients to theatre.
In year 3, student nurses can escort patients at the discretion of their mentor.
However, consideration on all occasions should be given to the learning needs of the student, and whether they have the knowledge and skills required to care for that patients’ needs and maintain patient safety. Students should not escort patients that require care interventions that should be delivered by a trained nurse e.g. IV Infusion, O2 therapy.
Constant Observations
There are rules for this role in mental health settings for different stages of the students programme.
Students in year 1 should not be involved in constant or special observation. However by year 2 they can participate but must be accompanied by an appropriately qualified person.
By year 3, at the discretion of the Nurse in Charge, students may observe clients on constant or special observation. However, it must be established that the student understands both the risk assessment and the psychological interventions required for engagement with the client. As always this must be appropriate to the learning needs of the student and maintain patient safety.