The General Dental Council Standards for the Dental Team, (2013) and Standards for Education, (2015) make clear the need for qualified and trained supervisors with the purpose of supporting students and enhancing and contributing to safe working practice and the development of both knowledge and skills.
Mentors are responsible for the quality of mentorship within their clinical area and for the final decisions regarding a students’ fitness to practice, there must be some assurance that there is consistency in the approach and the standards that mentors must attain.
It is recognised that mentors need protected time for undertaking the role and this is acknowledged as one hour per student per week, in addition to 20% of the student off the job training
Formal facilitated programmes can have positive effects on a mentors’ work-related attitudes, cognition and behaviour. Mentoring is significantly correlated with a wide range of positive outcomes: behavioural, attitudinal, health-related, interpersonal, motivational, and career.
Over the years the concept of mentoring has changed, particularly as the workplace roles have changed. The definition of mentoring as a one-one relationship between a senior member and a junior member of the same organisation has expanded to include different types of relationships. A modern understanding of mentorship includes peer relationships within and between organisations and professions.
In practice, it is important to link the student with different members of the dental team. Through this, it is possible to for the student to learn skills and expertise from the most appropriate person in practice. It is important that the whole dental team understands their responsibility to support the student, even if they are not formally recognised as lead mentor.
It is useful to conduct an educational audit of the dental environment to identify where certain members of staff can facilitate the student learning, according to their expertise. This should be linked to the educational needs and the personal ambitions of the student.
Practice management should recognise the requirements of mentorship and, as such, should plan workloads, organise clinical tasks and provide opportunities for feedback for the mentor. This will maintain the motivation and quality of the mentor’s mentorship.
Furthermore, senior leadership personnel need to establish a culture where the value of teaching and learning in practice is recognised and fostered by the entire team.