Maintaining Friendships Old And New

I moved into halls for the first year of university despite already living in Manchester (well, Greater Manchester). I felt ready to gain some independence by ‘flying the nest’ and wanted to be within walking distance of university. When I lived with my mum before university I was only less than twenty miles away from the main campus so my friends from home who I used to live super close to aren’t incredibly far from my accommodation. The nursing course can get pretty hectic at times; more often than not all you want to do when you get back from placement is have a good kip!

Seeing my friends from home can be tricky to plan, to be honest, especially seeing as they have commitments like work and studying just like I do and it’s not just a ten minute journey involved in meeting up. I probably don’t tell them enough that I miss them, but I really do, and I really look forward to going home to meet up with my friends or having them stay over at my flat. Seeing my friends from home is so good for helping me stay grounded and true to my incredibly Mancunian roots and it reminds me of a big reason why I’m doing this course. I really hope I can make the people I care about and who care about me proud. If you don’t have the opportunity to meet up with your friends from home very often you’ll understand that the time you spend together is golden and you’ll appreciate it all the more. I’m so, so fortunate to have maintained friendships with such a brilliant bunch of people even after all these years.13151090_226356241076122_2131036156_nI enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made on my course too, as I think we have a good balance between chatting about nursing as well as unrelated things. We’ll talk about what skills we’ve been learning on placement and helping each other stay motivated when writing assignments by offering suggestions of resources to look at and just offering a pep talk sprinkled with the essence of ‘as a fellow student nurse, I really know how you feel’ then five minutes later we’ll be having a conversation about something like make-up or food. I’m so, so fortunate to have made such a brilliant bunch of friends at uni.

My advice to anybody studying on a course that keeps you super busy (ring any bells?) would be to appreciate and make time for your friends from home whilst still being open to making new friendships at uni. Your friends from home will be glad that you’re enjoying yourself and have support for when they can’t physically come to see you. Believe me, you’ll have no idea how you would have made it through uni without your friends – old and new.

 

Mentoring-who has the power?

I am sat here just an hour away from heading out onto placement for a final shift on the ward I have been working on and am pondering the nightmare that is getting paperwork and skills signed off. Finding the time, apologising profusely for the massive amount of writing up of skills I do to justify that I am good enough, hoping the mentor feels the same and signs them…..will the anxiety ever stop?!

Part of my thought process has left me wondering about the power balance in the midwife mentor-student relationship. Ideally there would be no power imbalance and the mentor/student would be engaged in a mutual, respectful and supportive pairing but I feel this is unrealistic and ignores the fact that, as students, we are reliant on our mentors to provide good, honest feedback and ultimately grade us which can mean the passing or failing of our degree. Surely, even with my basic degree in psychology, this puts the power balance very firmly on the side of the mentor?

Students, generally, want to please our mentors and not just for the sake of a ‘good grade’ (I feel this is a little simplistic and patronising) but because we want to do well! As a second year I have not struggled and battled my way this far through a very difficult degree to be mediocre and just ‘ok’….I want to be GOOD and COMPETENT. This means when I am working with mentors I ask a million questions and watch, listen and then ask another million questions because I want to be the best I can be.

I wonder if mentors are trained and updated on the power they hold in the relationship? I am sure they are and every mentor I have been lucky enough to work with has been supportive and encouraging whilst providing excellent constructive feedback when needed. Have I been lucky though or is this standard? I am not so sure……

The issues of boundaries in the midwife mentor/student relationship is interesting. My previous career was in an appropriately, heavily ‘boundaried’ arena and I feel I am acutely aware of boundaries at all times but  there have been occasions when my mentor has been made aware of my personal circumstances when necessary as this will, of course, impact on my practice…..could this be perceived as over stepping a boundary? Or, for example, if I ask a mentor if she is ok because I know her child was ill and she left work early during our previous shift….is this overstepping a boundary?

Is this a little too ‘pally’?

What is ‘too friendly’?

What could be perceived as forging a ‘too close’ relationship with a mentor when you are together 8 hours a day/ 5 days week in a car and in clinic and you have your lunch together and you talk……most people come into this profession because we are compassionate so we reach out to each other as 2 women sharing information about our lives…..is this overstepping a boundary? What should we discuss? Should we limit ourselves to just discussing midwifery at all times? But this feels incongruent and, again, unrealistic.

Also, what of mentor-student relationships that are not nurturing but, dare I say it…..toxic and damaging? Where does that student go? Every student knows that we are reliant on the mentor for passing us therefore, dare we complain if we don’t feel happy? Dare we mention to our PEF, link lecturer, academic adviser, ward manager etc that we are not happy?

We SHOULD do but do we?

What if we are branded a trouble maker?

What if we are considered to not be resilient enough for this degree because we have struggled with a mentor?

What if we still have to work with that mentor and they know we have an issue with them?

What if we don’t have to work with that mentor but one of her colleagues and they know we have complained?

We absolutely MUST speak up if we are struggling as the damage of ‘carrying on regardless’ is insistent and could lead to further issues both psychologically and practically further down the line but I hope that midwife mentors are aware of the power they hold and that forging a good, strong, supportive relationship is tantamount to bringing out the best in a student and that the majority of students just want to be the best midwives we can be!

Thank you to every mentor who has treated me with kindness and compassion-you have modelled how to be an excellent midwife and excellent mentor.

To those students struggling with mentorship-please speak out.