To meet the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) standards for undergraduate pharmacy education students need to be able to show that they have undertaken mentoring activities. Our students also need to show that they understand and are able to communicate basic messages about health promotion. To meet these outcomes we have introduced mentoring sessions into the timetable of both the final and first years of study.
This was undertaken in two distinct timetabled sessions. The first was in first semester where, following a session about mentoring skills, the final year students worked with the new entrants. The aims of the session were to help new students with the transition into university and and support them with their first presentation. The second session focused on the production of a poster to promote smoking cessation. In this session the final year students acted as mentors to guide the message that should be conveyed and the style of the poster.
Students enjoyed all the sessions and the comments that we received back related to the final year students being able to recognise what they had learnt throughout the four years of the course and use this knowledge to guide the new students in their learning. The students in the first year of study liked being able to ask the final year students about what they had learnt and their career aspirations. In the second timetabled session the final year students were able to guide and challenge the new students ideas and make them think about the content.
We needed to ensure that the rooms were fit for purpose to allow meaningful conversation. Staff are needed to start the conversation but be there to be supportive rather than running the conversation – acting in a consultative fashion.
We would like to introduce this through all the years of the MPharm so that students can develop these skills over a longer period and are looking at using the personal development advisors (PDAs) to set up informal mentoring groups with their advisees.
Coordinating timetables of two years is a challenge to ensure that enough suitable rooms are booked to allow meaningful conversation and ensure that the seating is flexible to allow the groups to interact.
With approx 200 students in final year and 140 in the first year of study the numbers were a challenge. However, we have managed this and we should be able to scale this to include all MPharm students.
This initiative could be transferred to any learning context where students have a hands-on activity with well defined learning outcomes for both the mentor and the mentee.