Aim To provide a template for developing a national mentoring scheme to enhance the contribution practitioner researchers can make to the quality of health care in England.
Background The authors describe the background to and organisation of a mentorship scheme to support those awarded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) fellowships as part of the Clinical Academic Training (CAT) scheme for nurses, midwives and the allied health professionals in England.
Data sources The paper draws on relevant policy documents to explain the development of the NIHR mentorship scheme. It also reviews the literature regarding mentoring in nursing and the health professions.
Review methods The review was conducted systematically using keywords: mentorship, clinical academic careers, research, nursing research, clinical academic careers, evidence, health care. Databases included PubMed, CINAHL and Google Scholar. An integrated approach was adopted.
Discussion Kirkpatrick’s (2006) four-level evaluation model provided a framework to evaluate the scheme and explore the role of mentorship in supporting NIHR fellows. Preliminary findings from baseline and end-of-year evaluations revealed mentees’ expectations of mentorship and its effects on their professional development. Developing a career as a clinical academic can be a challenging journey for novice researchers. In addition, there is a vital need to integrate research with clinical practice.
Conclusion Mentoring appears valuable in enabling NIHR fellows to navigate the challenges of demanding clinical roles in England’s National Health Service while making a high-level contribution to research. The importance of preparing mentors for their role is well documented in the literature but mentees also need preparation and guidance to manage this important relationship.
Implications for research/practice The evaluation has implications for embedding similar schemes across nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions to promote capacity and leadership in clinical academic careers. This study has uniquely identified the need to support mentees as well as mentors in such programmes to ensure the optimal benefit of the programme reaches all participants.