Workforce innovation through mentoring: An action research approach to programme evaluation
International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation
York St John University, The University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Background: The North East Neurosciences Network Workforce Innovations Programme used mentoring to develop neuro-practitioners' specialist skills and efficacy in health and social care settings. The programme aimed to improve services and outcomes for and with people living with long-term neurological conditions by enhancing practice and partnership building. This study used action research to evaluate the programme's impact over an 18 month period, in collaboration with a group of 10 mentors, their mentees, and the programme's steering group. Content: This study describes the action research undertaken for evaluating this 18-month mentoring programme, showing how the research questions, data collection and analysis evolved. It demonstrates how the approach facilitated participants' reflections, enabling them to evaluate and improve their practice. The evaluation shows how the programme equipped participants with skills for partnership and community-based approaches. The participants' experiences of using action research in this way are explored; and the challenges that arose in the context of a rapidly-changing health service are described. Conclusions: Noteworthy features of the programme include its evolving collaborative nature, the integration of action research from the start, and the coherence of action research with other elements of the delivery. Changes in participants' approaches illustrate the potential contributions of this type of programme within a community of practice, to develop personal efficacy in a context broader than a 'specialism' and as an alternative to traditional in-service training. Improved ways of working impacted on inter-collegial practice, service delivery and outcomes, translating policy into action. © 2013 MA Healthcare Ltd.