The effectiveness of mentoring speech and language pathology students when they face patients with cleft palate
Introduction: Mentoring programs can boost Speech & Language (SL) pathologists' satisfaction about their clinical skills, increasing their professional competence. A quality induction program provides a bridge for an efficient and comfortable transition between theoretical knowledge and clinical practice in front of clients. This transition can be especially difficult when the SL pathologist confronts patients with cleft palate. Objective: To study whether a mentoring program can improve SL Pathology students' performance for treating patients with cleft palate. Materials and methods: 18 SL Pathology students coursing the third year of a SL Pathology graduate program volunteered for participating in the study. The students were divided in two groups. All SL students from both groups were equally supervised. The students were followed for two semesters during their participation in the SL Pathology intervention for patients with cleft palate. The only difference between the students from each group was that one group (active group) was mentored by an experienced SLP who had previously received specific training to become a mentor. All SL students were assessed at the onset and at the end of the study. The assessment was performed through an analysis according to a previously validated scale (Learning Continuum of Speech & Language pathologists). Results: A Wilcoxon test demonstrated a significant improvement (P<. 0.05) in the levels of The Learning Continuum of Speech & Language Pathologists at the end of the follow-up period in both groups of students. When the levels of performance at the end were compared between groups, a Mann Whitney test demonstrated a significant difference (P<. 0.05). The students included in the active group who were receiving additional mentoring besides the usual clinical supervision, showed a greater improvement as compared with the students from the control group. Conclusions: Learning how to conduct an adequate and effective intervention in cleft palate patients from an integral stand point is not easy for SL students. The support and guidance of an experienced mentor seems to enhance self-confidence and improve students' performance confronting patients with cleft palate.