blog posted 20 October, 2021

Sharing my story: being a Mammography Associate apprenticeship trainer and mentor

Katie Horton is a member of the Breast Services team at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. Thanks to the support of Katie and the team, the Trust’s first Mammography Associate (MA) apprentice, Karen Coates, achieved her qualification with distinction. Here Katie outlines the practical requirements of the trainer and mentor role, and shares her own experience.

“I joined the Trust straight after qualifying in 2011, and I’m a member of the training team and mentor to some of the trainees in the department. I train assistant practitioners/mammography associates and radiographers in both screening and symptomatic clinics, carry out image assessments and quarterly image reviews with all staff members.

“I was interested in becoming a mentor as I find it rewarding to share my experience with new members of staff and watch them develop into competent, confident members of the team. I’ve previously mentored new staff members but Karen is the first in an apprenticeship post.

“The mentoring role involves working with the apprentice from learning how to perform a mammogram through to working confidently and independently. We have monthly progress meeting where we discuss what has gone well and any areas that we feel might need some support.

“When the apprentice completes 100 images we will carry out an image review, looking at image quality, technique and repeat rates in that set of images. This gives both the mentor and trainee an idea of how they are progressing and allows us to identify any training needs. It allows for positive feedback and constructive criticism and identifies areas of strength or weakness. We repeat this process throughout the apprenticeship until the trainee reaches 500 images.

“A major part of the mentoring role is to provide support and encouragement to the apprentice and work with them to help them get the best out of their training. I try to be approachable and accommodating to each individual trainee and recognise that they learn differently.

“I’d encourage people to take up a mentoring position as it is a rewarding and fulfilling role. The only thing to be aware of is that that the mentor plays a more active role in the apprenticeship than we have previously experienced. The mentor will need to set aside a bit more time than they might be expecting.”

“Overall I feel that the apprenticeship programme has been a success. It provides the trainees with a good depth of knowledge and prepares them really well for their role. I’ve really enjoyed mentoring Karen, she has been a lovely trainee and I feel that we have both gained from this experience.”