The Benefits of Nurse Mentoring

By Erin Coursey, iHire
Image of nurse being mentored while examining a patient

Newly certified RNs have historically displayed high turnover rates— approximately 30% in their first year of work, and up to 57% by the end of the second. These numbers have been linked to several factors. In particular, the heavy workload, lack of workplace rewards, and unsatisfactory relationships with colleagues and supervisors play a prominent role. Many new RNs are insecure and feel as though they have been underprepared for their clinical responsibilities, and their self-esteem suffers even more when more experienced coworkers also express a lack confidence in their abilities.

Mentorships can change this. Mentors invest significant time and effort into their mentees, giving them feedback to increase their understanding of important practices, emotional support during stressful situations, and guidance regarding the institution’s culture and policies. The additional support of these relationships can help ease recent graduates and newly credentialed APRNs into their new positions, preventing job dissatisfaction and ultimately reducing turnover rates.

Several studies have shown that mentors play a substantial role in forming new RNs’ professional growth, working lives, and self-esteem. One study by Bette Mariani found that for the 79% of nurse managers that reported having mentors, there was a strong, positive indication that these relationships considerably affected their careers. She noted that the most prominent features of an influential mentor were feedback, experience-based advice, and work-related guidance. The same study also suggested that having a mentor was linked to increased motivation to learn and adapt to new situations.

Informal vs. Formal Mentorships

Both informal and formal mentorships permeate nursing culture. Formal mentorships include arrangements organized through college/university alumni, individual hospitals, and independent networks. Therefore, these mentorships may exist between two people who have very limited contact with each other outside of the program.

Informal mentorships, by contrast, are not overseen by any supervisory personnel. Instead, they are formed between two nurses who have come in direct contact with one another at least once. Though these relationships may develop after a one-time meeting at a convention or other event, they are more common between those who interact frequently and work in the same hospital/practice.

In a survey of 173 RNs, most of the 78.6% of RNs involved in a mentoring relationship reported that it was an informal arrangement. These results indicate that nurses create their own informal mentorships, regardless of whether formal opportunities are available.

Qualities of a Good Mentor/Mentee

Though most mentorships have distinctly advantageous outcomes, it is important to note that they also have the potential to negatively impact the mentee’s experience. Nurses who are unprepared for this responsibility or lack the patience to offer necessary emotional/clinical support are not as well suited to be mentors as those who demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Strong, positive outlook regarding career
  • Open, accepting attitude toward colleagues
  • Excellent assessment/observation abilities
  • Exceptional problem-solving tendencies
  • Effective communication/teamwork capabilities
  • Understanding of organization’s culture/protocol

Likewise, mentees should possess certain traits to allow the mentor’s efforts to have an impact. Those who are close-minded or fail to take advantage of their resources are unlikely to experience the same benefits as those who exhibit these characteristics:

  • Open to constructive feedback/guidance
  • Practical listening skills
  • Seeks help when necessary
  • Effective teamwork tendencies
  • Ability to integrate advice during stressful situations

Mentors and mentees have numerous obligations, both to each other and to their institution. Below is a list of basic responsibilities both parties should fulfill in order to maximize the benefits of their relationship:

  • Develop and express clear expectations for the relationship
  • Collaborate to create goals with measurable outcomes
  • Communicate all concerns and questions
  • Evaluate progress together

Whether you are an experienced nurse or recent graduate, there are innumerable resources that can guide you through the mentorship process. Here are just a few examples you can adapt for your own needs:

Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses – Mentoring

National League for Nursing — Mentoring of Nursing Faculty Tool Kit

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – The Mentoring Toolkit and Handbook

 

Sources:

Jessica Barrick; Michael Church – The Importance of Mentorship: How Effective Programs Can Increase Productivity & Strengthen the Nursing Workforce

Kaihlanen, A. M., Lakanmaa, R. L., & Salminen, L. (2013). The transition from nursing student to registered nurse: The mentor’s possibilities to act as a supporter. Nurse education in practice, 13(5), 418-422.

Mariani, B. (2012). The effect of mentoring on career satisfaction of registered nurses and intent to stay in the nursing profession. Nursing research and practice, 2012. 1-8. doi:10.1155/2012/168278

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