Mentoring Programs for Nurses

by Angela Stevens on August 5, 2009

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The nursing shortage has been both a boon and a disaster for new nurses entering the job market. On one hand, you’re guaranteed a job. The demand and opportunity in almost every area of the country is tremendous. On the other, the additional responsibilities of fewer nurses on shift can make the lives of all nurses more difficult.

sunbelt-nurse-mentoring

To combat the emotional fatigue, many hospitals have adopted a mentor program to help retain experienced nurses and ease the transition of new nurses into the workplace. Part of the decline of nursing staff can be blamed on the demanding nature of the job, along with the stress inherent to patient care, but the atmosphere of the facility can either counter the stress or add to it. A smart health care facility management is proactive, encouraging a nurturing and positive environment by pairing experienced nurses with new hires.

Without guidance, nurses entering the workforce can quickly become overwhelmed, resulting in poor job performance and a decline in morale. I’ve seen this happen firsthand. In turn, the onus falls on senior nurses to keep up the standards of patient care, a situation that can lead to dissatisfaction at work. It’s in the best interest of all concerned to help relieve the stress for nurses both new and old. Mentoring is one way to relieve the stress, helping the new nurses understand the job and deal with the stress, and relieving the burden on the older nurses by producing more competent new ones.

When mentors share knowledge and experience, they narrow the gap between expectations and experience for new nurses, fostering camaraderie as they improve their own job outlook by training co-workers to competency. The mentee, on the other hand, can offer enthusiasm and fresh insights…and maybe a much-needed refresher course on how important the job of nursing is. Appreciation is a powerful thing, and it’s easy to lose sight of your own value while lost in the daily grind. Teaching, coaching, and advising are affirming activities, and remind us of our own worth. A mentor who really understands and embraces the concept will allow the mentee to grow under her tutelage and, at the same time, allow the mentee to shine, and perhaps to offer some advice of her own.

Mentoring is proven to produce a higher retention rate among new nurses who might have otherwise washed out of the program or gone on to seek a different environment, but the drawback is in perception. Experienced nurses must be encouraged to see the benefit. Otherwise, it’s just one more chore on an already crowded list. One way to encourage a friendly reception is to suggest that mentoring sessions are held at lunch or in an atmosphere away from the workstation. An investment in enrichment classes or weekend seminars may prove to be invaluable in terms of morale.

Not every nurse will be qualified to be a mentor. The best mentors should be experienced, but not jaded or bitter, friendly and compassionate but professional. Good listening skills are a must, and good rapport with other facility staff a big plus. With careful education and support offered by the administration, a nurse mentoring program is a win-win situation for everybody – administration, nurses, doctors, and most importantly, patients.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew 08.08.09 at 4:34 am

I certainly hope that when I enter the nursing work field next year, I will have a great mentor. I am so nervous about being a good, competent nurse, even with the amount of knowledge I’ve obtained in my first three clinical courses. Thanks for the write up… :0)

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Angela Stevens 08.12.09 at 9:46 am

Matthew,

Good luck next year! I’m sure that as you begin work you’ll strike up friendships with other nurses. Even if you don’t find an official mentor, it’s great to lean on your friends from time to time for advice.

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Vicky 09.03.09 at 5:21 pm

I am worried that there are good Jobs for LPN’s . I am going into that first instead of the 2 year program of RN. I have been unemployed for 18months have to have something faster than 2 years. I already have my STNA. I feel myself I will be good at nursing, I am compasionate and caring for people knowing that these are peoples loved ones that I am caring for.

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Ken Kistner 09.04.09 at 10:39 am

Vicky,

Although there are fewer positions available as a travel nurse as an LPN compared to an RN there are still plenty of openings to choose from!! If you are flexible in location you will be able to earn top pay while seeing some of the most incredible locations during your assignment. If you are looking for permanent positions you will see that your local hospitals are constantly hiring and looking for compassionate RN’s and LPN’s. Thank you for dedicating your career in helping others!! Hope this information helps.

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Linda 03.27.10 at 5:36 am

I graduated 5/09, flew to Texas to care for my dad who passed in July 09. When getting back to California, our only little 25 bed hospital laid off 30 people, and there are no acute care jobs available to get the “1 year” experience requirement that employers require and every nurse needs. Are there other ways to get the needed experience? I’d really like to do travel nursing, AND I am 54 years old. I need to get this show on the road!

I was thinking of pairing with a family practice physician and have him mentor me for a year. I know some doctors that would help me, but I don’t know if it is acceptable experience in lieu of the acute care experience. It was mentioned to me that there may be a way to be paid while mentoring with a physician, but haven’t been able to find that either. Anybody have info on this or any ideas?

I have been working since 8/09 in a long term care facility, but I am told that this is not actually a good reference. I have been heard it can have a negative impact on future jobs because it is not seen as using all of the nursing skills. Believe me, it is true in many senses, but there are skills that I have developed there that I could not have gotten in acute care, either!! I have up to 35 pts per shift, and if you don’t think it takes skill, organization and critical thinking to keep things in order throughout the shift, think again! Having a smaller pt load would give me so much more time to learn, think, analyze, and actually lay hands on pts to help to them to heal. Sounds like bliss.

Let me know of any ideas, please????

Linda…… worried about the future….

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Tiffany Lam 03.29.10 at 4:56 pm

Linda, you are definitely not alone and are in the same boat as many of the new graduates out there. The saturation in nursing new grads has made the market highly competitive for new grads to obtain permanent positions, and this has also made it difficult for the most experienced travel nurses to obtain travel contracts. My suggestion for you is to prepare now to travel in the future. Since travel contract varies from 8 to 13 weeks, these contracts are short which does not enable the facility to provide any skills training. If you are not having any luck on finding a permanent job in your area the best thing to do is to open yourself up to relocating to another city. There are certain locations across the country that are looking to hire on new grads and will invest time in training them. I would target acute care setting facilities since the majority of travel opportunities are available in those areas. You might have to sacrifice for the next few years being close to family or friends, but if your goal is to eventually travel this would give you a head start on getting the experience needed for you to be comfortable on taking a travel contract in the future. Just think of it this way, relocating for a few years to learn as much as you can as a long extended travel assignment. Best of Luck and feel free to call me with any questions. My number is 866-416-5201.

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Robin D Baker 04.08.10 at 8:12 pm

I graduated from nursing school in 2003, and have worked as an endoscopy nurse in an out pt clinic for a 2+ years, psych for a 1+ years and in a 24 hour observation unit for 2+ years. I now wish that I had worked as a floor nurse somewhere because I would like to do that type of nursing, but everyone wants exerience as a floor nurse. I would even take less money to get a job somewhere with good training. Any ideas?

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Ken Kistner 04.15.10 at 11:30 am

Robin,

My best suggestion would be to work in one of our correctional facilities to gain experience as a floor nurse while acclimating to the pace of a hospital unit. Once our nurses complete a 3-6 month contract in our correctional facilities we then have the flexibility to place in almost any Med/Surg unit of your choice. This has been a very successful transition for our nurses that were in your similar situation. Please contact Michelle Colgan at 866-632-8352.

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Ravin 08.18.10 at 8:27 am

Hi there everyone…….I’m doing a topic on new graduate nurses joining their clinical practice without a mentoring program. Anyone has any experience to share on how they felt being in the role of a staff nurse without any guidance??
Please share your stories with me, anything that happened that could have been different with a mentor’s guidance….

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