Can you think of a person who had the most profound impact on your career? Was it someone who was there to support you, guide you and encourage you as you took that big leap into your career? The person you are picturing may have formally or informally been your mentor. A mentor can be defined in many ways, as they are “close, trusted, experienced counsellors or guides” (Grossman, & Valiga, 2016, p. 215). The purpose of this paper is to explore mentorship within the nursing profession. Part of this exploration included an interview with Peggi Holmes, recently retired Registered Nurse of 36 years. Peggis’ career consisted of work on medical/surgical units, home care, long term care, management in home care and as well as manager of the Cypress Health Region in southwest Saskatchewan. Consent was obtained from Peggi to use the inview material. Throughout this paper, mentorship will be described and examined through its relation with job satisfaction, organizational support, professional development, and future implications within the nursing profession. To be able to fully delve into mentorship and all that it encompasses, it is important to determine what makes up an effective mentorship relationship. When asked, Peggi believed that the best mentorship relationships were made up of eager mentees who are willing to learn and are open minded to new experiences and feedback as well as mentors who have a strong knowledge base with the ability to teach on a common ground (personal communication, January 24, 2018). In order to explore effective mentorship relationships and its common behaviours, a qualitative study was conducted with Nursing and Health Science undergraduate students, among a few other disciplines.
From the data emerged eight behavioural themes; exchange of knowledge and open communication being two of those themes. The undergraduate proteges believed supportive and constructive feedback was essential to the relationship with their mentor as it improved their confidence in practice and aided in expanding their knowledge from classroom learning to real world situations (Eller, Lev, & Feurer, 2014). Constructive feedback is inarguably important to the growth and development of knowledge and skills within the health field as new information is always emerging. An effective mentorship relationship may differ slightly for everyone, however, as I reflect on the importance of behaviours, I believe it will not only enhance your relationship but can influence daily practice. As such behaviours mentioned previously were noted to positively influence confidence in daily practice, how might the benefits of mentorship effect overall job satisfaction within the nursing profession? It has been found that nurses are leaving the profession due to job dissatisfaction from negative work environments.
A survey conducted in 21 hospitals across Canada, with more than 600 nurses, revealed that supportive work environments that promoted staff empowerment enhanced their job satisfaction. Employees who felt supported and empowered were accessing more opportunities to grow, learn and become more involved at work (Purdy, Spence Laschinger, Finegan, Kerr, & Olivera, 2010). While discussing the experiences Peggi Holmes had while being mentored in her first job as a Registered Nurse, she described the work environment to be one she never wanted to leave. This was due to the support and empowerment she received from her mentor and other nursing leaders on the unit which allowed her to grow intellectually and professionally for her decade long career on the unit (personal communication, January 24, 2018). When nurses feel empowered, it not only enhances job satisfaction but, as an unintended consequence, it also improves patient care due to the increased motivation to expand knowledge, skills and responsibilities. Due to my own experience, I believe that feeling empowered and supported by your mentor creates a more positive learning environment which increases your confidence and motivation in patient care.Since positive mentorships can influence job satisfaction on a peer to peer level, examining mentorship from an organizational level can open another lense into the multifaceted benefits on job satisfaction. Being aware that nurses are leaving the profession due to negative work environments and job dissatisfaction, mentorship programs were introduced into hospital units.
A mentorship program called MIND (Mentorship In Nursing Development) was created for such problems. While evaluating the efficacy of the MIND program, a study, in 2010, was conducted which evaluated the experiences and attitudes of ICU nurses. One main theme that emerged from the interviews was the need for mentee support (Butorac, Kruchowski, Manning, & Mutuna, 2011). Mentorship programs such as PASS (Pre-Arrival Supports and Services) was also integrated into nursing units to aide in a smooth transition for immigrant nurses beginning their practice in Canada. These mentees felt the PASS program was beneficial for the application and registry process but it also created a sense of comfort based on the support established while under the experienced mentors guide (Jaimet, 2016). Peggi recalled that throughout her 36 year long career, she was consistently involved in mentorship roles that were organized through her Unit Manager and Health Region (personal communication, January 24, 2018). Nurses who may have fewer connections on a unit may be less inclined to seek a mentor, therefore, feeling supported by your organization facilitates more mentorship opportunities. When I’m a new grad, I will not only seek a mentor who is supportive, but I want to be apart of a unit and organization that supports their staff like Peggi experienced in her first RN job. With the scope and roles continually broadening in nursing, we must be mindful of how we move forward with mentorship through professional development.
As mentioned previously, an effective mentor has a strong knowledge base. Nurses are responsible for ensuring they are continuously expanding on their knowledge and skills by meeting their regulatory body competencies through seminars, conferences, online courses, reading journals and advanced certification within a specialty field. By partaking in continuing education, it not only allows for personal growth in a nurses practice, but enhances their ability to provide a higher quality of mentorship and overall patient care (Severson, 2015). Throughout Peggi’s career, she noted that as time went on and her knowledge and experience developed, so did her mentorship skills. She felt that in order to be the best mentor, she herself had to not only know the how behind nursing care but also understand the why. Without advancing her knowledge, she would not be able to provide mentorship on a deep, intellectual level (personal communication, January 24, 2018). The healthcare field is always evolving with new evidence and research enhancing best practice within the nursing profession which makes the need for continuing education necessary.
I believe it is not only important for the mentor to understand the how and why of patient care, it should also be the responsibility for the mentee to be asking those “why” questions to critically analyze each situation. Continually seeking the “why” in patients conditions should be a skill passed down through mentor to mentee as it will broaden the way nurses approach each patient and aide in understanding the bigger picture.Looking to the future of nursing, we know that positive mentorship relationships have had a cyclical effect as those who experienced these beneficial experiences, have in turn, taken on mentor roles when time comes. The new generation of nurses, known as millennials, that are emerging into the profession will be responsible to carry on these relationships to continue to create a work culture of support and empowerment. This generation is eager to learn, ask questions and receive feedback from their nurse leaders.
During a biennial CNA conference, presentations were made from the new millennial generation nurses which highlighted mentorship. One nurse, Margaret Danko, described her experience with mentors in her undergraduate studies to be more informative and beneficial than classroom learning. After four years of experience as an RN, Danko decided to enter into a mentor role because of the positive experience and support it gave her as a student (St-denis, 2016). As mentioned previously, Peggi had a positive experience as a mentee and new RN on the medical/surgical unit. This positive experience fostered her interest in stepping into a bigger leader role through mentorship and eventually management (personal communication, January 24, 2018). It is not uncommon even in your daily life, if you have a positive experience in something, you are more inclined to share and give back to such situations. Through Peggi’s and Margaret Danko’s testimonials on how positive mentorship impacted their career and outlook on nursing, I believe it to be important to continue that culture in nursing. I have already benefited from mentorship and look forward to my opportunity to, one day, provide someone else with that experience. Unfortunately, positive experiences in mentorship relationships are not universal so we must understand the consequences and dangers due to of lack of mentorship.
Mentorship is necessary at any level of experience in nursing. Patricia Mazzotta spoke to the difficulty in transitioning from a 12 year career in telemetry and coronary intensive care unit to an emergency/trauma unit. Despite her experience and expertise, she described the lack of mentorship and support she felt on this new unit left her feeling insecure about her knowledge and skills and concerned for her practice and patient safety (Mazzotta, 2014). A nurses’ level of competence in patient care is held to a high standard, therefore, they should be provided with all resources and levels of support they need to ensure high quality care is carried out. Understanding that even a nurse with 12 years of experience on a acute medicine unit could feel insecure about her skills in patient care reinforces the importance of mentorship and the dangers with overlooking offering important resources. I think the negative experience Patricia had highlights the importance of a mentor and that needing support comes at every level of expertise in nursing. Although effective mentorship may look slightly different to everyone, it is clear that many benefits exist between mentorship and job satisfaction, organizations and programs, professional development and the future of nursing. Being able to understand mentorship through the perspective of Peggi Holmes’ career helped me reflect on what I hope for in a mentorship relationship.
I shared her beliefs on what an effective mentorship relationship should entail as I value knowledge, strong communication, and empowerment. Through this exploration into mentorship, I now see the importance in having support at an organizational level who endorse mentorship programs and opportunities. When I graduate, I plan on seeking a mentor through means of networking, communicating with my nurse manager and educator and doing my own research into mentorship programs applicable to my area of work. It is comforting to know that nurses at any stage in their career still seek guidance and support and that mentorship can be intermittent throughout my career. Mentorship can have a profound effect on your career, and I hope that one day, I can have that same impact on someone else.
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