May 2010 :: Nursing in Focus

Nurse Mentoring

Published Friday Apr 16, 2010

The world of nursing has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Gone are the glass IV bottles, glass syringes with reusable needles, six bed wards, and the list goes on. Nursing education has also made a change from hospital based nursing schools that graduated nurses with a diploma to two and four year programs that leave you with a degree. The world is forever changing and nurses are a vital part of the change that affects healthcare in so many ways.

Nationwide statistics show that one in five new graduate nurses leave their first job within the first year. This is for a variety of reasons; lack of support, lack of confidence, feeling unwelcomed and overwhelmed. It is not only costly to train a new graduate nurse, but also reflects poorly on both nursing unit and facility retention statistics for further recruitment.  How do we as administrators/managers keep new staff?

Most every nurse when they enter the workforce is paired up with a senior nurse on their unit known as a preceptor. The role of the preceptor is to teach policies and procedures, oversee skills, and act as a teacher.  The new nurse relies on their preceptor for guidance and instruction and comes to them with questions or concerns.  While this is a great asset for this new nurse, it isn’t necessarily all they may need.  It is difficult to complain to your preceptor about something specific to the unit or about another co-worker. Often those little things can lead to frustration and undue stress, and the new nurse will leave.

In 2008, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in Southern Vermont began a Nurse Mentoring Program.  The goal of the program was to maintain our new graduate nurses for many years and to offer them the support they needed to achieve that goal.  The first thing the committee, which was integral in instituting the program, did was to come up with their definition of a mentor as a basis for the program.  The definition; ” A mentor is a collaborative partner who is a role model and motivator providing support, help, enthusiasm, inspiration, and nurturing in a non-structured learning environment.  A mentor is an active listener who will provide a safe, non-judgmental, friendly, and creative atmosphere for the mentee.” A survey was sent out to all nurses, and from those surveys that were returned a group of nurses was selected to become mentors. Those who responded rated themselves on the qualities they felt they possessed which were direct reflections of our mentor definition. The committee then spoke with the individual’s manager as to whether or not the candidate would be a good mentor.

Each nurse mentor goes through a 10 hour training program which covers skills such as active listening, goal setting, emotional intelligence, learning styles, job stress, and difficult behaviors. This gives the mentor a variety of skills and ideas to become a dedicated mentor and to be instrumental in the retention of our new nurses.  At the end of this intense course the new mentors are asked to sign a contract that outlines the expectations and commitment that are expected from each one of them.

To date, 20 trained nurse mentors have been trained. When new nurses are hired they are paired up with a mentor. One thing that is vital to the success of the program is that the mentor and mentee not work on the same unit. It is the intent of the committee that the mentor/mentee work the same shift. During orientation week the mentor and mentee are introduced and a future meeting is set up at that time. The expectation of the program is that the mentor and mentee will meet at least every two weeks for the first three months, and then at least once a month for the first year. The overall hope of the program is that the mentor/mentee relationship will continue for  many years beyond that first year.

We have one mentor/mentee team who are well into their second year of their relationship and have built a solid foundation. This team was paired up at the very beginning of our program, even before our first mentor training. Without this relationship we would have lost the new nurse within the first three months of hire for a variety of reasons. Because of the commitment and dedication of the mentor, this nurse is still a vital part of our organization and has grown in both confidence and skill. This is just a reflection of how vital the nurse mentoring program can be to an organization.

In conclusion, we have had the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Nurse Mentoring Program up and running for a year. The program began with eight new graduate nurses and to date seven are still employed at BMH. This ratio of 1 in 8 far outweighs the nationwide statistic of 1 in 5. I feel this retention is solely based on the nurse mentoring  program and the dedication that all participants have put into its success!