A formal definition of mentoring is a spontaneous pairing by two individuals or a grouping of two or more individuals who feel they can assist each other in professional and sometimes personal growth. The mentor–mentee relationship tends to evolve and endure for the rest of one’s career and consists of counseling, teaching, networking, and coaching. Vance and Olson (1998) described mentoring as a developmental and caring support or connection between two people which assists with socialization at each stage of a mentee’s career.
More and more nurses are seeing the benefits of having an expert-to-novice relationship both as an expert as well as a novice. Certainly the advantages to the novice are clear.
Mentors see the experience as an extremely positive opportunity to expand their own vision, and at the same time, impact the profession by assisting in shaping future nurse leaders. The health care organizations employing the mentors view the experiences as a favorable and cost-effective recruitment and retention tool, which ultimately improves job satisfaction and morale. With the current interest in acquiring Magnet Status for hospitals and health care organizations, the concept of providing staff and new graduates with ongoing mentoring relationships will flourish. Professional organizations such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and Sigma Theta Tau International also encourage their experienced and new members to pair up in a variety of activities such as: starting new local chapters, developing evidence-based protocols, preparing for a leadership role, and conducting clinical research.
Higher education uses mentoring models to connect their students to practicing and experienced alumni and to friends or partners of the university.
Most mentees see the person who eventually becomes their mentor as a role model.
Role modeling has been used in nursing pedagogy to improve interpersonal skills and impact change as well as with clinical skills (Kolb, 1982). Whether the experience is labeled an internship, externship, apprenticeship, fellowship, preceptorship, or mentorship, the fact remains that an experienced person is facilitating the role transition of an inexperienced individual to some extent. The degree of success of this growth is influenced by many variables including: the selection method of mentors, the way the assignment of mentees is determined, the readiness of the mentee to assume the formal as well as the informal knowledge from the mentor, and the organizational culture that surrounds the mentor–mentee relationship.
The process of an experienced individual coaching, guiding, or mentoring a novice has frequently been cited in nursing as a mechanism of building leadership skills (Vance & Olson, 1998; Grossman &Valiga, 2000; Bennetts, 2000; Peluchette & Jenaquart, 2000).
Many of these labeled mentorships are actually preceptorships since they are an assigned relationship that is part of a course assignment or a component of job orientation.
There are multiple peer, professional, and faculty mentorship publications in the literature that focus on specific skill acquisition over a set, prescribed time frame (Suen & Chow, 2001; Price & Balogh, 2001; Lloyd Jones, & Walters, 2001). Some of the skills include acquiring: new communication strategies for success as a nurse, methods to enhance creative abilities, all types of clinical skill building, and mechanisms to facilitate research and publications. In nursing it is also accepted that nurses can have different men-tors during the various stages of their careers.
Due to our tumultuous health care environment it is more imperative than ever that nurses gain self-confidence, a goal that can be achieved by becoming competent not only with clinical skills but also with leadership skills such as negotiation, creative thinking, communication, and collaboration. In order to achieve this confidence nurses need to be mentored or guided by experienced nurses who can provide clinical knowledge and skills, practice with leadership and management skills, as well as psychosocial support.
Having a mentor can assist a nurse to gain insight into their ability to impact change, think creatively, empower themselves and others, and acquire various skills to prepare themselves for a successful career as well as to strengthen the nursing profession (Gross-man & Valiga, 2000).Nursing students need to be socialized into the profession in order to adjust to the new graduate role. The nursing profession often uses preceptors to orient new staff and to assist them in gaining competency-based skills as well as to increase clinical decision-making ability before being deemed safe to practice independently. In fact, having a men-tor is extremely important as a developmental tool for the progression of a nurse’s career, for it can influence one’s confidence and self esteem in assisting with preparing people for leadership roles (Vance & Olson, 1998).
The mentor–mentee dyad does not include the aspect of formal evaluative feedback. When two people are assigned to work together by faculty or administration it is considered a form of mentoring called a preceptor–preceptee relationship and involves evaluation (Flynn, 1997). Historically, precepting has been a tried and true method of assisting new graduates and inexperienced nurses in acquiring the supervised practice of working with patients requiring specific nurse competencies. This one-to-one assigned expert and novice relationship allows the novice to gain skills and decision-making experience, while receiving instant feedback from the expert, and still provide safe patient care. It is important for longitudinal research studies to be conducted which track a mentoring relationship from the beginning to its current status. It would be interesting to assess how many assigned preceptor–preceptee relationships evolve into mentoring dyads and to identify patterns which may predict a successful match between experienced nurses and novices. More databased outcome studies measuring a mentee’s leadership skills, assessing a mentee’s career status, and identifying the mentee’s mentoring of others are needed. Noe, Greenberger, and Wang (2002) cite several ideas for conducting future research studies which have clear significance to the nursing profession. If having a mentoring experience as a beginning nurse clinician, educator, researcher, and/or administrator is found to be a reliable predictor for success, an evidence-based protocol of mentoring could be established. As for specific studies regarding mentoring in nursing research, Byrne (2003, 2002), Zambroski (2004), Records (2003), and Morrison-Beedy (2001) describe strategies for assisting faculty and students to participate in research. Jacelon (2003) describes mentoring for new faculty that includes suggestions on succeeding with the scholarship aspect of the tensure process and Olson (1995) and K. Roberts (1997) present ideas for increasing faculty scholarship productivity through mentoring in predoctoral fellowships. No studies were found depicting measurable outcomes of how mentoring assisted faculty and students with research.