The transition from the classroom to real-world health care settings, combined with personal, emotional, intellectual, and relationship changes on the job, can overwhelm any new nurse. In fact, these pressures often contribute to high turnover rates in the nursing field. An estimated 17.5% of nurses leave their first nursing jobs within a year, according to data published in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. Turnover rates result from “an increasing workload, a multigenerational and aging workforce, and a lack of belonging,” according to An Evidence-Based Mentorship Program for Experienced Nurses.
How can health care organizations help new nurses overcome these challenges and others inherent in their new roles? Health care organizations have many options to address these challenges and retain nurse talent. One approach is establishing a nurse mentorship program.
Nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse educators seeking to teach and mentor the next generation of nurses can prepare for a rewarding career in nurse education through an MSN to DNP online program. Graduates are equipped to take on leadership roles in a variety of health care institutions.
What Is a Nurse Mentorship Program?
A nurse mentorship program promotes personal and professional development, job satisfaction, and retention through supportive relationships among experienced nurses and recent nursing graduates. There are two types of nurse mentorship programs: formal and informal. Health care organizations typically establish formal mentoring programs to identify and assign experienced and knowledgeable nurses to help new nurses. Mentors guide new nurses in transitioning to the culture of their organizations, preparing for their new roles, and developing valuable clinical skills. In formal programs, nurses often receive compensation for taking on mentorship roles. In contrast, an informal mentoring program is voluntary and can be initiated by either a mentor or a mentee.
Regardless of whether it’s informal or formal, a nurse mentorship program can benefit new nurses in several ways.
Guidance to Overcome First-Year Challenges
A nurse mentorship program can provide new nurses with opportunities to embed themselves in their new environment and get a better understanding of the work culture. With the steady guidance of a seasoned nursing professional by their side, new nurses can acquire the tools and confidence to overcome challenges in their first year of employment and develop new skills.
Career Direction and Skills Development
New nurses are often eager to start in their roles but lack a clear understanding of where their career path is headed. By sharing their clinical knowledge and providing insights on how the health care system works, nurse mentors can help shape the careers of their mentees and teach them skills to become well-prepared and knowledgeable nurses.
Improved Well-Being and Patient Outcomes
Stress can impact nurse performance and patient outcomes. Statistics from a study of Pennsylvania hospitals suggest correlations between higher rates of infection and minor increases in nurses’ patient loads. A mentorship program can help address this type of challenge. New nurses who are feeling overwhelmed can turn to their mentors for advice on how to reduce fatigue, stress, and burnout. As a result, they can improve patient well-being and outcomes.
The use of biostatistics also adds value to improving patient well-being. Biostatistics is a quantitative science that helps identify factors that can impact health outcomes of populations, providing nurses with a handy tool to make critical care decisions in stress-intensive environments. Biostatistics is often part of an MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program’s curriculum.
Empowering All Nurses
The Journal of Nursing Regulation projects 1 million registered nurses (RNs) to retire by 2030. And a 2018 survey reports that over 50% of RNs are age 50 or older. How can health care organizations ensure the next generation of nurses has the skills of experienced nurses nearing retirement?
Understanding the complex intersection of health and culture is critical to the improvement of the U.S. health care system. How can health care organizations ensure the delivery of quality care within a cross-cultural context and promote diversity in nursing? A nurse mentorship program can help address both of these challenges in several ways.
As health care organizations struggle to fill the gaps created by experienced nurses leaving their clinical roles, a nurse mentorship program can incentivize nurses to stay. Serving as mentors, they can develop new leadership skills, which can help to increase their job satisfaction.
Nurse mentors are also empowered with a voice to make a difference. As active and respected senior members of their health care teams, they can provide feedback to improve clinical practices and organizational culture.
Improved Patient Outcomes
Health care organizations benefit by retaining skilled nurses who are experienced in ensuring that patient safety standards are met. Mentors can pass on this knowledge to new nurses and contribute to optimal patient outcomes.
New Career Roles
A nurse mentorship program can also help experienced nurses to transition into new roles. Whether they recently made a career move or received a promotion, nurses can benefit from guidance provided by a more senior-level nursing staff member to adapt to their new responsibilities and environment.
Commitment to Social Justice
Social justice and lifelong learning go hand in hand. Nursing mentors can help other nurses achieve this through compassionate care and considering the cross-cultural perspectives of patients and their families, communities, and other nurses.
Skills and Attributes of an Effective Nurse Mentor
While nurse mentors prioritize sharing their clinical knowledge with new nurses, their most important attribute is their willingness to stay committed to the success of a nurse mentorship program.
No two mentorships are alike because each individual has different needs. This means nurse mentors are effective listeners with strong communication and relationship-building skills to understand and address the unique needs of their mentees. Nurse mentors understand the diversity in the health care system and can provide new nurses with valuable insights on navigating it. They possess exceptional training and teaching skills to share their nursing knowledge with their fellow nurses.
Mentors are more than guides; they are role models. They are confident decision-makers passionate about the nursing profession. They are accessible and approachable. Their calm demeanor helps new nurses cope with the stresses of the job. Mentors are also encouraging and supportive, especially in critical settings, which can emotionally drain new nurses as they witness some of the most traumatic experiences in the lives of patients and their families.
Building Knowledgeable Nurse Leaders
Mentorship can be a rewarding experience for both experienced nurses and their mentees. For the advanced nursing practice leader, nurse practitioner, educator, or clinical specialist interested in developing leadership skills to become a nurse mentor or start a nurse mentorship program, Regis College offers the online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program.
Learning outcomes include the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to help organizations achieve culturally competent care for health care delivery, create environments that promote continued learning and development, and evaluate the effectiveness of leadership and educational strategies.
The following courses in the Nurse Education concentration help prepare nurses with the knowledge and skills to mentor nurses and establish nurse mentorship programs in their hospitals and other organizations:
● Seminar in Teaching and Learning for Nurse Educators: This course aims to transform nurse educators into reflective practitioners with knowledge of social, ethical, legal, and professional issues.
● Instructional Methods and Curriculum Design in Nursing Education: Students develop the skills to design curricula, create positive learning environments, and solve problems.
● Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education: This course aims to equip nurses with the knowledge to use analysis models for measuring and determining the effectiveness of programs.
● Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking: Students learn to address the organizational and process challenges associated with working in health care. They learn to develop cost-effective strategies that provide solutions resulting in improved quality of care.
Learn More About the MSN at Regis College
Nurses enrolled in the MSN to DNO online program can learn leadership, communication, and analytical skills, which can make them strong candidates for participation in a nurse mentorship program. The program also teaches students essential skills, such as compassion and critical thinking, a deep understanding of complex cultural and mental health issues, and technical competency. Explore Regis College’s online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage”
Journal of Nursing Regulation, “Four Challenges Facing the Nursing Workforce in the United States”,
Nursing Management, “Peer mentoring: A Grass Roots Approach to High-Quality Care”
Nursing Theory, Nursing Mentors
Nursing Times, “Five Qualities That Make a Good Mentor”
Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, “What Does Nurse Turnover Rate Mean, and What Is the Rate?”
Regis College, DNP Nursing Education Concentration
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Nearly One in Five New Nurses Leaves First Job Within a Year, According to Survey of Newly Licensed Registered Nurses”
Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies, “An Evidenced-Based Mentorship Program for Experienced Nurses”
Wiley Journal of Clinical Nursing, “Mentoring Up: A Grounded Theory of Nurse‐to‐Nurse Mentoring”