WHAT IS THE SPACE OF MENTOR-SHIP IN NURSING?

Is there someone who left a great impact in your career life? Someone you look up to professionally? Do you at times credit your success to someone’s effort in your professional journey? This is mentorship, it may be structured or by default. Mentorship is the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution. In the nursing profession, mentorship is as important as in any other profession. The experienced nurses pass down knowledge, skills and attitudes to the new entries and younger professionals. The lack of mentorship has brought about the cliché you are aware of that ‘nursing is degrading’ or the new nurses are not good enough.

There is no proven best way for mentorship in nursing, however available research suggests some best practice. It should be structural for it to gain the best results, I’ll be quick to state that unstructured mentorship can yield results. Structured mentorship is whereby there are organized forms of engagement. A mentor and mentee are identified, goals are set and the process begins. At the end the both the mentee and mentor are evaluated against the set goals. In unstructured mentorship, the skills are passed without set guidelines and goals. The new entry learns by observing and may do it unknowingly. Because goals were not set, there is no evaluation, though the skills are passed down. The best practice is to have structured mentorship programs that yield best results and can be evaluated.

Nursing being a diverse profession has many forms of mentorship. Just to highlight a few; peer-mentorship and faculty led mentorship. Peer mentorship is where nurses are able to learn from a colleague in the same level of expertise. You have different abilities and can learn from on another even though you are on the same level. This is an important aspect of mentorship that is always ignored. Because of your different learning abilities, younger nurses learn a lot from their fellow peers. The most common form is the faculty led mentorship. This is where you have an experienced nurse pass knowledge to younger nurses. This can be at the training school level and at the hospital level. Mentorship should start from the school and go on to the hospital. This should be structured with clear set goals. The nurse educator and senior nurses in the hospital should be intentional about this. If you are a nurse educator or a nurse manager and you don’t have mentorship programs, this is the right time to start one.

Can anyone be a mentor? Can any senior nurse or nurse educator be a mentor? The nurse mentor must have certain capabilities which are important for the task. The mentor must be approachable and easy to reach, this grows the mentor mentee relationship. You need to be dependable, so that the mentor feels safe. Importantly, you need to be knowledgeable and this comes by reading and experience. Knowledge is what is passed down thus you need it. Because mentorship is a relationship, strong communication skills come in handy. Without this, the mentorship becomes difficult to both the mentor and the mentee. Clinical expertise and good work ethics are important attributes for the mentor. Remember not to be bossy, as it dilutes the real importance of the mentorship.

Some factors that affect mentorship programs is lack of them in the first place. Most of you work in areas with no mentorship programs. Research shows that best practice, where possible allow mentees to choose mentors of their own choice. Unsuitable mentor match is one major barrier to a successful mentorship relationship. Lack of trust between the mentor and the mentee affects the end outcome of a successful mentorship program. Lack of mentors and diverse mentoring styles are factors that affect mentorship programs.

The importance of mentor-ship programs cannot be overstated. A good mentor-ship program, identifies roles of both the mentee and mentor. The passage of skills, knowledge and attitude is important as you will not be here permanently. The older professionals are exiting the stage will new entrants and entering and thus the skills must be transferred. The reality is that the two sets of professionals seldom relate well in most scenarios. The old feel that new ones think they know more while the young feel the older ones are ‘old-school’. It is imperative to create a bonding and important relationship among the two groups. They are all important, and thus for continuity of the profession takes center stage. Structured mentor-ship programs should be instituted in both training schools and hospitals. The exit of old nurses and entry of new should be seamless, that no one notices the change. Mentoring doesn’t stop, you are either mentoring or being mentored.

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