Alisa Glaister, RN, credits her opportunity to ascend from new grad to nurse manager to a few key colleagues, including a director from a different unit who advised her as she led a project to treat angioplasty patients on the telemetry floor. “He helped me get my foot in the door for this project, which I believe has led to my current management position,” said Glaister, a nurse manager at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco.
Glaister met with her mentor weekly to discuss techniques of effective leadership. “He was a tremendous help and guide,” she said.
Mentoring has gained considerable respect as an essential element for training new nurses, whether they’re fresh out of school or recently transferred from another unit. “The first year [out of school] you have those vulnerable moments all the time, and you forget what you have accomplished,” said Hazel Curtis, RN, BSN, MPH, an education specialist for staff development at Loma Linda (Calif.) University Medical Center. “A great mentor picks you up, dusts you off, gives you a pat on the back and says, ‘You can do it.’”
Going one on one
Formal mentoring programs hatched in professional associations and hospitals are popping up around the country as researchers and managers find the practice boosts a nurse’s job satisfaction and confidence.
Cecelia Gatson Grindel, RN, PhD, CMSRN, FAAN, studied the outcomes of Nurses Nurturing Nurses (N3), a mentoring program designed by the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. The year-long program was rolled out to 40 medical institutions across the country in 2002. Grindel, a professor and interim dean at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said data she could gather indicated more than 90% of mentored nurses stayed on the job, compared to attrition rates as high as 30%. Feedback collected throughout the pilot year of the program suggested mentored nurses had more job satisfaction and confidence.
Yvonne Brookes, RN, director of clinical learning at Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, found similar results after implementing a residency program that included a mentorship component. Previously, turnover among the system’s 4,000 nurses averaged 22%, often because new graduates left the profession or pursued an advanced degree after their first year. Since implementing the program in 2007, the new graduate turnover rate dropped to 6%, she said.
“We realized it wasn’t about the science, it was all that other stuff that goes to the head of a new grad,” she said.
“Other stuff” can range from implementing unit procedure to dealing with difficult managers or unhelpful preceptors. It can be conflict with patients or their families dealing with the shock of witnessing a death for the first time. “Sometimes you just need to vent,” Brookes said.
A mentor also can help a nurse recover from making a medical error — a potentially traumatic experience — by offering emotional support and emphasizing that one mistake doesn’t make a bad nurse.