Novice Nurse Mentorship Programs to Transform Professional Development

Monday, 9 November 2015

Alicia Glassco, MSN, RN, CNL, CNML
Surgical Department - Renown Regional Medical Center, Renown Health, Reno, NV, USA
Bernadette M. Longo, MSN, PhD, RN, CNL, APHN
Orvis School of Nursing, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA

Globally, the shortage of nurses continues despite increases in graduation rates. Nurses continue to leave the profession due to overall job dissatisfaction involving workload, stress, pay, and lack of advancement opportunities and interpersonal relationships (Chan et al., 2013). Alarmingly, newly-graduated novice nurses are especially vulnerable to leaving the profession. This workforce pattern challenges healthcare systems to implement innovative programs to retain their nurses.

Nurse Residency Programs have become common in modern healthcare systems (Rush, Gordon, Lilly, & Janke, 2013). These residency programs usually occur from 3 months to 1 year and utilize preceptors whose role is to supervise, tutor and teach the novice nurse. Thus, residency programs are helpful for role development and for building technical and organizational skills to perform the daily work, but lack support for the mental well-being of the novice and fail to address their career development. Therefore, additional mentoring can meet these needs and likely improve overall satisfaction and retention of novice nurses. In contrast to preceptors, mentors are non-judgmental seasoned peers who counsel the novice and offer career guidance and support. The concept of nurse mentoring is common in academia and upper nursing management in hospital settings. However, only a few hospital systems have implemented nurse mentoring programs for their novice nurses (Rush, et al., 2013).

A Novice Nurse Mentor (NNM) Program was piloted at a Level II Regional Trauma Hospital during 2013-14. The NNM Program was offered concurrent with the standard year-long New Nurse Residency Program. The NNM Program focused on developing and supporting nurse mentors to successfully mentor novice nurses. Mentors were recruited who met qualifications of being a registered or advanced degree nurse, ≥ 2 years experience, willingness to support a mentee without compensation, a self-defined positive personality, and were not employed in a management position. Pairing of mentors with potential mentees (n = 64) occurred at two mingle events resulting in a pilot cohort of 15 pairs. After a formal meeting with the project coordinator, the pairs met weekly for the first month, then bi-weekly or as needed. Mentorship development workshops were offered monthly on issues such as work-life balance, adult learning theory, and networking. In addition, the mentors were facilitated with group processing to share about the role and any emerging issues. This pilot project followed the 15 mentor/mentee pairs over a period of 4 months. The institution’s baseline novice nurse retention rate was 74% per year. There was an estimated financial loss of $64,000 per novice nurse who would leave the institution. A pre/post survey of all nurses in the New Nurse Residency Program was used to assess differences between the 15 mentoring-exposed novice nurses and 49 reference novice nurses.

Novice nurse retention rates improved from 74% to 79% per year, an institutional cost savings of $192,000. Significantly more mentor-exposed novice nurses (85%) rated having peer support as a satisfying aspect of their work environment compared with (70%) of the reference novice nurses (p = .018). Although not significantly different (p = .20), 60% of the mentor-exposed novice nurses rated ongoing learning as one of the most satisfying aspects of their work environment compared to 50% of the reference novice nurses. Positive qualitative feedback was received from mentors and mentees for continuation of the program. As a result, the institution incorporated the mentoring program into the existing residency program and will continue to develop and monitor effectiveness.

Voluntarily NNM Programs, offered within standardized nurse residency programs, can transform healthcare environments and enhance the professional development of nurses. This pilot project demonstrated the cost effectiveness of incorporating mentoring for those novice nurses seeking more support and guidance from seasoned nursing role models. Likewise, experienced nurses had the opportunity to provide service to the discipline by mentoring new nurses thru their first years. Future structured and institutionally-supported mentoring programs need to measure effectiveness in order to create an evidence base for retaining novice nurses and transform professional development for all.