Based on the assumption that researchers who conduct nursing studies either have been mentored by other scholars or perceive the need for guidance as they begin their research, this study described the actual or perceived characteristics of mentors who guided them. The conceptual framework for this study is based on the Global Mentoring Process Model (Baxley & Ibitayo, 2012). The purpose of this study is to explore the perceptions of nursing faculty members regarding the characteristics of their mentors, if existent, as they were/are conducting research in nursing and the desired characteristics of a mentor important to building their program of nursing research. The characteristics of an organization and the supportive organizational characteristics in which to conduct the research were also explored.
Data using the 16-item Education Research Mentorinstrument were collected from faculty members who have: published nursing education research in five peer-reviewed journals between years of 2005-2015, belong to a nursing research society, or a nursing education organization.
The instrument, Education Research Mentor (Baxley, 2015), was developed from the literature and conceptual framework (Grossman, 2007; Baxley & Ibitayo, et al., 2014, Olson, 2014; Zachary & Fischler, 2015; Zachary, 2005, 2007). In this survey, each item is measured using a 5-point Likert type scale (unimportant, somewhat unimportant, somewhat important, important, extremely important). For instrument validity, the question on the Characteristics of the Environment showed a Cronbach’s Alpha of 0.862, and the Cronbach’s Alpha for the question on the Characteristics of Mentor was 0.988. The level of significance was set at 0.05 for this study.
Descriptive and parametric statisticsand a summary of open-ended responses were collected. The study participants were 29 to 75 years old, and the mean age was 35 years. The majority were who completed the survey were female (145) and 7 were male (N=152). The ethnicity of most participants was White, non-Hispanic (89%). Seventy four participants were tenured faculty. In addition, out of all the participants 82 percent had a mentor and 66 percent had a research mentor.
For those who had a mentor, the most desired mentor characteristics were: knowledge (88%), available (79%), competent (78%), supportive (75%). The least desired mentor characteristics were socializing (23%) and inspirational (39%). The same mentor characteristics were also desired by faculty members who did not have a mentor.
If participants answered “no” to having a mentor, a Spearman Rho was run for age to identify an association between variables, showing a positive correlation at (p < 0.05) for Competent (0.28) Sharing (.046), and Trustworthy (.027).
If they answered “no” on having a mentor, a Spearman Rho was also run for gender, showing a showing a positive correlation at (p < 0.05) for Available (.01), Competent (.01), Knowledgeable (.01), Resourceful (.027), Committed (.03), Collaborative (.023), Trustworthy (.02).
A one way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was computed to examine differences between the mentor characteristics and Ethnicity and Tenure status. Results showed a statistical significance at (p < 0.05) for Trustworthy, Knowledge, Competence, and Available.
On a 5-point Likert type scale on the characteristics of an environment promoting nursing research, respondents rated these characteristics as “Very Important” or “Extremely Important”: Supportive of Mentoring (98%), Integrate Mentoring into the Organization (95%), Fosters Professional Development (97%), Empowered (98%), and Administration Provides Resources (94%). The majority of responses were in the “Very Important” or “Extremely Important” categories. There were only a few responses in the “Unimportant” or “Somewhat Unimportant” categories: Fosters Personal Development (8%), Non-Competitive (7%), and Health Balance in Work and Personal Life (7%).
Exemplars of Open-Ended Questions
Participants responded to the open-ended questions providing additional insight to the question related to other characteristics of a research mentor. The respondents indicated personal ideas of what they consider important in a mentor.
“Willing to be kind, fully critical, develop my thinking and analysis”
“A research mentor needs to be a visionary as well as knowledge and experience.”
“Doesn’t answer my questions but tries to direct me to sources so I can answer my own question.”
“The most important characteristic is that the mentor genuinely cares about the mentee and invests time and energy into the professional success of the mentee.”
“The mentor offers the opportunity to work on their own research and to publish”
“Positive, knowledgeable, encouraging, helpful, expert in research.”
“Patience and the ability to listen to my concerns about the process.”
“She created an environment in which success breed(s) success.”
While most were positive, one offered that mentor relationships are not always helpful.
“Mentor very busy, not enough time, fragmented approach.”
When asked what they considered an ideal environment for mentoring, they described it as being supportive and collaborative while looking at the workload of those mentoring is considered important.
“Mentoring occurs best in an environment of collaboration and shared vision where supporting each other’s success is more important than any one individual accomplishment.”
“An environment that supports the activity is one that is transparent, inclusive, and is focused on the success of its members.”
“Valued by all stakeholders, this may include that is part of workload”
“One in which there is enough time”
“Protected time for mentoring built into the culture and teaching schedule instead of time squeezed in between all other responsibilities.”
They also suggested that mentors and mentees should be provided preparation prior to entering into a mentoring relationship; “Preparation of both mentors and mentees regarding what the relationship can and should be.”
When the participants were asked to share other suggestions about how mentoring is related to strengthening nursing science they expressed that nursing needs to provide more assistance for mentoring to strengthen the relationships.
“Mentoring is so important; I wish nursing did a better job promoting the mentor- mentee relationship”
“Need more of it”
“Mentoring is the crux of developing strong partnership, network between faculty, and preventing burnout/turnover. It is a fundamental support system.”
“I do not think that many institutions have an ideal environment.”
“Having a mentor will mean the difference between advancing nursing science or watching it stagnate.”
“The commitment to mentor is often less of an issue than the time allotted to the process.”
“Mentoring means more than just a label. It should be a mutually agreed upon relationship with goals, objectives, and some accountability measures.”
“There are numerous levels and areas where mentoring leverages our assets. As a senior faculty, I always tell new faculty that they should have many mentors in teaching, research and service, and ideally both internal and external to their school of nursing. I see mentoring as the protective factor for incivility and if we want to attract and retain quality nurse faculty, we need to increase our mentoring efforts.”
One responded that mentoring is not the only thing that is important to advance nursing science; “Mentoring is a reciprocal relationship…protégés also require tutoring…avoid considering it the panacea for all that may challenge developing nurse scientists.” Participants had definite ideas on what characteristics a mentor should possess. Of the mentor characteristics that were looked at in this study, the majority of participants thought that most characteristics were “important” or “somewhat important”.
While the mean age of participants was 35 in our study, the nurse faculty range in the NLN study was from 46 to 60. According to NLN, out of 13,307 respondents. 22 percent of full-time nurse faculty are tenured, and an additional 16 percent are on the tenure-track (NLN Faculty Census Survey, 2015). The rank of full-time nurse educators in 2015 was 10,730 White, non-Hispanics (81%).
These findings lay the foundation for developing tools to systematically identify and recruit those individuals who possess the skills desired to conduct research so that such skills can be recognized, honed and used to further advance global health and nursing. Future studies need to include participants of diverse ethnicities. These findings will provide information to develop an evaluation of the institution’s culture for mentoring and ways nursing leadership can provide an environment with a culture for mentoring of their faculty members and support nursing research.
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