Fostering Leadership Skills of Family Nurse Practitioner Students Through the Use of Peer Mentoring

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Sheryl Marckstadt, PhD, RN, CNP, NP-C, FNP-BC1
Nicole Gibson, DNP, RN, CNP, NP-C2
Robin Arends, DNP, RN, CNP, ARNP, FNP-BC, FAANP2
Victoria L. S. Britson, PhD, APRN, CNP, FNP-BC, CNE3
S. Jo Gibson, DNP FNP-BC4
(1)College of Nursing, Graduate Nursing, South Dakota State University, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
(2)Graduate Nursing, South Dakota State University, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
(3)College of Nursing, Graduate Nursing, South Dakota State Universty, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
(4)College of Nursing, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, USA

Purpose: Leadership and mentoring are integral components of the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) role. APRNs are expected to display leadership skills in the clinic setting upon graduation. They may be required to manage an Interprofessional team, work with partners to develop protocol, and mentor new employees hired into the practice setting. APRNs who learn positive mentoring, leadership, and partnership competencies in their academic education are more likely to display these characteristics as they enter practice. However, there is a lack of opportunities for APRN students to demonstrate these skills as they are currently in the novice or student role. Mentoring APRN students who are earlier in the plan of study can lead to increased confidence in their leadership abilities and ease adjustment to the APRN role (Giordana & Wedin, 2010). The purpose of this experience was to investigate if student peer mentoring would improve leadership skills, foster confidence, and promote professional collegiality for family nurse practitioner (FNP) students (Li, Wang, Li, & Lee, I., 2010).

Methods: Faculty conducted a literature search on leadership and peer mentoring. This information along with personal faculty experience was used to develop a peer mentoring experience for the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students (Hazel, 2014; Holley & Caldwell, 2012; Poronsky, 2012: Trubowitz, 2004).

In an advanced physical assessment course, novice FNP students participate in an interactive face-to-face lab to gain experience in advanced assessment skills and techniques. During the same semester, more advanced FNP students are required to participate in a clinical experience to foster leadership abilities needed upon graduation. In this experience, the advanced FNP students mentor students who are in the advanced physical assessment course. These mentor/mentee teams work together to answer questions and demonstrate appropriate advanced physical assessment techniques. Advanced APRN students facilitate enhanced clinical decision-making through a case study developed by the FNP student mentors. At the end of the fall semester, the advanced FNP student mentors entering their final practicum in the spring are paired with a novice FNP student entering their first practicum course. This mentor/mentee dyad work together to answer questions regarding the upcoming clinical practicum courses, clinical settings, coursework, and role transition. The mentor/mentee dyad maintain contact a minimum of twice a month either in person or via telecommunication as determined by the student pair. In addition, FNP student mentees who are in the initial stages of developing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Project may consult with their advanced FNP mentor with questions regarding their project. Both the mentor and mentee develop a reflection paper and answer survey questions about their experience each semester. As the FNP student mentee progresses through the practicum, they then in turn assume the role of an advanced FNP mentor and establish a relationship with a novice FNP student mentee.

Results: Students completed a survey at the end of each semester in the experience. Results show improvement in confidence and connectedness while decreasing anxiety. In addition, qualitative student feedback has reinforced the value of this experience in providing improved leadership skills, fostered confidence, and promoted professional collegiality for family nurse practitioner (FNP) students. Comments from the mentors include: “I’m surprised by my self-growth in skills and critical thinking”, “it’s rewarding to pass on knowledge”, “I’m excited to foster further relationship with the mentees”, “I’m thankful to share this educational journey”, “I’m inspired by my progress”, “I’ve grown in confidence”, I’ve learned from questions of other students”, and “I have led by example”.

Conclusion: Peer mentoring of FNP students received overwhelming approval from both the mentors and mentees. The mentoring of novice FNP students created feelings of increased confidence and decreased stress in the more experienced students. The experienced and novice students felt increased collegiality towards each other. This peer mentoring experience continues in the FNP program with continued positive reviews.