Professional progression in one chosen career remains the top priority for every entrant in the respective field. Realization of such target in every learner yearning for professional development in the field of practice requires a program nurtured through daily interaction with receptive and guiding instruments of learning. Such instruments involve a mentorship program for the learners after their pre-registration program in the chosen field. Mentoring plays an important role in every learner as an orientation and an informative path to the professional life one intends to assume in life. For instance, the experience that a mentee obtains in a nursing mentoring program to assist in the identification of areas of progress and decide their future course of action: nurse practitioner, nurse educator or nurse manager (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 35). Mentorship program as a routing path towards progression involves critical and objective thinking on the basis of clinical setting and principles to gain deeper understanding of the concepts revolving around the field. Nevertheless, concentrating on learning nursing concepts and various areas of specialization is never enough as it requires identifying with an active interaction with experienced professionals in the nursing field. Mentoring involves sharing knowledge to others for them to understand better their attitude and propensity for the learner preparedness in improving ones academic performance and self-satisfaction in nursing.
The mentoring process is a two-tier relationship involving the mentor and mentee in a mentor-student relationship providing a feedback mechanism during the process. The understanding of such existing setting for the participating parties is essential for enhancing clarification of mentor’s expected roles and foster informed decision making for the mentee. Although personal discretion input is required in a mentorship program, the mentor is adequately guided by principles outlined to ensure effective mentoring across the nursing board. Nevertheless, the mentor should creatively implement modern assessment models to overcome challenges that remain unresolved arising from both the mentor perspective and mentee contribution.
Mentoring in Theory and Practice
Mentoring theory is defined differently by various stakeholders in reference to the context, purpose and intentions to which they intend to serve it. However, mentoring is explicitly defined as a visionary and mutual understanding where the mentor embarks on a relationship assisting the mentee through a vital transition such as coping with a new situation, career development and personal growth (Hatter, Jollie, & McKimm, 2007, p. 1). However, learners as mentee may obtain transition assistance from various quarters such as peer support from colleagues, line supervisors, facilitators and groups. In practice, no single quarter may exhaust all avenues on its own, therefore action learning for the individual through a mix of assistance varying with time and reasons. In addition to the traditional one-to-one approach in mentoring, it exists in a variety of models occurring both within and outside the learning situation. Such may include co-mentoring, mentee-initiated and group mentoring. Going beyond the various models, the NMC outlines that mentoring role revolve around a guiding forum of nurturing, role modelling, focusing on the professional development of the mentee while sustaining a caring relationship over time (Gopee, 2011, p. 11).
Mentoring in practice involves providing a receptive environment orienting the mentee to approaches broadening ones professional horizon in a competent reinforcement and accelerated transition. Mentorship involves activities directed towards facilitating new learning experiences, guiding professional development and career decisions, while providing emotional and psychological support and assisting the mentee build professional networks (Elliott, Aitken, & Chaboyer, 2011, p. 10). In that view, the general role of the mentor involves enhancing professional development of a new entrant by creating awareness of existing gaps between enrolments, successful gain of skills to time of full autonomy as a qualified professional. In practice, mentoring in a clinical setting involves assuming roles meant to widen the student skills in learning, analyzing challenging circumstances during problem solving and reflection to nurture ones professional knowledge (Hatter, Jollie, & McKimm, 2007, p. 3).
Mentoring in the nursing field is underpinned by a set of principles guiding all mentoring models. The first principle seeks to inform the mentor realize that individuals possess the ability to change and are willing to grow their personal, organizational and professional knowledge. Understanding this principle allow mentors recognize differences arising in individuals and bridging such gaps through professional reflection. Secondly, the mentoring process should empower and develop competence through a transition of improving delivery of quality health care services. This concept underscores encouraging collaboration and avoiding competition which may disrupt personal development and organizational mission. Additionally, mentors should always look forward to bridge the knowledge gap through new ideas and reflecting on past experiences to transfer learning and apply it in new situations (Hatter, Jollie, & McKimm, 2007, p. 4).
The field of nursing requires cooperation and teamwork under a shared environment enhancing confidence of supported colleagues in their duties by reducing reality shocks. An effective mentorship aiming to attain such nursing goals will embrace the principle of creating equal opportunities for all participants to avoid isolation which may lead to sub-optimization of organization goals. Mentoring programs are directed to inculcate organizational culture into the nursing student to improve their co-operation skills through a peer-support network. This emphasizes the role of the mentor as one of bringing experience, learning perspective and professional objectivity in the mentoring relationship. Under a mentor-mentee relationship guided by the above mentioned principles, mentoring activities involves offering technical assistance, clarifying roles and responsibilities; identifying and analyzing learning experiences, opportunities and gaps; encouraging analysis and reflection; structuring learning and work and confronting through questioning, listening and giving feedback (Hatter, Jollie, & McKimm, 2007, p. 4).
Role of the Mentor
Mentoring program aims to orient learners and brief them of what a career in nursing entails. In reference to that position, the mentor serves the role of an adviser to the student about their career, developing their personal confidence during social contacts and nurturing networks to assess potential limitations to their capabilities (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 36). The advisory duties of the mentor aim to create a clinical experience to the young learners as a facilitator clarifying misconceptions in questions raised by the students themselves. The success of discharging this role requires preliminary foundations of friendliness to build confidence and instill open communication skills for later learning process. Similarly, the mentoring program should emphasize guidance by setting out the personal and professional conduct expected of each nursing or midwifery student for one to fit to practice (Nursing and Midwifely Council, 2012, p. 3). Further, the mentor is expected to perform an introductory process for the students to familiarize with the expected behavior and assess their differences for them to interactively learn to acquire knowledge, attitude and skills as emerging professionals. The success in discharging advisory duties requires of the mentor to realize that different mentees possess varying personalities and thus necessary to first understand them adequately.
The field of nursing requires fitness of practitioners as role models at all times as a measure to protect the well-being of the public health from professional negligence. Considering that stance, it is essential for the mentor display professional conduct by working within one area of personal competence as an influencing figure (Hatter, Jollie, & McKimm, 2007, p. 4). Simultaneously, the mentor should abide by the NMC standards by offering a supportive environment through constructive feedback approach. That way, the mentee is influenced by the invisible hand of professionalism during reflection and standards to gain better in the implementation of similar conduct borrowed from competent practitioners (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2011, p. 346). The mentor’s personal presentation involves non-verbal and observable direction that one can imitate about how a professional behaves and discharge one’s duties. In particular, positive role model input involves a lasting effect in spearheading professional and healthcare improvements (Mason, 2011, p. 19). Therefore, the mentor as a role model should sustain a personality which in its nature breaks down barriers and raises standards for the next generation of professionals. Further, the role modeling role involves transforming nursing education through graduation of well-prepared nurses to practice, manage, and lead in nursing to sustain and improve the quality of health care delivery (Bosher & Pharris, 2009, p. 12).
A mentoring program serves as an orientation program pairing the student with practicing nurses as their coaches in practice-based nursing and interacting with the field in reality. For instance, during the first days of clinical rotations when the students come into contact with the patients, the mentors have a pivotal role in helping medical students learn the ropes and ease their burden (Sapega, 2012, p. 12). The coaching role involves demonstrating in a clinical setting while interacting with the environment in the natural field of practice. The mentor-student relationship involves introducing the novices to the philosophies, goals, policies, procedures and professional developmental challenges to influence the form, quality, and outcome of their career path (Bally, 2007, p. 145). The role of the mentor as a coach provides the student with constructive feedback to improve their clinical practice and promoting a flexible approach to accepting feedback in the field (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 36). Although the students are trained in simulated settings similar to the patient unit, coaching in the actual field demonstrate the workflow in the hospital missing in the classroom. The role of the mentor will involve bridging the knowledge deficit unresolved by teaching alone by moving the students into the realm of the everyday expected norm for their professional practice (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2011, p. 346).
The prime role of the mentoring program is enhancing autonomy and independence attained when the mentee acquires the competency required to practice in the field. On that note, the mentor serves the role of problem solver by inculcating specific competencies during the induction programs which develop ones critical skills, problem solving skills and decision making skills in the professional portfolio (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 36). The student will benefit from analytical skills that one can utilize later in solving problems that emerge during development of one’s career. Additionally, the mentoring program serves as an expansive source of reference during subsequent instances similar in nature where one would successfully implement solutions or use previous strategies to devise new ones applicable to the situation at hand. Competencies built on good problem solving skills stimulate an effective transition producing knowledgeable practitioners with up-to-date solutions in the field of practice. Nevertheless, the role of the mentor does not involve solving the students’ problems but rather centers assuming a collaboration role in the problem solving process (Ontario Nurses Association, 2013, p. 7).
As a collaborator the role of the mentor is limited to the problem solving process in a check-step approach to ensure the mentee is actively involved in the solution. Firstly, this will incorporate the form of preliminary problem definition that the mentee intends to solve from the mentee perspective. Here, the role of the mentor is checking whether the mentee is solving the problem previously identified. Secondly, the mentoring relationship should generate a problem analysis forum involving the comparison of the present situation against the intended solution. Third, the mentor is to assist the mentee generate potential solutions under a synergy meant for avoiding instances of overlooking alternative remedies. Additionally, the mentor should take the student in analyzing the alternative options by investigating factors defining the viability and compatibility of the solutions. Further, the role of the problem solver involves facilitating the selection of the solutions by first screening the entire set as a whole. Lastly, the mentor is to ensure that the mentee implements the valuable thinking in problem solving into reality (Ontario Nurses Association, 2013, p. 8). As a problem solver, the responsibility rests beyond the usual problem solving process outlined above to incorporate the feedback mechanism. Such will involve a critical future oriented rather than judging the mentee in a forum of withstanding difficult scenarios where one would insightfully provide and receive feedback.
Effective mentoring programs incorporate the teacher’s role in the simulated clinical teaching to acquaint the students with the sought nursing skills essential for their professional development. For instance, the mentor is capable of sharing knowledge and experience as a teacher by identifying with the learning needs and style to create and provide a prepared environment for learning (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 36). The mentors have a teaching role during practice placement where students attain skills and competencies for them to render their professional duties of healthcare service delivery. In a practice placement under the mentor’s supervision, the student gains ability to develop direct bearing where one would effectively integrate theory into practice (Royal College of Nursing, n.d, p. 2). Accomplishing such goals involves incorporating practicing healthcare professionals into the faculty to provide the students with quality education in the course of their professional development (AASCU, 2005, p. 1).
In practice, students enrolling in any college offering nursing education aim to attain skills and exposure guaranteeing their professional and personal progression. Accomplishing such objectives for the students places a role-burden to the mentors as supporters by providing lacking moral and professional guidance. For example, the mentor is expected to encourage them during self-development counseling sessions where they assist the mentees critically think and reflect on their practice (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 36). In the contemporary hospital settings, mentoring culture provides a commitment forum for long-term solution prioritizing job satisfaction, improved professionalism and better patient outcomes to short-term gains. For instance, given the impact of horizontal fighting amongst the younger generation of nurses the role of mentor in guiding and counseling the nursing students is secure ground for future organizational stability and performance (Bally, 2007, p. 143). Such would minimize the chances of compromising the patient’s life in the future owing to incidences of infighting groups of nurses for the reason that the moral degradation curtails their professionalism.
Challenges Inherent in a Mentoring Program
Throughout the mentoring phase of the nursing student, the mentors assume almost all of the above mentioned roles to enhance the progression of the student professional development. However, application and emphasis on each of the named roles varies with the learning approach and the professional development levels of the mentee. In accordance with that, the mentor is required to possess exemplary discerning skills to know when to assume each of the roles as it fits the particular circumstance. However, such has been never simple in practice as it seems in theory as the mentor has to face off present and emerging challenges hindering optimization of the student’s development.
Fulfilling such demanding roles places the mentor in a position where one is required to overcome the challenges arising in the mentor-student relationships. Firstly, building a mentoring relationship with the student involve personal awareness that different individuals possess differences associated with their novice status. Here, the mentor’s personality stands the main determinant feature determining the success or failure of the mentoring program. Secondly, an effective mentoring program involves allocation of enough time to interact with the mentee. At that point the mentor faces time limitation as one may even eat into the time allocated for other duties including private and family matters. Thirdly, assuming the different roles of the mentor involves holding dual responsibilities of healthcare services to patients and time dedicated to the success of the mentoring program. Additionally, the number of mentee allocated to the mentor may overload the professional to a point of compromising the quality delivered while discharging one’s duties. Moreover, the mentor may be limited to perform a few of the named roles depending on the knowledge expanse especially where the mentor lacks the theoretical and practical proficiency in queries raised by the student (Ali & Panther, 2008, p. 38).
On the other hand, a set of challenges may emerge from the student perspective and levels of needs. For instance, since a mentoring program is a two-tier relationship, cooperation from the mint is a vital determinant for the success of the process. Similarly, the level of learning of the participant may highly curtail the success of the project especially where the mentor is placed in a group with varying learning needs. Lastly, the mode of assessing the level of needs in the mentor highly influences the method of providing constructive feedback appropriate to the abilities of the student. For instance, misapplication of descriptive and summative methods may fail to deliver the intended results in students of varying needs. This may lead to communication breakdown which exist as a key instrument for the success of the mentoring program in providing constructive feedback to the participants (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 51).
Effective mentorship program will involve conducting continuous assessment to determine the competence level of the student in various stages. Under a constructive feedback, such an approach is feasible through a more innovative assessment procedure of performance of understanding for both parties which informs and determines skill competence within the clinical setting (Callara, 2008, p. 16). Adopting creative assessment models enables the mentor overcome challenges named above that the traditional assessment models were incapable of overcoming. In addition, mentors should adequately prepare to ensure safe and appropriate mentoring relationships develop directed towards identifying goals of professional competency (National Mentoring Partnership, 2005, p. 49). Lastly, the mentor may overcome challenges arising from the varying learning needs through a standardized simulated patients trained to portray focused scenarios to ensure consistency of the experiences and reliability of the evaluation process (Oermann, Oermann, & Heinrich, 2007, p. 136).
The mentoring program retains its integral contribution through the role played by the experienced personnel in assisting the beginners and students shape their professional development. The role of the mentor involves bridging the professional deficit unresolved in the classroom teaching by conducting the student transition into the realm of patient unit as a compelling reality for quality outcome. Performance of the mentor’s role requires active interaction to solve challenges curtailing effective mentorship process.
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- Sapega, S. (2012). Those First Days in Clinical. Penn Medicine, 12-14.
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