Mentoring is a multidimensional relationship that energizes personal and professional growth (Wagner and Seymour, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of mentoring and the key role it plays in the development of nurse managers.
Over the past 20 years the concept of mentoring has grown more popular in our workplaces. Many public service organizations, as well as, corporations have developed formal mentoring programs for both management and staff for the purpose of improving overall operations, productivity and overall commitment to the organizations goals. Mentoring is now being recognized in nursing and other healthcare fields. This concept analysis will attempt to clearly define the concept mentoring while differentiating it from precepting and clinical supervision. Finally, this article will discuss the importance of a mentoring program designed for developing managers.
While searching the literature, many articles regarding mentoring can be found in business and management journals but few are found in nursing and medical journals. In the nursing and medical journals the concept of mentoring appears murky. In some cases the terms mentoring, precepting and clinical supervision are used interchangeably. This leads to confusion and inaccuracy.
The word mentor dates back to Greek Mythology. Mentor was a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus’ son Telemachus. The Webster dictionary defines mentor as a trusted and wise counselor or guide, a tutor or coach (Give, 1966). Other definitions include, “a learning relationship”, “a critical companionship” and a process in which two or more people create a connection in a safe environment that allows healing truth and wisdom to be discovered (Wagner and Seymour, 2007). For the purposes of this paper we will use the following definition: Mentoring occurs when a senior person in terms of experience not necessarily age provides information, advice and emotional support for the mentee or protégé in a relationship lasting over an extended period of time and marked by emotional commitment by both parties. If the opportunity presents itself the mentor uses both formal and informal forms of influence to further the career path of the protégé. (Bowen, 1985)
The mentoring process consists of four steps: initiation, cultivation, separation and redefinition (Kram, 1983). The first stage involves the mentor and the mentee becoming acquainted and setting goals. During the cultivation stage, information is shared, problem solving, decisions and exploration of alternatives occur. During the separation stage, the mentee is empowered to move towards their goal and enhance their career path. In the final stage of redefinition, the mentor/mentee relationship evolves to a mutual friendship or the relationship is terminated. (Wagner and Seymour, 2007)
As stated earlier mentoring should not be confused with the terms preceptor and clinical supervision. Clinical supervision is defined as the process whereby a practitioner reviews with another person his ongoing clinical work and relevant aspects of his own reactions to that work. It is also defines as a practice focused professional relationship involving a practitioner reflecting on practice while guided by a supervisor. (Lyth, 2000) Clinical supervision focuses on an individual situation. Once the goal is reached the process is complete.
Precepting is defined as teaching job responsibilities and related tasks (Grossman, 2009). The precepting relationship is similar to that of a teacher and student. Once the task is learned sufficiently, the relationship ends. The precepting relationship is time limited in that the task must be learned within a certain timeframe.
Attributes of Mentoring
Walker and Avant define this step of concept analysis as showing the cluster of attributes most frequently associated with the concept (Walker and Avant, 2005). Some of the common attributes involved in mentoring are caring, self reflection, confidence and knowledge.
In the literature search caring is addressed in every mentoring article I read. Every successful mentor/mentee relationship has a caring base. Consider Watson’s Theory of Human Caring, in the caring moment the caregiver and the cared – for share on a personal level and create a mutual opportunity for learning from each other (Watson, 1999). This statement mirrors the definition of mentoring.
Self reflection is the process in which someone stops to re evaluate a situation or action after the occurrence of an event. This is done for the purposes of learning, self growth and self improvement. A good mentor realizes that during the process they too will learn a great deal.
Confidence is believing in yourself and your abilities even in the face of adversity. A good mentor does not fear teaching or sharing information. Succession planning is not a threat, but rather, the opportunity to continue their work and legacy in the organization after retirement (Tagnes, Dumont, Rawlinson and Byrd, 2009)
Finally, the mentor must possess mastery of knowledge in their area of expertise. If the mentor has no knowledge or information to share, the process cannot start.
Antecedents are those events or incidents that must occur prior to the occurrence of the concept (Walker and Avant, 2005).
Two crucial antecedents to mentoring are the mentor and the mentee or protégé. Without either party, the concept will not exist. The other critical antecedent is the mentor must possess knowledge and skills to be shared.
Effective communication skills and interpersonal skills are also necessary. If adequate communication cannot occur, the mentoring relationship cannot develop. The mentor and mentee must also be committed to devoting time to the process. If there is no available time, the mentoring process cannot begin.
Consequences are those events that result from the occurrence of the concept (Walker and Avant, 2005). Successful mentoring programs benefit an organization by: increasing retention, reducing turnover costs, improving productivity and enhancing professional development. Creating a mentoring culture continuously promotes individual and employee growth and development (Foster, 2008).
Model Case Example
Sally is a new nurse manager. During her orientation process, Paulette is her assigned preceptor. Paulette has been with the organization many years and has over 15 year’s management experience. She voluntarily offers her services as a mentor to many new managers. After meeting and discussing goals, they decide Sally needs assistance understanding the various roles of people in the organization and how their roles interact with one another. Paulette takes Sally with her to meet the various employees. She schedules luncheons and meetings with various departments so Sally can better understand their roles.
She also brings Sally to the administrative meetings as well as the administrative picnic to learn how decisions are made. Sally is encouraged to voice ideas and concerns in these various sessions. Her input is well received. After approximately 6 months Sally now has a sense of confidence and feels comfortable handling many of the day to day situations presented to her. Although the formal mentoring program is complete, Sally still meets with Paulette every few weeks to discuss life and feels comfortable calling her for advice. Paulette also calls Sally from time to time for her opinion regarding situations.
This example sites all of the necessary qualities for a positive mentor/mentee relationship.
Illegitimate Case Model
As Kim started her role as a manager, the administrator assigned her worthwhile and appropriate assignments and tasks to perform. She had the opportunity to attend a multitude of meeting and had some contact with the major staff. However, she was never invited to listen to informal conference calls or side meetings where all of the major decisions were made. She was not involved in the development of changes. She was however, told what need to be done by her administrator. She was not informed of any history behind decision making strategies.
The administrator in this situation served as a preceptor not a mentor. She only took the time to teach tasks and failed to elicit input or encourage professional growth.
Mentoring is a multidimensional process that can be learned over time. It requires reflection, knowledge of self and profession, knowledge of mentoring process and skills, communication and social skills, practice and support (Vance, 2002).
Qualities of a good mentor include: commitment, honesty, compassion, personal/professional ethics, expertise, energy, creativity, effective interpersonal and communication skills (Kappel, 2008). A good mentor is passionate about her work and is committed to helping the mentee successfully meet their goals. Communication between the mentor and mentee is open and honest in a positive caring environment for success to occur.
A good mentor creates opportunities and opens doors. Mentors know your strengths and abilities. They do not set you up for failure. Mentors set an example through both their words and actions. Mentors want you to succeed and help you learn from your mistakes. Mentors want you to become independent.
Mentoring nurse managers is crucial to the success and survival of nurses. The nursing profession is continually working to recruit more people into the field. Nurse retention can improve under the supervision of visionary nurse leaders because the environment created by their leadership is directly related to the success in retaining nurses (Colonghi, 2009). Nurse Managers need seasoned mentors to guide and nurture them to their full potential which promotes a supportive environment and give them the endurance to survive in difficult times. The mood, attitudes and examples set by the nurse manager set the tone and attitudes of the staff.