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Nurse Mentoring

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro, VT, retains new nurses thanks to a Nurse Mentoring Program

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The world of nursing has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Gone are the glass IV bottles, glass syringes with reusable needles, six-bed wards, and the list goes on.

Nursing education has also made a change from hospital-based nursing schools that graduated nurses with a diploma to 2- to 4-year programs that leave you with a degree. The world is forever changing, and nurses are a vital part of the change that affects healthcare in so many ways.

Nationwide statistics show one in five new graduate nurses leave their first job within the first year. This is for a variety of reasons: lack of support, lack of confidence, feeling unwelcomed and overwhelmed. It is not only costly to train a new-graduate nurse but also reflects poorly on both nursing unit and facility retention statistics for further recruitment. How do we as administrators/managers keep new staff?

Molding Relationships

Most every nurse when they enter the workforce is paired up with a senior nurse on their unit known as a preceptor. The role of the preceptor is to teach policies and procedures, oversee skills and act as a teacher.

The new nurse relies on his or her preceptor for guidance and instruction and comes to the preceptor with questions or concerns. While this is a great asset for this new nurse, it isn't necessarily all they may need. It is difficult to complain to a preceptor about something specific to the unit or about another co-worker, often those little things can lead to frustration and undo stress, and the new nurse will leave.

In 2008, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in southern Vermont began a Nurse Mentoring Program. The goal of the program was to maintain our new-graduate nurses for many years and to offer them the support they needed to achieve that goal.

The first thing the committee did was develop a definition of "mentor" as a basis for the program. The definition: "A mentor is a collaborative partner who is a role model and motivator, providing support, help, enthusiasm, inspiration and nurturing in a non-structured learning environment. A mentor is an active listener who will provide a safe, non-judgmental, friendly and creative atmosphere for the mentee."

A survey was sent out to all nurses and from those surveys, a group of nurses was selected to become mentors. Those who responded rated themselves on the qualities they felt they possess which were direct reflections of our mentor definition. The committee then spoke with the individual's manager about whether the candidate would be a good mentor.

Training Mentors

Each nurse mentor goes through a 10-hour training program which covers skills such as active listening, goal setting, emotional intelligence, learning styles, job stress and difficult behaviors. This gives the mentor a variety of skills and ideas to become a dedicated mentor and to be instrumental in the retention of our new nurses.

At the end of this intense course, the new mentors are asked to sign a contract outlining the expectations and commitment that is expected from each one of them.

To date we have 20 trained nurse mentors. When new nurses are hired, they are paired with a mentor. One thing that's vital to the success of the program is the mentor and mentee not work on the same unit. It is the intent of the committee the mentor/mentee works the same shift.

During orientation week the mentor and mentee are introduced and a future meeting is set up at that time. The expectation of the program is the mentor and mentee will meet at least every 2 weeks for the first 3 months and then at least once a month for the first year. The overall hope of the program is the mentor/mentee relationship will continue for many years beyond that first year.

Success Story

We have one mentor/mentee team who are well into their second year of their relationship and have built a solid foundation. This team was paired at the very beginning of our program, even before our first mentor training.

Without this relationship, we would have lost the new nurse within the first 3 months of hire for a variety of reasons. Because of the commitment and dedication of the mentor, this nurse is still a vital part of our organization and has grown in both confidence and skill. This is a reflection of how vital the nurse mentoring program can be to an organization.

We have had our Nurse Mentoring Program up and running for a year. We began the program with eight new-graduate nurses and to date we still have seven employed. This 1:8 ratio far outweighs the nationwide statistic of 1:5. I feel this reflection is solely based on the Nurse Mentoring Program, and the dedication all participants have put into its success.

To take a for-credit CE on Assertive Versus Aggressive, click here. For a CE on Resolving Staff Conflict, click here.

Debbie Partrick is the nurse mentoring program coordinator at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro, VT.


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I would like to learn about your 10 hour mentorship training program. Is this something that can be brought to our facility?

Claire Hibbs-Cusson,  Clinical Education Specialist,  Connecticut Children's Medical CenterOctober 22, 2012
Hartford, CT



I was working as psych nurse for last 10yrs,now I would like to go back to medical surgical nursing. Is there any online mentoring courses available to improve/refresh practical skills. Pls help

Seema John,  RNSeptember 26, 2010
Novato, CA



I'm a psych nurse who is interested in your 10 hr mentor program. Do you train nurses from outside your facility? Are you willing to share your training?

cynthia holt,  RNIIIApril 20, 2010
albany, NY



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