Mentoring student practitioners remains an integral part of the daily practice of midwives, registered nurses, and medical community specialists. Naturally, facilitating future nurses to develop their competence turns out to be the means of cultivating one’s professional integrity and stimulating the desire to become a demanded specialist. The role of a mentor is hard to underestimate in nursing practice. When it comes to sharing the acquired knowledge and expending one’s skill level, the support of a mentor provides an indispensable service. Knowing that their actions are supervised gives practitioners enough confidence to make an important decision. It is generally known that students of medical universities are subject to fears and concerns at earlier stages of their careers. The task of a mentor is to help them overcome these concerns and teach them to work independently, which makes the process of mentoring a critical issue to study.
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Mentoring and Its Relevance to Nursing Education
The mentoring process is usually defined as supporting and encouraging individuals to manage their learning, maximize potential, and develop skills (Peltz & Raymond, 2016). Judging the quality of a student’s practice turns out to be a relevant component of preparing future specialists since the mentor’s evaluation of the practitioner’s progress allows educational establishments to take a more objective approach to the matter of grading. However, it is not the evaluation of one’s capabilities which adds significance to the mentor’s profession. The vital part of mentoring is assisting novice nurses in acclimation to their new role. However, as Hodgson and Scanlan (2013) point out, the mentor-student relationship should be based on professional partnerships retaining the boundaries that differentiate them from friendship. If the mentioned principle is observed, the relationships promise to give positive results.
Both a mentor and a mentee are engaged in the process of nurturing the relationship. Such type of relations can be viewed as an agreement or a bargain in which one party is obliged to share the experience, and the other one consumes all the shared knowledge. A mentee looks at an expert as at the source of acquiring consultations, career advancement, and personal development (Babcock, Rosebrock, & Snow, 2014). Naturally, this kind of relationship cannot be established without a proper level of trust and mutual understanding. Fostering such a type of students’ attitude is another task a mentor is supposed to cope with. The way a person interrelates with others to a greater extent determines how successful his or her achievements on a new post will be. This fact once again admits the relevance of a properly structured mentoring program: it cultivates an individual’s positive attitude to the environment he or she works in.
One more relevant aspect of a mentor’s program is that a coach creates a background for a mentee’s smooth transition into a workplace. During the entire training course, the tips about how to work independently are given. Such a regulatory element of teaching allows practitioners to develop critical thinking and ensures patients’ safety in the meantime (Babcock et al., 2014). The focus, in this case, is usually made on engrafting self-assessment, communicational, and interventional skills. Peer-viewed evaluation of patients’ state of health and prescription of a treatment course contributes to gaining a required level of experience and a person’s confidence in his/her actions. In its turn, it motivates the faster professional growth of novice nurses.
Stages of Mentoring
According to the existing scholar’s opinion, mentoring is divided into four stages: initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition (Peltz & Raymond, 2016). Different stages are defined by using different interventional practices. It is of great importance that all stages are present and their principles are strictly observed. Skipping one or two stages may result in sharing an insufficient amount of knowledge. Thus, a successful separation is only possible when two of the previous stages are completed, and a nurse practitioner has acquired all the necessary skills to continue an educational program. Otherwise, the effectiveness of an entire training course might be called into question by both educational establishments and students.
As derived from the name, the initial stage is the first stage of interaction. It is a period when mentor-mentee relationships start to form an environment for mutual respect and effective knowledge transfer. At this very stage, learners begin to uncover their mentor’s potential, his/her ability to represent material, and the way this material is being delivered. They also might treat a mentor as a valuable role model who provides the guidelines for faster professional integration. As Babcock et al., (2014) point out, at the initial phase “mentors must assist APRN students in linking their acquired classroom knowledge with real patient encounters” (p. 322). A mentor needs to start recognizing a protégé as a person who deserves all of the attention and coaching within a medical establishment. Through such a form of interaction, student practitioners familiarize themselves with the ethical norms of medical worker’s behavior and develop a concept of an ideal nurse practitioner. This concept will serve as the major motivation to reach higher results during a future practice.
At the cultivation phase, the partners learn more about the capabilities of each other and get the maximum benefit of cooperation. The role of a mentor is maximized in this period, as larger volumes of knowledge are being transferred and more spheres are being touched. As to the length of the phase, it may last for a couple of years. During the entire course “mentors are approachable, knowledgeable, honest, friendly, patient, experienced, enthusiastic, and willing to spend time with the mentee” (Hodgson & Scanlan, 2013, p. 390). Naturally, the duration of the phase tends to be shortened significantly and lasts for no longer than a couple of months since organizations require novice specialists to get to the duties fulfillment as soon as possible. However, the decisions about student’s promotion and switching to the further stages are always made by mentors who supervise and evaluate their performance.
The third stage is marked by a structural and psychological separation between the two parties. Mentees are given enough level of independence and the mentor’s intervention into the process of education becomes gradually decreased. The separation phase may last up to 24 months in total but again, the period is usually much shorter and may be reduced to only one month. Hodgson and Scanlan (2013) stress that the period is often associated with the feeling of anxiety and breakup. Nevertheless, this phase is needed for practitioners to learn to act on their own and rely on their personal experience. During the stage students are allowed to assess clients’ health state without close supervision, however, decisions about treatment courses are always made with the consideration of the mentor’s opinion.
Regarding the fourth stage, it is the final phase of the program, which terminates the mentorship and creates a suitable environment for practitioners to operate independently. The mentor-mentee relationships evolve to the level of mutual support and informal contact. This type of relationship may, in fact, transform into friendship with mutually beneficial cooperation. As Weese, Jakubik, Eliades, and Huth (2015) highlight, “the ability to identify the mentoring practices that predict specific benefits for individual nurses provides a better understanding of how mentoring relationships can be leveraged within health care organizations” (p. 385). The length of the redefinition stage is always indefinite and may last for as long as one continues working within an organization and keeps communicating with a former mentor.
Historical Perspective of Mentoring
It is known that some medical schools insist on teaching medical history as a means to familiarize their students with a long and complicated discipline evolution. According to Bryan and Longo (2013), “exposing medical students to the history of medicine promotes at least two of the seven types of professionalism identified by Hafferty and Castellani” (p. 97). Learning the concepts of medicine of bygone eras helps to develop professional solidarity and a sense of belonging to a chosen sphere within future specialists. Therefore, adding some historical context to one’s teaching model would be regarded as a wise approach to the process of mentoring. There are, by the way, peculiar facts about mentorship from a historical perspective. I will try to unveil them thoroughly in the following passages.
The term ‘mentor’ originates from the times of ancient Greece. There was a character introduced by Homer whose name was Mentor and who appeared to be the advisor of Telemachus. As a reader proceeds with the plot of the story, it becomes evident that Telemachus, the son of Odyssey, does receive advice from Mentor and tries to follow it. In fact, Mentor never misses an opportunity to teach his friend’s son whenever it is required. The relationship between an older teacher and a younger student was later named ‘mentoring’ (Bryan & Longo, 2013). The concept of mentoring, which was unintentionally created by Homer, became a popular term and remained widely used throughout the entire history of humankind.
Regarding the history of medicine, the bright example of a paradigmatic mentoring relationship can be tracked in the relations between Harvey Cushing and William Osler. Cushing met Osler in 1896 when he first came to Baltimore as an assistant on Halsted’s surgical service. A young specialist possessed a remarkable talent and was very creative in his decisions. William Osler recognized that this was an extraordinary young man who deserved special attention (Bryan & Longo, 2013). A known physician had seriously influenced Cushing’s perception of a medical sphere and impacted his professional growth in particular. Because of Osler’s intervention into his career, Cushing was introduced to a wider world of medicine and even spent 14 months in Europe where he learned the new techniques of surgery. When a young man opened his practice, Osler continued to consult him and discuss the most severe cases.
Naturally, the example of Osler and Cushing provides enough evidence to the argument that the ideal mentor-mentee relationships are based on mutual respect and a desire to share all the available knowledge with a student. One of the requirements of a mentor’s daily practice is that it includes the principles highlighted in a previous sentence. Regarding my professional goals, I focus on using the most effective mentoring techniques that have proven to be irreplaceable through the decades of a successful medical practice. Therefore, studying the history of mentoring plays a relevant part in my research. Following the working principles of some of the world-known figures can assist me in both professional and personal growth, as well as in establishing more open communication with students.
The Impact of Mentoring on Nursing Practice
With the anticipated shortage of medical personnel, the impact of mentoring on overall nursing practice is hard to underestimate. As Weese et al. (2015) point out, mentorship is a form of an educational program that may significantly contribute to career satisfaction and one’s total devotion to a chosen sphere. It is generally known that recent economic challenges have hurt the profession’s popularity and have led to a noticeable reduction in APRN units throughout the country’s hospitals. Mentoring novice nurses arrives as a means to cultivate one’s proper understanding of the key concepts of nursing practice and stimulate the intent to stay in the medical sector. The main task of a mentor is to deliver this message to student practitioners.
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A beneficial impact of mentorship on nursing practice is traced in the fact that mentors stay familiar with all the changes in clinical policies, thus, developing guidelines that are most suited for beginner nurses. Formal training programs, preceptorships, and internships contribute to an individual’s clear vision of a nurse’s role in a clinic, professional duties, and career opportunities (Weese et al., 2015). A competent supervisor nurse can recognize leadership qualities within a person and create a favorable environment for these qualities to start to develop. Quite often simple advice made by a mentor arrives as a signal to action and a stimulus to change one’s behaviors and attitudes towards an acquired position. Therefore, mentorship is a sphere that requires full dedication to remain meaningful and helpful for students. Otherwise, the impact it makes on a person’s judgments can turn to the direct opposite.
One more aspect that mentoring influences is the establishment of cozy and professional relationships within an organization. The atmosphere of trust and support all students encounter when they are first introduced to their mentor serves as a background for building a versatile communicational scheme used in one’s day-to-day practice (Weese et al., 2015). Only people with an inborn mentorship talent can help to develop the right communicational patterns within a personality and help one to adapt to a new environment faster. The way mentors deal with the mentioned tasks can, in the end, determine whether the situation with nurses’ shortage improves or not. Thus, neglecting such a relevant part of education as mentoring is an unacceptable type of behavior for hospital managers nationwide.
Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Elements of Mentoring
Regarding the regulation of the existing nurses’ programs, under the Nursing and Midwifery order of 2001, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) serves as a regulatory body for both the profession of nurses and that of midwives. The authority is funded by the government and supports the educational programs that are currently delivered by higher educational institutions (Johnson & Ridley, 2015). By the directives of the order, all students studying nursing achieve a diploma in higher education regardless of a chosen form of study (either a full-time or a part-time form). Mentoring during an internship is represented as a compulsory form of education, which is accompanied by close cooperation with a supervisor and practical task fulfillment. A mentor is a person whose opinion is of primary value when making decisions about one’s proper/insufficient level of professional integrity.
As to the ethical norms of nurses’ mentoring programs, every mentor is expected to obey a set of established rules when working with students. One of the rules states that a mentor should provide appropriate guidelines and enforceable standards practitioners have to follow strictly. The other one makes the accent on the principles of students’ interactions: a coach is obliged to develop a behavioral concept and put it into practice. Another relevant aspect a mentor is supposed to focus attention on is guiding mentees’ personal and professional growth and highlighting their strong points. However, the primary task a supervisor must perform is to turn into a model for his or her students and motivate their desire to reach the same level of professionalism. Naturally, such factors as high-level competence and a formidable working experience play a key part in achieving the above-stated goals.
A legal side of the mentor-mentee relationships is outlined by the right to deliver patients’ personal information to student practitioners and discuss available medical data with them. Johnson and Ridley (2015) point out that “the decision to disclose confidential information is undoubtedly tied to the specific profession, work setting, and a host of legal considerations” (p. 27). Eventually, the responsibility of unveiling such data as diagnosis, disease history, and a prescribed treatment course fully lie on a mentor. One must have a clear picture of what sort of information to share and what data to keep private. In the case, students can perform their tasks without any excessive information being provided it is reasonable to conceal those data and use all of the competence to resolve an occurred situation with no personal aspects being touched. However, if such data are still required, practitioners need to be instructed about the non-disclosure of information and be warned about a possible violation of this principle.
Summarizing the study outcomes, mentoring plays one of the most important parts of today’s nursing practice. The concept helps an individual to adapt to a new environment and develop a better comprehension of working duties and a general role of the profession in the medical sphere. It is known that the process of building mentor-mentee relationships is divided into four stages: initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Each stage involves using various methods and focusing attention on different aspects of education. As my study shows, the process of mentoring has been evolving throughout the entire history of humankind, and currently, we use the model that is generally accepted and suited for all clinics and organizational establishments worldwide. Moreover, it has proven to have an impact on overall nursing practice and to serve as a means to assess one’s professional integrity.
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