Reply from author to Carmelle Christine Lo to Improving Quality and Patient Safety by Retaining Nursing Expertise Expertise by Karen S. Hill (August 2, 2010)
Dear Ms. Lo,
I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughtful insights regarding my recent article, “Improving Quality and Patient Safety by Retaining Nursing Expertise.” I agree that mentorship in nursing is a key strategy to ensure strong leadership in all areas of nursing practice. A good mentor can be invaluable. One can mentor at the staff nurse level by introducing the new nurse to more seasoned staff and at the leadership level through networking with other leaders and decision makers. I have worked extensively with the development of mentoring relationships in nursing and have found several universal considerations that facilitate a fruitful mentoring partnership.
First, learning to be a mentor is not an innate skill. As with clinical skills and leadership competencies, expertise in the skill of mentoring must be developed and recognized. Helping potential mentors to seek out value-added opportunities for personal and professional growth is an important area for development. Secondly, the establishment of clearly defined goals, appointments, and contacts that are directed by the protégé is an integral component of success. The lack of clearly defined goals and plans for goal attainment can lead to misunderstanding and frustration on the part of both parties. A third area I have found to be important is the establishment of a definitive timeframe for the relationship. At Central Baptist Hospital, we have had a formal mentoring program in place for over eight years. During that time, we have learned to limit the relationships to a one-year period of time with measureable goals identified from the onset. As an outgrowth of the program, friendships and professional relationships have developed beyond the initial year. However, limiting the formal mentoring to one year has enabled the mentors to interact and support multiple individuals while not overloading their schedules with formal commitments.
We, as nurses, have a temporary reprieve from the predicted workforce shortages. As the economy continues to improve and members of our profession age, the exodus from the workforce of our ‘sage’ nursing leaders and clinicians will become a reality. I agree that we have a responsibility as a profession to mentor others to ensure the transfer of the knowledge and skills that we desire for all caregivers and leaders in the future.
Dr. Karen S. Hill