The beginning of a new year is a common time to reflect on the previous year, and deciding what goals you would like to accomplish in the next 365 days. This is not a time to be shy about the things that you want in your life. Be bold, intentional, and brave when setting goals for yourself. The sky is not the limit; it is simply the view. Although we tend to start out highly motivated and dedicated to the goals that we have set, we have got be honest with ourselves and realize that often that ambition can fade, and nothing gets accomplished! I want to share with you five methods I utilize to keep myself grounded, motivated, and a realizer of my goals.
Find Yourself a GOAL MATE
What is a GOAL MATE? A goal mate is someone that you have a great connection with that supports, motivates, encourages, and enables you to manifest all of your wildest dreams. It does not matter how far-fetched they may seem, your GOAL MATE will not only hold you accountable but encourage you to jump in and get dirty neck first. Whether you succeed or fail at accomplishing a goal they are there to pick you up if you break your neck for real (just kidding), brush you off, and send you on your awesomely merry way to attempt your next goal. Keep in mind, that in order to be a good GOAL MATE, you need to reciprocate the same energy and tenacity that your partner(s) give to you. It’s important to keep each other focused, interested, and motivated.
Make Clear, Objective, and Achievable goals
Be clear and intentional about the goals you are setting. It is also important to be specific. Think about where you want to be with your finances, health, career, and love life. Self-love included. Be realistic with your timeline and remember that there are only 12 months in a year, but that is a valuable time that can be leveraged to generate a better you.
Make a Vision Board or Host a Vision Board Party
This is an annual tradition of mine. Each year I invite my GOAL MATES, friends, neighbors, co-workers over to craft vision boards. This is inexpensive and so much fun. All you need is magazines, scissors, glue, posters, your imaginations, and perhaps some wine!
Set Mall Quarterly Milestones
Hold yourself accountable. Think about where you want your progress to be after 3,6, and 9 months. I like to review my goals monthly. This keeps it relevant in my mind. You should review your goals quarterly at a minimum. Think about what is working for you, and what you can switch up.
Look at It
If you do not see your goals periodically, or place your vision board somewhere that you can see it every day. I have my goals on my vision board, iPhone, iPad, and posted in my locker at work. Don’t forget the plans you have made for yourself. Utilize these tools, go forth, and prosper!
Jazmin Nicole is a military officer, obstetrics nurse, advisory board member of Black Nurses Rock Inc., and the founder/CEO of Jazmin Nicole & Co.
For more posts/blogs like this follow me on twitter (@jazminweb), Instagram (@therealjazminnicole_, and Facebook (Jazmin Nicole and Co.)
There is a saying in our profession that “nurses eat their young”–referring to the way certain veteran nurses are said to treat new nursing graduates. But just what does this statement mean? Are nurses like wild animals that carry their young in their arms only to devour them at the first chance they get? Are we the type of people who pretend to care for our young and then, when an opportunity presents itself, we tear the weaker one into little pieces?
Although some people in the nursing profession may believe this is true, we don’t think so. A nurse is someone who devotes his or her life to caring for other people’s physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional health. Nurses do this not only by taking care of their patients but also by taking care of their co-workers. When we as nurses take care of our new graduates, we are functioning in the role of a mentor.
Not all nurses have the desire or the personality to be a mentor to new graduates, just as not all people desire to be nurses. So the question is, who should be a mentor and what qualities should a mentor have when working with new graduates?
Desire to Be a Leader
Leaders are responsible and accountable for others. There should be a desire to nurture another person in a particular role.
To be a leader of new graduates, you must learn how to lead. By definition, being a leader requires that you have someone follow you. It amazes us when nurses ask their supervisors if they can precept a new graduate and then complain about having “a shadow” follow them for three to six weeks. What a dehumanizing way to describe someone! We should never refer to our new graduates or any preceptee as a shadow.
These people are our fellow colleagues in the nursing profession. Most of these new graduates have attended college for four to six years in hopes of making a difference in someone’s life. By providing leadership to a new graduate, you will have the wonderful opportunity to help shape this person’s attitude about what constitutes excellence in nursing care.
Having an impact on someone’s life is a huge responsibility. You as the leader must decide what motivates the new nurse. You must consider such factors as: What is this person’s learning style? How does he/she respond to stress? Is the person ethical in his/her behavior? Will he/she ask questions when something is not clear?
As a leader, you will create opportunities for learning in a positive manner. How do you make these opportunities available? We suggest having a roadmap that will tell you where the new graduate will start and how to evaluate his/her progress throughout the training period. An example of a roadmap is shown in Figure 1, with each stage of the process lasting two weeks.
Dr. Leland Kaiser, the award-winning health care consultant, educator and author of Mapping Your Future: A Lifework Planning Guide for Health Care Professionals, has said, “If a person is learning, you will know it by their soul’s frequency.” This frequency can be measured by the amount of energy a person releases in joy, creativity, motivation and in having fun. A good leader will recognize these frequencies and learn how to tap into them to make learning enjoyable for the new graduate.
Desire to Be an Educator
Nurses do not necessarily need experience in teaching or training to precept new graduates. What you do need to have is the desire to educate others, along with the ability to share your knowledge and experience in a way that will be meaningful to the person you are mentoring.
All too often, managers are given the task of choosing who will train their new nurses. Not all nurses have the desire to teach, and not all nurses can articulate themselves well. During our own nursing careers, both us of have worked with certain nurses who didn’t want to train new graduates but were required to do so by their managers.
Most of these nurses who grudgingly took on the task utilized what we call the “Watch Me” method of training. Every trainee who was put into these nurses’ care received the same treatment: Watch me and learn. There are two problems with this type of training. First of all, as adults we learn in a variety of ways. Some people are visual learners while others are verbal learners. Still others learn best by demonstration, by hands-on or by a combination of methods.
Secondly, Dorothea Orem’s well-known theory of nursing deals with the self-care model. We want our patients to learn to take care of themselves. As an educator to our new graduates, we should strive for this same result. We should want our new nurses to learn to become independent.
An old Chinese proverb says that if you give a man a fish when he is hungry you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime. The same is true in the nursing profession. If we tell new graduate nurses to “watch me” show them a skill, we teach them for a moment. But if we teach them to perform the skill themselves, we have taught them for a lifetime.
Desire to Be Patient
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines patience as “the ability to endure waiting, delay or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties.” When mentoring new graduates, it’s crucial to understand that the learning process takes time, that not everyone learns at the same pace and that things may not always go as smoothly as you anticipated.
You may encounter some trainee nurses who are struggling with barriers that can affect their ability to learn effectively. For example, they may face language barriers, such as difficulty understanding or speaking English. They may have behavioral or social barriers, such as shyness, being easily angered or difficulties in getting along with others. In order to develop teamwork on a nursing unit, it is necessary to address such behaviors very early in the training.
Having patience requires understanding other people’s behavior. But before we can do that, we must first understand ourselves. If you are a nurse who desires to be a mentor, you must first do a self-inventory of your own attitudes, beliefs and biases. Learn what makes you tick. Once we have gained this self-knowledge, then we can help others.
The quality of patience will allow you to give constructive criticism that will promote growth. Communicate your thoughts about the learning process with the new graduate, and don’t be afraid to be honest. At the end of the orientation period there should be no surprises.
Everyone makes mistakes. What is important when working with new nurses is how we communicate their errors to them. This is where patience and compassion comes into the training process. Our new nurses should feel that we are trying to find them doing things right rather than focusing on their faults.
A mentor with patience can be a positive role model to new graduates who are finally realizing their dream of becoming of a nurse. You have the power to set an example of excellence, both in nursing skills and in high standards of personal and professional behavior. Be accessible to others starting out in the nursing profession. Have a goal to train one nurse the way you would want someone to train you. Maintain a positive attitude.
Nurses are a wonderful, caring group of people. We take time with our patients, families and friends, and we give so much back to the community. Now it is time for us to give back to each other in a loving way, by taking the time to work with our new graduates as they help us get over the nursing shortage.
Are you a minority cancer nurse or nursing student who could benefit from the guidance and professional support of an experienced oncology nurse who has “been there?” Do you ever wish you had a mentor who could give you constructive advice and feedback, introduce you to new opportunities in your field, serve as a sounding board for your ideas and help you develop personal and professional skills that will make you more effective in your career and your community? Then the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Ethnic Minority Mentoring Program may be just what you’re looking for.
Available exclusively to ONS members, the Ethnic Minority Mentoring Program is designed to encourage oncology nurses from diverse backgrounds to become leaders in the Society and in the nursing profession. The program pairs newer nurses or students one-on-one with veteran oncology nurses who share their same ethnic heritage, background and clinical or research interests.
Potential mentees can enroll in the program online at the Society’s Web site. The enrollment process includes filling out a questionnaire that helps match the candidate with a participating ONS colleague who will be a good “fit” as a mentor. Once both parties have agreed to a mentoring arrangement, the mentor and mentee can communicate with each other via the online program, email, telephone and/or in person. Mentoring relationships can be either short-term or long-term. However, participants should be willing to make a minimum commitment of two hours per month for one year.
The Ethnic Minority Mentoring Program is one of several recent ONS diversity initiatives designed to promote inclusiveness and cultural competency among its membership and in the oncology nursing specialization. Other projects include the ONS Diversity Virtual Community, the Diversity Champions Program and the REMO Campaign (Recruiting Ethnic Minorities into ONS). For more information about these programs, visit the Virtual Community at http://www.diversity.vc.ons.org. To learn how to become a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, see http://www.ons.org.
“It’s all about the people.” That’s what so many health care professionals say when asked about their career choices. Regardless of specialty-physician, nurse and, of course, allied health practitioner-the majority of providers are there to assist their patients on a journey back to a healthy life. For some, however, it’s more than just a job. Rather, it is a calling that can take them to exotic locales and challenging endeavors as humanitarians.
A Worldwide Need
For more than a decade, news about cultural, ethnic and military conflicts has ruled the airwaves and newspapers. In Rwanda, ethnic tribes were at war, displacing thousands of people. In Kosovo and Serbia, civil war raged for years leaving countless civilians maimed and disabled. More recently, battles in Iraq and Afghanistan have torn apart communities’ health care structures. This has been particularly detrimental to regions that had very few services in the first place.
And that’s just the result of manmade disasters. There have been devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and even volcanic eruptions. Catastrophic events such as these leave their imprints on developing nations’ efforts to sustain and advance their medical support systems. That’s why health care volunteers who are willing to lend a hand have become an invaluable commodity abroad.
Since World War II, non-government organizations (NGOs) have been addressing the ongoing needs of developing countries around the globe. Some specialize in supplying equipment, medications and creating the necessary infrastructure. Others, like the American Red Cross or the Red Crescent, respond immediately following a disaster, such as the earthquake in Bam, Iran, late last year. Yet there are still other NGOs that arrange for health care professionals to volunteer their expertise.
Humanitarian opportunities are typically divided into two categories. The first, and perhaps most common, is the short-term assignment. These stints can last from 14 days to a few weeks or even a couple of months. Many times, volunteers are sent to provide clinical support to a community after a specific event, such as a hurricane. Short-term jobs aren’t regulated to just disaster response, however. An area’s dominant medical needs dictate what type of humanitarian aid is required. For example, a physical therapist (PT) may be called in to help children who suffer from congenital birth defects. Or a radiologic technologist (RT) may be needed to operate and instruct others about newly delivered ultrasound equipment. There are also times when volunteers simply play second string; they provide relief to the full-time staff-allowing them to step away to catch their breath.
These limited positions are usually unpaid. In fact, depending on the NGO specifics, volunteers might be expected to pay their own travel and living expenses. Oftentimes trips are sponsored by religious organizations or even employers that provide stipends to help alleviate costs. Each venture is different.
The long-term volunteer assignments traditionally have been more of a consulting expedition. Organizations like the Peace Corps send experts abroad for months or years at a time, commonly as paid employees. These individuals are sent to educate, update and train the local health care staff so they can eventually become autonomous, which was the case for both Ans Timmerman, PharmD, and Jessica Sanchez, CO, CP, an orthotist with Arimed Inc., based in New York.
Originally from Belgium, Timmerman is the global technical advisor in the pharmaceuticals and medical logistics health unit for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She’s currently stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, where she develops and approves medication dispensing guidelines and protocols for the NGO. “I represent the IRC on every issue that deals with drug management,” she explains.enough.”
Timmerman was introduced to humanitarianism through word of mouth, one of the most effective and prominent forms of NGO promotion for potential volunteering. After she received her graduate degree in 1999, Timmerman took some time off to travel through Asia. Nepal was one of her destinations because a friend was working for a French NGO there. Timmerman’s time in Nepal allowed her a first-hand glimpse into an international assistance program. “Before that, I had no idea what humanitarian aid organizations did. I was surprised at how professional things looked. At that point, I knew it was an option for me professionally.
“When I returned to Belgium,” she continues, “I found myself at a point of choosing between a community and hospital pharmacist, both of which are worthwhile jobs. But for me, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be doing enough. The impact was limited.”
After some research, Timmerman realized her skill set was applicable to working with humanitarian aid organizations, especially since she is bilingual in French and English. “In Africa, most people speak English and French or maybe Portuguese,” she notes.
Her first assignment was in Tanzania where she assisted the program coordinator by distributing medications. It didn’t take her long to realize there was very little established protocol and even fewer long-term training plans in place for this aspect of delivery. “At the time, the drug dispensing was being done by refugees,” she explains. “They were very neglected in terms of ongoing training.”
Relying on her previous graduate student experience of teaching pharmacology undergraduates, Timmerman took on the task of creating a two-day seminar. Not only did it turn out well for the Tanzanian IRC program, but it also helped Timmerman promote her career within the organization. First, she had to secure funding from New York headquarters. Then she followed it up with a report detailing the results. The positive report prompted a request for Timmerman to present a proposal to set up similar training sessions elsewhere.
“I was asked to do a presentation at the annual health coordinators’ conference about the drug management training,” she explains. “They thought it could be applied to other field programs. Tanzania was just the first unit to recruit a pharmacist.”
Since then, Timmerman has worked in Eastern and Western Congo, Thailand and, now, Kenya. “I was recently able to get an update on the Tanzanian project and they are still working with the local pharmacists.”
Lending a Hand
While Timmerman turned a volunteer position into a career choice, Sanchez’s time abroad was more of a short-term task. As an orthotist and prosthetist, Sanchez regularly works with orthopedic surgeons, one of whom was associated with A Leg to Stand On (ALTSO), a New York-based NGO that works with disabled children around the world. “When he brought it up to me, I thought why not? It was a privilege and not a gray area decision,” she retells.
Sanchez quickly signed on and after an ALTSO orientation she was headed to India. Her team was charged with modernizing local facilities and instructing its specialists. She explains, “Part of our mission was to design an operating prosthetics manufacturing facility. Prosthetics were nearly nonexistent there or you saw a five-year-old wearing an adult-size product. Some items were made out of plastics that aren’t even being used anymore.”
Despite the rudimentary standards, Sanchez was impressed with the abilities of the local specialists. “These people were making braces by hand,” she says. “Their skill level was amazing because they had the knowledge to do it with so little resources, and I was astounded by the lack of resources and equipment.”
Additionally, the ALTSO mission started the process of fitting 10 children for artificial limbs. Although general health conditions in Indian cities and urban areas have made great strides during the past 10 to 15 years, rural communities still lag very far behind. These are also areas that are more severely affected when disaster strikes and are slower to recover.
In Gujarat, where Sanchez visited, the village was still trying to clean up after an earthquake in January 2001. Children had lost limbs from coming in contact with downed, live power lines. “The children run around without shoes and step on a line. The current goes into one limb and out another, and the exiting limb burns off,” Sanchez states. “There were also a lot of amputations and congenital birth defects.”
The manufacturing process continues now in the United States through Sanchez’s employer, Arimed. In fact, the company is sponsoring the local experts to fly to New York to observe the final steps. In the meantime, ALTSO plans for a manufacturing facility in India continue to move forward. “We’re helping them learn how to do more and do it modernly so we don’t need to be present,” comments Sanchez.
Whenever you give of yourself, personally or professionally, those efforts are often returned in full with feelings of satisfaction. “It changed how I look at things,” notes Sanchez. “I had come to expect and demand only the best, but now I’ve learned that sometimes two different roads lead to the same place. It’s changed my view of life and work.”
“Humanitarian work is more likely a public health position, rather than the individual health care they’re probably used to administering,” advises Timmerman. “NGOs need people who can think in terms of what is beneficial for the majority of the population they’re serving.”
But there’s more to be gained by volunteering than merely indulging altruism. Indeed, it poses unique and challenging professional opportunities. For one thing, the change of environment and different equipment forces practitioners to be quick learners and test their confidence in their abilities. Limited resources push individuals to get creative and find ways to carry out tasks by thinking outside of the norm.
There are also moments for volunteers to stretch their managerial wings by delegating, guiding and training others within a program or the local people themselves. All of these experiences can easily carry over into the work environment. Employers are often impressed when therapists and techs take the initiative to develop new skills.
And there are plenty of opportunities for allied health professionals. NGOs have a virtually constant call out to medical professionals. In fact, the International Medical Volunteers Association (IMVA) states that virtually every medical profession is needed in developing countries.
“In the months following a crisis, humanitarian agencies like American Rescue Committee (ARC) provide a basic level of care, simply helping people stay alive. But in the long term, as these people return home, many will need physical and occupational therapy as well as appropriate skills training,” explains Martha Naegeli, ARC spokesperson. “This is especially true in conflict regions where civilians are the target of military activity, in places like Liberia, Sudan and the Congo. Without treatment, the injuries they suffer can rob them of their mobility, their livelihood and their will to survive.”
A Unique Perspective
Finding a volunteer position is a lot like a job search. Specifically, you have to investigate the NGO before making a commitment because a good match can make all the difference between a positive and less-than-positive experience. Interestingly, it’s one’s background as much as his or her skill set that impresses NGOs. Working within diverse communities in the United States can prepare people for other multicultural encounters. “You should be open-minded and have an interest in other cultures and have respect for them,” notes Timmerman.
Being a minority yourself, however, may be a factor in your favor. Just like in American ethnic neighborhoods, patients and clients abroad tend to have more trust and compliance with providers who look like them. “There are more minorities being affected by diabetes, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis,” adds Sanchez. “Patients want to be with someone who they are comfortable with.”
Of course, practitioners who are multilingual are exceptionally valuable. Although most international missions provide interpreters for medical personnel, there’s always a chance for misinterpretation or incomplete translations. This is particularly important when it comes to medications and specific instructions. Therefore, a multilingual clinician who understands both the language and medical jargon is well suited for international humanitarian positions.
Still, there are occasional episodes in which race or gender can be a momentary obstacle. For example, being a Latina was less of an issue for Sanchez’s trip to India than her gender. She explains, “It’s a very traditional system there, and they don’t typically see other professional women in the rural areas. They thought I was a secretary or an assistant. By the third day, however, they finally grasped it.
“The same scenario translates here in the United States, except I finder it harder to be a Latina here,” she continues. “This industry is still about 90% Caucasian males. However, there is a change underway. There are a lot more women entering orthotics and prosthetics, but I have yet to run into another Latina.”
Keeping It Close to Home
Do you want to get involved but aren’t in a position to leave the country? You don’t necessarily have to pack your bags and board an international flight in order to volunteer. In fact, there are opportunities virtually around every corner. School districts, private athletic associations and senior centers are just a few suggestions where people could benefit from the time and expertise of PTs, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and athletic trainers.
Neither must all volunteer positions be clinically based in order for them to be effective professionally. Use the opportunity to explore other arenas, such as fundraising or marketing. When employers see they have a talented practitioner who also knows about budgets, teamwork and promotion, then your marketability automatically jumps up a few notches. Although these skills might not be immediately applicable in the clinical environment, you’re displaying an open attitude and aptitude to take on challenges outside of your “normal” realm. To employers, that’s an intangible quality that makes for a vital employee.
Tips for Volunteering
Research the issues that are important to you and reach out to a group that works toward those same issues.
• Find something new to learn.
• Combine volunteering with goal objectives. If you have a certain goal set, find an organization that will help you reach it.
• Don’t overcommit yourself.
• Prepare for a possible interview. You may be asked to describe your qualifications and background.
It all started with a conversation that took place in 1999 between the deans of two highly respected schools of nursing–one of them an Ivy League school, the other a historically black university. These two academic leaders shared a common, passionate goal: to introduce undergraduate nursing students from underrepresented minority populations to careers in advanced practice nursing and research. Today, their germ of an idea has blossomed into a highly successful collaboration that has been praised by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) for its leadership role in addressing racial and ethnic health disparities and has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a national model for nursing school health disparities partnership programs around the country.
Catherine Gilliss, RN, DNSc, FAAN, dean of Yale University School of Nursing in New Haven, Conn., and Dorothy Powell, RN, EdD, FAAN, associate dean of Howard University’s Division of Nursing in Washington, D.C., wanted to change the face of nursing research by encouraging talented minority students at the baccalaureate level to develop an interest in research, go on to graduate school and pursue doctoral degrees. The most effective way to accomplish this, the deans agreed, would be to immerse the students in research to help them understand the process. Empowered by that understanding, they reasoned, the students would gain confidence in themselves and in their ability to make a difference by becoming nurse scientists.
So it was that the Yale-Howard Scholars Program was born. Each year, the program brings a small, select group of Howard BSN students to the Yale campus to receive mentorship, training and research opportunities. The project’s original design involved an intensive six-week summer internship in which each Howard scholar was matched with a mentor from Yale–a nursing faculty member conducting funded research–with whom they would work closely.
In the summer of 2000, the first group of nurse scholars traveled to Yale for their internship. Five students from Howard University were chosen to participate. During that inaugural year, Yale covered all of the students’ expenses.
“That first summer,” Powell recalls, “we had to convince the students that this was a good thing to do. We chose good students who were considering graduate school and had an interest in learning about research.”
The students stayed at Yale in campus housing facilities, attended seminars, performed some community service and worked on projects with their mentors. Within the context of the larger research project, the Howard scholars had to identify a research question that they could look at more closely, then use the data from the parent project and transform it into a research problem involving minority health disparities. The students were responsible for studying the data, analyzing it and presenting their results.
“An Incredible Experience”
Nicole Laing, RN, BSN, was one of the first Howard University scholars to attend the internship program at Yale. Her research project focused on type 2 diabetes in minority women.
“I originally wanted a clinical experience but was offered the opportunity to learn about research at Yale, so I went. I thought it would be a good experience and would prepare me for graduate school,” she says. “It was an incredible experience. I enjoyed my mentor’s approach. I was introduced to the research project and encouraged to just dive in. I appreciated being able to run with it.”
Laing graduated from the BSN program at Howard in spring 2001 and is now a graduate student at Yale, studying to become a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. “I love it!” she reports. “I’m having a good time and learning a lot. For minority nurses especially, the impact we can make on health care is so great. It’s worth the time and effort required to complete a graduate school education.
“Attending the Yale-Howard internship program definitely fueled my desire to go to graduate school and to attend Yale,” Laing adds. “The internship experience developed me both as a nurse and as a professional. It helped me prove to myself that I could do it, that I could attend an Ivy League school. Sure, it was challenging. But like anything else, I just had to make the commitment and do it.”
Making an Impression
At the end of their six-week internship, the inaugural group of Yale-Howard scholars presented their research at a symposium held at Yale. They had created PowerPoint presentations in which they demonstrated the application of statistics and their understanding of the research vocabulary to explain their findings. They fielded questions from doctorally prepared nurses in the audience. Everyone was very impressed at how well the scholars were able to articulate their research, says Powell. “Clearly, there was a transformation in these students,” she declares.
“Presenting my project was a challenge,” Laing remembers, “and it was wonderful! I actually understood the process and felt confident about what the numbers meant.”
But the research experience for the minority students didn’t stop when the six weeks were over and they returned to their own campus. To continue the process, the scholars were assigned Howard University mentors to work with them throughout their senior year. These faculty members attended Yale for three days to study the research being done by the Yale mentors so they could help the students continue their research during an independent study.
At the end of their senior year, the scholars presented their research findings to their own student body at the Howard University Carnegie Endowed Visiting Professorship and Research Day, an annual event where 350 people converge on campus to hear minority nurse scientists share their research. Here, too, the Yale-Howard scholars were very well received. “There was such pride and appreciation from their fellow students,” reports Powell. “The scholars did so well and it made a positive impact on their peers.”
One such peer was Angela McKnight, RN, BSN. “When I heard the scholars give their presentation, I felt encouraged. The following summer, I applied for the internship at Yale,” says McKnight, who participated in the Yale-Howard Scholars Program in summer 2001.
A Shining Example
From this early success, a ripple effect began. Students from Howard signed up for the next internship in droves. The program began to attract national attention. The Yale-Howard scholars became highly desired by some of the best graduate schools in the country; 75% of the students have gone on to pursue advanced degrees. The scholars were invited to present their research at the Howard University College of Medicine’s annual Biomedical Research Symposium. “The appreciation of the medical community on campus reflects the respect for the research culture developed in the nursing school,” Powell notes.
Deans Gilliss and Powell decided to bring their partnership program to the attention of the National Institutes of Health, in hopes of obtaining grant funding that would help them continue and expand the project. The agency was so impressed with the program that it agreed to provide funding for five years. In 2001, the NIH identified the Yale-Howard Scholars Program as a model partnership program for developing a pool of minority nurse scientists who can contribute to the elimination of health disparities. Since then, the program has provided a prototype for seven similar nursing school Partnership Center initiatives throughout the United States. (See page TK.)
The two deans agree that the benefits to both universities are great. “We have truly benefited from the relationship with faculty at Howard University, such as [learning from them] how to access [minority] participants for research studies and breach barriers in hard to reach populations,” Gilliss says. Adds Powell, “Yale’s influence helped us cultivate a research culture and a capacity for scientific education. We are experiencing an increase in applications to our undergraduate and graduate schools, attracting more students and faculty interested in research. And we are experiencing an increase in funding for research projects as well.”
Yale, which does not have an undergraduate nursing program, has also gained much from the fresh perspectives and cultural diversity that the BSN students from Howard bring to the campus. “Our faculty are more aware of how their scientific work can and should impact health disparities,” Gilliss explains. “It is exciting to have these extraordinary students on campus. There has been an increase in our graduate school admissions as well as an increase in faculty applications. Nationally, we are being recognized as an institution that values diversity in our faculty and student populations and that welcomes diversity of thought, culture and country of origin.”
Gilliss’ excitement is shared by the Howard scholars who have participated in the initiative, including the most recent group of four students who attended the summer 2002 program. The scholars are immersed in graduate- and doctoral-level culture. The seminars and networking events they attend pull them into the world of research and enable them to experience what happens at the higher levels of learning.
“I learned so much at Yale. It was an awesome experience,” recalls McKnight, who graduated from Howard University in 2002 and will be attending graduate school in the fall at George Mason University in Virginia. She wants to teach and, ultimately, become a nurse scientist conducting research in minority communities. “I am more critical of research studies now,” she says. “You can’t take the numbers at face value. You have to look at the sample used in the study.
“The partnership with Yale is opening doors for us,” McKnight continues. “We need more partnerships like this! This was a new experience for me as a person of color and as a student. I am excited to get involved so I can make sure that research is representative of and real for the minority population.”
McKnight says the hands-on research experience she acquired at Yale helped her truly understand what being a nurse scientist is all about. “The internship at Yale has opened my eyes to the possibilities,” she comments. “It has given me a greater understanding of how research works and how projects are determined worthy for funding. Research makes sense; without research, how will we know how new medicines, for example, impact our [minority] community if the members of our community are not involved in the research studies? Research is so important to our future and it is a critical part of nursing. We’re the ones who are on the front lines with the patient. Patients trust us. Our population needs us.”
Perhaps you are a newly graduated nurse. Maybe you’re an experienced nurse assuming a new position. Or perhaps you’re looking for a little guidance as you investigate new nursing roles. What all of these situations have in common is a need to learn the ropes of a new position. One effective avenue is mentoring.
Jill is a new RN who had been seeking a nurse position in her home state. With today’s wilting economy, she was unable to find a suitable position, so she ventured into a new territory and accepted a position in her chosen specialty, medical-surgical nursing. She felt fortunate to have found a position at a medical center about 200 miles from her family.
Jill is encountering many new things at once: a new home, new city, new hospital, and new job. Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?
One of the reasons Jill selected the medical-surgical unit at her new hospital is because her interview with the nurse manager and the unit staff went so well. She found them to be welcoming, caring, friendly, professional, and patient-centered. Also high on her list of positives about the job was the unit’s mentoring program. Jill had the opportunity to interview with a mentor and mentee in the program, and it was this interview that sealed the deal for her decision to accept the position.
So what exactly is mentoring?
Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative learning relationship between two individuals with mutual goals and shared accountability for the success of the relationship. The mentor is the guide, expert, and role model who helps develop a new or less experienced mentee.
In many instances, mentoring is a spontaneous relationship that develops between two people. However, mentoring can also be successful when the mentor and mentee are paired or matched intentionally. This is often the case in health care facilities when a mentee transitions into a new role. The mentee is paired with an experienced nurse to learn a new position and develop in the role.
Mentoring is more than orientation or preceptorship, which may last a few weeks or through a three-month probationary period. The duration isn’t cast in stone; it is an ongoing relationship that will last as long as the mentor and mentee find meaning and value in it.
A mentoring relationship can occur at any phase of an individual’s career, whether a new graduate, an experienced nurse assuming a nurse manager or clinical nurse specialist position, or an established clinician taking on a leadership position as the chairperson of a shared governance council. Some nurses may also become a mentor themselves one day, using their knowledge, wisdom, and experience to provide meaningful learning experiences for a mentee.
Mentoring is a partnership between the mentor as a teacher and the mentee as a learner. As adult learners, mentees are responsible for their own learning and behaviors. As teachers, mentors act as guides or facilitators of learning.
Each of us has numerous opportunities throughout our lives to be new at something, and it isn’t always a pleasant experience. There is fear of the unknown, uncertain confidence, fear of making a mistake, and just the uncomfortable feeling of not being in control. We’ve all been there and will be there again at some point. In the role of a mentor, it is very helpful to remember what it was like being new to a position or task. It helps to get in the frame of reference of the mentee.
Novice to expert continuum
Patricia Benner, Ph.D., R.N., in her book From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice, says learning new skills requires a progression through stages or levels. These levels are novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.
When nurses take on new and unfamiliar roles, they often begin at the novice stage. Novices use rules and facts to guide their actions. They adhere to these rules without consideration for the context of the situation. It is difficult for a novice to put all of the parts together and see the whole picture. They are concerned with the tasks at hand and often cannot do more than one thing at a time.
Most novices want to feel and be seen as competent immediately upon taking on a new role. It is uncomfortable knowing one does not have a firm grasp of the position. Mentors and mentees must remember that learning new skills is a process that takes time. Both individuals must be patient during this formative time and realize what’s occurring is normal.
With time and experience, novice nurses continue to experience the real world and progress to the advanced beginner and higher levels of the continuum. Mentors can continue to play a significant role in the mentees’ progression.
Mentees will become successful in their roles more quickly when they listen actively to what is going on and are willing to soak up as much learning as possible. Mentors are a rich source of knowledge—they’ve been there, done that, and learned the critical pieces to perform successfully. Thus, mentees can gain a tremendous amount from an effective mentoring relationship.
Successful mentoring relationships are built upon trust, openness to self-disclosure, affirmation, and willingness and skill in giving and receiving feedback. Mentoring involves a significant expenditure of time and energy on the part of the mentor and especially the mentee. Living up to promises and commitments to each other is extremely important to the relationship.
Mentees learn to achieve a balance between their own independence and reliance on the mentor. Over time, the independence will most likely dominate and the relationship will change.
After experiencing an effective mentoring relationship, mentees often feel refueled and inspired to make a difference in their practice. Other benefits of mentoring for the mentee include:
- Increased self-confidence
- Enhanced leadership skills
- Accelerated acclimation to the culture of the unit/facility
- Advancement opportunities
- Enhanced communication skills, especially with the interdisciplinary team
- Reduced stress
- Improved networking ability
- Political savvy
- Legal and ethical insight
Time seems to be the most precious commodity these days. Potential mentors may feel they don’t have the time to spend on a mentoring relationship, especially when they have a full workload themselves. However, the time invested in mentoring a nurse transitioning to a new role is time well spent for the mentor and mentee, as well as the unit and facility. It is a huge contribution to advancing the future of nursing.
Mentors help mentees learn the ropes, their role, the political environment, and the culture of the unit or organization in a formal—yet unstructured—way. They create a warm and accepting environment that allows mentees to control the relationship, while at the same time allowing mentees to be themselves and voice relevant needs and concerns. Mentors are personable, approachable, reasonable, and competent individuals committed to helping mentees achieve the success of which they are capable.
Effective mentors are confident enough in their own knowledge, skills, and successes that they do not perceive mentees or their accomplishments as threatening. They are committed to seeking situations that will benefit the mentees’ development.
Mentors provide their mentees with insights that would otherwise have been gained only through trial and error. They ask a lot of questions—especially “Why?”—which encourages mentees to stop and reflect on situations and potential alternatives. Mentors are good at linking different bits and pieces of their mentees’ lives, such as work and home, thoughts and feelings, successes and failures. They try to look at the bigger picture and the future. Mentors help their mentees grow in their critical-thinking skills and progress along the novice to expert continuum.
Potential problems with mentoring
Not every relationship is successful. This can be true of a mentoring relationship as well. Sometimes the interpersonal dynamics or the match between mentor and mentee just doesn’t work. One partner might grow faster than the other or in a different direction, and a strain on the relationship may occur.
One common problem is the lack of follow-up and commitment to sustain the relationship. Mentors might overburden the mentee with work and responsibilities and vice versa. Mentees may become a clone of the mentor and lose their individuality. They may also become too dependent on their mentors. An unfavorable incident may occur in which the mentor or mentee feels let down or betrayed. Jealousy and personal or ethical disagreements can also strain the relationship.
There is also the case of toxic mentors who are detrimental to the success of their mentees. Toxic mentors may be unavailable or inaccessible to mentees or may throw the mentees to the wolves to either sink or swim. Toxic mentors may also block the mentees’ progress or criticize them in various non-constructive ways.
Both mentors and mentees can learn from the problems others have encountered in the mentoring relationship. If signs of these problems begin to develop, both individuals have a responsibility to confront the situation and actively plan a resolution or dissolution.
Prior to entering into a mentoring relationship, both parties should agree to a no-fault separation if one or both individuals realize the relationship is not working.
Mentoring facilitates professional growth
Mentoring has proven to be a successful way of facilitating the professional growth and development of recently graduated nurses and other nurses transitioning to a new role.
The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) has long recognized the value of mentoring for nurses in the acute care setting. AMSN has recently evolved its long-standing Nurses Nurturing Nurses (N3) mentoring program into a self-directed format that provides the tools for designing a successful mentoring program of your own, whether you are a mentor, mentee, or a mentoring program coordinator.
The AMSN Mentoring Program is provided on a complimentary basis on the AMSN website. The program contains a Mentor Guide, Mentee Guide, Site Coordinator Guide, and an Introduction to Mentoring” article. You may use and customize the information and tools provided in any manner you deem appropriate for your facility or yourself.
Need-to-Know Advice for Mentors and Mentees
Tips for Mentors
- Exhibit exemplary/role model behavior.
- Recognize and encourage potential.
- Monitor your mentee’s progress and provide helpful feedback.
- Introduce your mentee to coworkers, physicians, and other significant individuals.
- Offer guidance in the customs/culture of the unit/organization.
- Build a relationship of trust.
- Discuss the confidential basis of the relationship.
- Live up to promises and commitments.
- Publicly praise your mentee’s accomplishments and abilities.
- Provide support in times of personal crises or problems.
- Assist in making decisions through listening, support, and feedback. Ask “why?”
- Share appropriate life experiences to personalize and enrich the mentoring experience.
- Encourage your mentee to take risks and learn from mistakes.
- Agree to a no-fault termination of the relationship if it isn’t working or when the time is right.
Tips for Mentees
- Assume responsibility for your own learning and growth.
- Seek challenging assignments and responsibilities.
- Be receptive to and ask for feedback. Also, give constructive feedback to your mentor.
- Live up to promises and commitments.
- Articulate your professional and learning needs to your mentor.
- Ask questions. Share concerns.
- Be prepared for meetings with your mentor.
- Discuss your long-range career planning with your mentor.
- Ask for advice/feedback on handling difficult situations/behaviors.
- Discuss clinical decisions that are made.
- Progressively increase the independence in your role.
- Honor the confidentiality of the relationship.
- Agree to a no-fault termination of the relationship if it isn’t working or when the time is right.
© 2012 The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. All rights reserved.