Culturally competent nursing mentorship for nursing students, nurses, or faculty often remains challenging when the mentor needs to reflect on the mentee. Understanding diversity in higher education and the strategies to improve culturally competent guidance is looked at through the lens of mentoring.
The term ‘mentor’ was adopted from Mentor, a Greek mythological figure in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Mentor was placed in charge of Odyssey’s son, Telemachus. Their mythological relationship consisted of Mentor imparting wisdom, guiding, and sharing knowledge with Telemachus. In modern times the word mentor has come to mean a very experienced and trusted advisor. A mentee is the term for the person in the position of receiving the mentor’s training, guidance, advice, or wisdom (Grant & Hazel, 1993).
Becoming a nurse, advancing a nursing degree, or being a nursing professor all require skills and knowledge to be learned. A part of that learning comes from mentor-mentee relationships. Ideally, each nursing student or new faculty should have an available mentor sensitive to the mentee’s needs. Mentors that reflect or identify with their mentees would be optimal (Schuler, 2021). However, in the absence of availability, the mentor must practice culturally competent mentorship. The importance of the mentorship role becomes evident when the mentee does not reach their full potential or partake in opportunities within the profession.
U.S. Census Statistics and Nursing Numbers
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2020), 57.8% of the American population is White, forming the majority; Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority comprising 18.7%; Black or African Americans are the largest racial minority making up 12.1% of the population. Also noted on the census was an increase in multicultural populations. Additionally, according to the National Council of the Board of Nursing statistics (2021), ethnic/racial minorities represent 19.2% of the RN workforce. According to the numbers that represent the U.S. population and the population of the nursing workforce, there is a representation of minority nurses ranging from the bedside to academia.
However, the reality of these numbers is striking. Due to the lower numbers of minorities in the nursing field, mentors must commit themselves to cultivate culturally appropriate mentoring relationships. Working within the framework of who is represented then requires solutions to effective and appropriate mentoring. Employing creative and Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) mentoring styles is mandatory for successful mentor-mentee relationships.
Mentoring advances the science of nursing; it helps develop and move forward the discipline along with its leaders and educators. However, cultural awareness and carefully suited mentoring styles to accommodate minoritized mentees are imperative for successful outcomes. Diversity is defined as different or varied. Whether the diversity is cultural, racial, religious, gender, class, or sexual orientation of a mentee, it must be acknowledged and understood by the mentor to help build a stronger mentoring relationship. This will add to the mentee’s development and foster meaningful results (Dirks, 2021).
Some causes of the underrepresentation of minorities in nursing have been noted as lack of opportunity, educational finances, emotional and social support from the discipline, and lack of diversified mentors (Firth, 2021). However, when focusing on the need for diversified mentorship in the formation of nursing students, new nurses, RN to BSN students, and new nursing faculty, there are many obstacles for the mentor.
Some examples of challenges a mentor may face include assessing a mentee’s motivation, having the proper time to mentor, setting reasonable goals, and the mentor’s ability to properly assess the mentee’s knowledge, skills, or background. One prominent challenge in mentee assessment is correctly identifying diversity to incorporate appropriate mentoring into the relationship. Schuler (2021) states that nurse mentees recognize support and are thankful for shared insights from culturally competent mentors.
While acknowledging the low numbers of minority students, nurses, and faculty, how then will professors of any ethnic, racial, religious, or any diverse background be a mentor to their diverse minoritized students or new faculty? The answer is already in practice.
The very steps that the professors teach their nursing students to form nurse-patient relationships regarding cultural diversity. The movement to include culturally competent care in nursing is currently operational in practice and academia. Nursing professors teach their students to be culturally competent as it is woven throughout EBP curricula (Hung et al., 2019). Students are taught the values and how to incorporate, accommodate, and respect culture into their healthcare-providing practices. This level of teaching students culturally competent care must be transferred and utilized with mentor-mentee relationships between professors and students, nurse administrators and new nurses, and professors and new faculty.
First and foremost, the mentor must self-reflect on their thoughts and feelings. They must recognize any biases and explore how this will affect the mentoring relationship, therefore working to acknowledge and eliminate them honestly. Secondly, they must get to know their mentees through inquiry. Asking mentees to share their backgrounds and how they prefer to learn is an act of openness and accommodation.
Thirdly, the mentor must create an atmosphere of judgment-free mentoring to allow the mentee to receive the advice in their way.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the mentor and mentee must commit to being open, honest, and respectful in their roles. Without their commitment, the relationship is not built on a trusted foundation, and all that follows may be tainted. The lack of diverse nursing mentors may or may not be able to be wholly addressed by looking purely at the census numbers.
As nursing advances, there is a recommendation to include and support minoritized nurses in all roles of the profession. Regardless, whoever is in the role of mentor, must accept the current challenges and comply with the prerequisite to pledge to deliver EBP culturally competent guidance using the above-mentioned mentoring strategies.
Dirks, J., L. (2021). Alternate approaches to mentoring. Critical Care Nurses, 41(1), 9-16. https://doi.org/10.4037/ccn2021789
Firth, S. (2021, August 12). Why are they so few people of color in nursing? Washington Correspondent, Medpage Today. https://www.medpagetoday.com/nursing/nursing/94025
Grant, M., & Hazel, J. (1993). Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology. Springfield: Merriam-Webster.
Hung, H., Y., Wanf, Y., W., Feng, J., Y., Wang, C., J., Lin, E., C., L., & Chang, Y., J. (2019). Evidenced-based practice curriculum development for undergraduate nursing students:The preliminary results of an action research study in Taiwan. Journal of Nursing Research, 27(4), 30. doi: 10.1097/jnr.0000000000000298
Schuler, E. (2021). Evaluation of an evidence-based practice mentorship programme in a paediatric quaternary care setting. Journal of Research in Nursing, 26(1-2),149-165.