The Mentor Connection in Nursing

By Connie Vance, EdD, RN, FAAN, and Roberta K. Olson, PhD, RN [eds.]
Springer Publishing Company, Inc., 1998

Reviewed by Kem Louie, PhD, RN, FAAN. Dr. Louie is president of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association and associate professor at William Paterson University, Department of Nursing, in Wayne, N.J.

What exactly does the concept of mentorship mean in the specific context of the nursing profession? Does mentoring really make a measurable difference in minority nursing students’ professional development? The Mentor Connection in Nursing, a recently published anthology edited by Connie Vance, dean and professor at the College of New Rochelle (N.Y.) School of Nursing, and Roberta K. Olson, dean and professor at South Dakota State University College of Nursing, presents some thought-provoking answers to these questions.

Borrowing from the ancient tradition of story telling, the book features short essays and personal stories by nearly 100 nurses exploring the concept of mentorship, its practical applications and what mentoring means to the nursing profession.

What makes the book particularly valuable to nurses of color is that, to my knowledge, at least 13 of the contributing authors are minority nurses. They include such leaders of the profession as Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, former president of the American Nurses Association; Clara L. Adams-Ender, PhD (HON), RN, FAAN, brigadier general, U.S. Army (retired); Hattie Bessent, EdD, RN, FAAN, former deputy executive director of the ANA’s Minority Fellowship Program; Eula Aiken, PhD, executive director, Southern Council on Collegiate Education for Nursing; Patricia Castiglia, PhD, RNC, PNP, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso; and Marie Santiago, EdD, RNC, founder of the Philippine Nurses’ Network. The book also includes a chapter on global and cross-cultural mentoring.

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The anthology is organized into five parts: The Mentor Connection, Perspectives on Mentorship, The Process of Mentorship, Contexts for Mentoring and Expanding the Mentor Connection. Taken as a whole, this examination of mentoring from a variety of angles confirms the editors’ contention that the mentor connection in nursing is making an important contribution to the leadership and career development of students and practitioners. Although not all of the nursing leaders who share their stories say they had mentors, those who did have mentors tell of advancing in the profession faster and having more career satisfaction than other nurses.

Though it is difficult to measure the effects of mentoring, the opening essay by Vance and Olson identifies five benefits of mentorship in the nursing profession:

• Career success and advancement

• Personal and professional satisfaction

• Enhanced self-esteem and confidence

• Preparation for leadership roles and succession

• Strengthening of the profession.

Songs of Empowerment

The personal experiences of mentoring shared by the minority nurse contributors make particularly powerful reading. Beverly Malone notes that mentoring is a type of nurturance, “a song of power” that can help African-American nurses overcome the triple challenge of being a woman, a nurse and black. She eloquently states, “In your darkest night, it is the song that comes to your memory in phrases and smells and sensations speaking of strategies, tactics and visions of change.”

In her essay “The Privilege and Responsibility of Mentoring,” Hattie Bessent argues that mentoring is a critical concern for the future of America’s nurses. Mentoring can occur at many levels, she notes, and must be continuous, goal-oriented and have the protégé’s best interests in mind. “I have discovered that a mentor for nurses, especially minority nurses, must be relentless and possess a clear vision about futuristic possibilities for the protégé,” she concludes.

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Felicitas A. dela Cruz, DNSc, RN, and her coauthors make a strong case for mentoring by sharing the results of a program at Azusa Pacific University School of Nursing designed to improve the retention and academic success of minority graduate students. The program developed mentoring partnerships between students and minority nurse leaders, such as advanced practice nurses. After one year, the grade point average of the mentored students was higher than that of minority students who did not participate in the mentoring program.

Marie Santiago discusses the origins of the Philippine Nurses’ Network, an organization aimed at mentoring, inspiring, supporting and empowering immigrant Filipino nurses. “Teaching students in the clinical setting enabled me to see the frustrations experienced by newly arrived nurses from the Philippines and other countries,” she writes. “They were working in a strange and new workplace and carrying heavy patient assignments, while at the same time going through the acculturation process and dealing with homesickness.”

The Mentor Connection in Nursing can be a useful resource for anyone interested in the process of mentoring, including new student nurses, novice nurses and experienced nurses in a variety of settings. My one criticism is that the book does not offer strategies or models for mentoring minority nurses—information that is urgently needed, because the nursing profession continues to operate with a lack of minority nurses in leadership positions. Perhaps Vance and Olson will consider this critical issue as a topic for a future book.

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