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Preceptorship and Mentorship

Preceptorship and mentorship are immensely valuable to nursing. Preceptors and mentors provide life-long lessons to new graduates and younger nurses that ensure the quality of knowledge within the nursing profession will remain strong for years to come. Making programs like preceptorship and mentorship available also demonstrates an organizational commitment to nursing that provides a high level of job satisfaction.

Preceptorship

RNAO Resources
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Practice Page on Preceptorship
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Practice Page on Mentorship

Nurses have a responsibility to constantly advance their abilities and knowledge to be able to provide patient care that is increasingly complex. This responsibility includes sharing their skills with new nurses or students so that future generations of nurses are also able to provide superior care. This professional development can be provided through a comprehensive preceptorship program that takes place with the support of employers.

Preceptors help guide the transition and integration of nursing students into the nursing workforce. They support the development of clinical competence and confidence in a way that allows the junior nurse to grow professionally, but also provides immense rewards for the preceptor. By sharing their knowledge with junior nurses, preceptors help improve job satisfaction, decrease orientation time and have a direct impact on how well the nurse will perform on the job.

Precepting occurs in patient care situations, allowing the preceptor to guide the student or new nurse through the procedures required to provide the best care. This role is crucial to ensuring future nurses can perform at a high level and with confidence in a clinical setting, but it cannot take place without the support of workplaces that are committed to their nursing staffs.

Managers, administrators, educators and health team members all need to support a preceptorship program for it to be successful. Management must offer support by allowing a preceptor to balance the role with patient responsibilities, and clinical team members must also be involved so that the needs of patient continue to be met. Education that presents principles of adult education and as well as instruction on developing learning objectives, teaching-learning styles and giving feedback and evaluation must also be provided for the preceptor. Preceptors also need opportunities for informal education by networking with each other to share stories and strategies.

It is important for the organization to recognize that the hard work of preceptors is a determining factor in positive job satisfaction and commitment to the role. Support can come from provision of resources and education to carry out the role, assistance with workloads, or it can be more overt through recognition at employee events or in organizational newsletter.

Mentorship
Mentorship provides another avenue for younger nurses to develop strong relationships with senior nurses that contribute to the development of both individuals and plays a role in the retention of nurses within an organization. Mentors provide information, advice and support to less senior nurses over an indefinite period of time. Both the mentor and mentee invest a significant amount in the relationship emotionally, allowing for self-directed growth and learning. Mentoring provides many benefits, it can:

  • Bridge the gap between theory and nursing practice.
  • Provide guidance for transformational leadership.
  • Enhance critical thinking and career development.
  • Increase self-esteem, job enrichment and willingness to take risks.
  • Enhance productivity, managerial skills and a sense of professionalism.
  • Act as a recruitment and retention strategy. Nurses who are mentored are more likely to remain in their current position.

Despite mentorship’s many benefits, it faces some major hurdles. There are fewer nurses in leadership positions to act as mentors. The high number of part-time and casual nurses does not provide a supportive environment for mentoring, yet mentoring has never been more important as the approaching retirements of many senior nurses means new nurses must be recruited. The emotional demand of mentorship also makes it more difficult to recruit a nurse into a mentorship role, particularly when those nurses already face higher levels of stress treating patients with higher acuity levels.

To overcome these challenges, mentorship should be a key recruitment and retention strategy. Individuals can support mentorship programs by advocating for funds to develop programs, supporting mentorship through continuing education and staff recognition, and by individually seeking out mentors through networking opportunities, developing working relationships and learning from more experienced nurses. Nurses who participate in mentorship programs will provide better patient care while increasing their own knowledge and professional growth; participating in mentorship provides the opportunity for life-long learning and helps retain and develop the best nurses for today and tomorrow.

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