The Benefits of Mentorship as a Nurse Practitioner
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The first year working as a nurse practitioner is quite challenging and overwhelming. A new nurse practitioner has just completed several years of studying and hundreds of preceptor hours. Now, they are the one making differential diagnoses and medical decisions for their patients. The first several months as a nurse practitioner can be filled with worry and self-doubt. They may second-guess their decisions or feel like they do not know enough. Being the only nurse practitioner within the organization may exacerbate these feelings.
A mentoring relationship pairs two people: one with experience as the mentor, and someone else that needs assistance and encouragement as the mentee. Recent NP graduates can try to find a mentor either through their school or place of employment. Mentoring can be formal, such as a structured program at work, or informal, such as someone who is looked up to and can answer questions as needed.
Having a mentor as a nurse practitioner can ease the burden of transitioning from student to provider. It can bridge the gap between education and real-world clinical practice, improving job satisfaction and retention.
From Novice To Expert: Accruing Experience and Training
Most nurses are familiar with Benner’s Nursing Theory “From Novice to Expert.” This theory describes how nurses develop skills and an increased understanding of patient care from a combination of education and experience over time. Upon graduating from nursing school, nurses are described to be novices. This means they are beginning without experience. Once a nurse has extensive experience and is proficient in clinic situations, they are considered to be experts.
This theory recognizes five levels of the nursing novice to expert experience:
- Novice: a beginner nurse without any experience
- Advanced beginner: one who has gained prior experience in clinical nursing
- Competent nurse: one with at least two years of professional practice
- Proficient nurse: one who has a holistic understanding of nursing which makes decision-making easier
- Expert nurse: one who has a plethora of experience and an intuitive understanding of clinical situations
The novice to expert theory also applies to nurse practitioners. Even novice nurse practitioners need help as they evolve into their new roles. The process of becoming an expert from a novice can be facilitated by mentorship. In fact, mentorship is one of the most important attributes to the success of a new graduate nurse practitioner. Having a mentor allows continued guidance and support.
Research on the Benefits of NP Mentorship
A mentor is a go-to person for both clinical and non-clinical questions. They can let their mentees bounce ideas off of them, assist in complex patient scenarios, and advise them on how to manage a supportive staff and workflow. The mentor serves as a role model, teacher, guide, and coach. They provide leadership, patience, and loyalty to mentees. The mentor will know more about the nursing and medical field than the mentee, and as a result, will provide guidance and insight to help them avoid mistakes.
Novice nurses who participate in a mentorship program are less likely to become overwhelmed in the workplace. In fact, organizations that have implemented a nurse mentorship program have increased their nurse retention rates by 25 percent.
Having a mentor can help build confidence as a novice nurse practitioner. It can also improve competence as mentors may suggest certain tools to build upon baseline knowledge. Mentoring assists novice NPs in becoming autonomous in their practice. It can lead to good patient outcomes as a result of the provider’s proficiency and self-confidence.
Mentorship may even help achieve work-life balance, which is often difficult for new NPs. As seen on Walden University’s “5 Benefits of Mentorship in Nursing,” the mentor can offer emotional support when the mentee is feeling frustrated and needs a sympathetic ear. They will also let them know when they are making a mistake or when they are doing well. This positive affirmation validates that the novice nurse practitioner’s progress is right on track.
A productive mentee/mentor relationship may identify and remedy a novice nurse’s weaknesses and gaps in education. It assists in the merging of nursing philosophy, which is the foundation of nurse practitioner training, and the medical care model, which is the foundation of the practice of healthcare. This can be challenging for novice NPs when transitioning into their new role.
Having a mentor can also motivate and inspire the mentee. It can promote lifelong learning and serves as a safe space to discuss issues. Through a mentee/mentor partnership, the mentee learns to build their problem-solving skills and implement prudent decision-making in patient care.
The Journal of Nursing Research reported that mentoring has been found to improve job satisfaction, retention, role transition, and emotional wellbeing. It can also enhance the acquisition of skills and knowledge for novice nurse practitioners. The mentorship relationship can provide nurse practitioners with opportunities to insert themselves in their new environment and get a clearer sense of the work culture. It even offers mentors the opportunity to give back to the company and profession.
Besides providing higher job satisfaction, mentorship programs can benefit the financial stability of an organization as a whole. Mentorship can reduce the adjustment period of new NPs and accelerate their productivity. Triumphant role transition can lead to qualified nurse practitioners remaining in their positions and reducing provider turnover.
Three-Phase Theory of Mentoring
In a study called “Mentoring Nurse Practitioners in a Hospital Setting,” researchers found that there is a three-phase theory of mentoring. After completing these three phases, mentors and mentees experience growth. They become more knowledgeable and confident in defining themselves as individuals and as members of the nurse practitioner unit.
The first phase is forming the relationship. This is where the mentor and mentee get to know each other at both a personal and professional level. Each member of this mentoring relationship needs to define themselves as an individual professional and as a member of a team. For example, the nurse practitioner can reflect and identify themself as nurse practitioners and equally as an educator. While forming the relationship, all parties get to know each other and recognize needs.
The second phase is developing the relationship. The mentor should engage with the mentee and offer guidance and advice. They can provide a listening ear during times of need. The mentee should not be hesitant to ask their mentor a question. If the mentor is approachable, non-judgmental, and a good communicator, the more likely this relationship will be successful. This is influenced by the compatibility of the participants and their ability to build trust.
The third phase comprises mentoring outcomes. The shift from being a novice NP to becoming an expert is achieved as the mentee gains knowledge and self-reliance to perform the role. Once the novice NP is comfortable practicing independently, this should be considered an achievement.
Who Should Serve as an NP Mentor or Mentee?
An effective mentoring relationship involves voluntary participation and mutual respect for each other’s time.
Someone with an interest in sharing their knowledge and experience should be a mentor. A potential mentor should be encouraging and able to believe in a mentee’s ability for success. Serving as a mentor can be beneficial because it requires the expert to stay up-to-date and evidence-based in their practice. A mentor should be an effective listener, a strong communicator, and a good teacher. Mentors should be approachable, encouraging, empathetic, and patient. They should be knowledgeable about nursing principles and decision-making tactics.
To be a mentor, the expert NP also must have a comprehensive knowledge base to effectively guide their mentee. Direct and open communication allows the mentee to understand nursing principles and organizational expectations. They need to be tolerant and upbeat. This allows the mentee to feel comfortable enough to approach the mentor as needed without feeling discouraged.
Someone in need of a role model to help navigate questions related to the role of a nurse practitioner should be a mentee. A mentee should be enthusiastic, willing to learn, and open to challenges. They should be able to communicate their objectives for the mentoring relationship. Mentees should be critical thinkers open to feedback and have the ability to adapt. A potential mentee may need support in achieving their career goals. After insight from the mentor, the mentee should be able to assess situations and offer useful solutions.
Together, both parties need to develop a purpose for the mentoring relationship that aligns with career plans. The goals of mentorship include providing clinic support, academic advice, emotional support, and career development. As a mentor, their goal is to coach, inspire, and teach their mentee.
The Future of NP Mentor-Mentee Relationships
Due to personal and intellectual changes on the job, NP turnover rates can be high. Healthcare organizations can work to retain NPs by establishing a mentorship program. There are many benefits of mentorship as a nurse practitioner. Novice nurse practitioners who undergo mentorship have been found to be more competent and proficient at meeting the demands of the healthcare system. As a result, these NPs are less likely to leave their jobs.
In fact, mentorship should be a life-long service when working in healthcare. Every NP should be a mentor or mentee to ensure personal and professional growth. Consider mentoring a new provider to pay it forward, or seek a mentor if you are at the beginning of your career.
Sophia Khawly, MSN
Sophia Khawly is a traveling nurse practitioner from Miami, Florida. She has been a nurse for 14 years and has worked in nine different states. She likes to travel in her spare time and has visited over 40 countries.
Being a traveling nurse practitioner allows her to combine her love of learning, travel, and serving others. Learn more about Sophia at www.travelingNP.com.