Nursing administration within the acute care hospital environment must support fundamental solutions that are geared toward the current and increasingly worsening decline in nursing staff collegiality, morale, and support. The resulting detrimental effects are seen in poor staff performance, and in unsatisfactory patient care outcomes. In addition, the changing demographics within the acute care hospital setting, and the rapidly changing health care environment, demand that efforts be made to support and encourage new and senior nurses in order to retain competent nursing staff. Recent literature addressing this area of nursing supports the idea that mentoring is one important strategy that can be utilized in this endeavor (Carroll, 2004; Hurst & Koplin-Baucum, 2003; Verdejo, 2002). Defining mentoring has been difficult, and it is further compounded by the use of interchanging terms such as coach, preceptor, and teacher (Butterworth, Faugier, & Burnard, 1998; Milton, 2004). Some writers maintain that mentorship is a research-based intervention that addresses the improvement of nurses' confidence, promotes professional development, and encourages lifelong learning (Jakubik et al., 2004). The CNA (2004) states, "Mentoring involves a voluntary, mutually beneficial and usually long-term professional relationship. In this relationship, one person is an experienced and knowledgeable leader (mentor) who supports the maturation of a less-experienced person with leadership potential (mentee)" (p. 24). In addition, mentoring can be viewed as an informal or formal process. Informal mentoring is characterized by a shared agreement between the mentor and the mentee to establish a relationship in an unstructured manner, and is based on the realization of career goals for the mentee. Formal mentoring, however, involves structure, both in terms of defining purposes and in the longevity of the relationship (Tourigny & Pulich, 2005).
If one were to include organizational culture as an integral aspect of mentoring, the mentor, then, can be defined as an experienced individual who guides a novice member's transition to a new culture and the expectations of a new role (Snelson et al., 2002). Greene and Puetzer (2002) state that the mentor may introduce the new staff nurse to the philosophies, goals, policies, procedures, and professional developmental challenges within a new work environment. Conversely, the mentee is one who has unique developmental and socialization needs such as new nurses, international nurses, student nurses, and nurses who are undergoing role status changes, and who may be transitioning to a new area (Marquis & Huston, 2006). The relationship between the mentor and the mentee seems to be one of the determining factors of the success of mentoring, and it is dependent on the effective fulfillment of the roles and responsibilities within the relationship. Snelson et al. (2002) and Hurst and Koplin-Baucum (2003) maintain that essential mentoring responsibilities include teaching, counseling, confirmation, accepting, friendship, protection, coaching, and sponsorship. The relationship that is developed based on these characteristics is one that is intended to achieve safe and competent nursing practice through influencing the form, quality, and outcome of the career path of both the mentee and the mentor (Greene & Puetzer, 2002).
In addressing the mentoring relationship between the mentor and the mentee, and by understanding the roles that the mentor must fulfill within this relationship, it seems that leadership and mentorship are not mutually exclusive. The mentoring responsibilities outlined previously are clearly consistent with leadership behaviors. It is, therefore, essential that staff nurses and nursing management support mentoring within the professional practice of nursing. To support mentoring, staff nurses must assist in creating and maintaining a culture that will both promote and sustain...
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