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Online Mentoring Programs Provide Support to New Nurses

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By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor

Between the nation’s nursing shortage, heavy workloads and a lack of guidance and support, many new nurses end up leaving the profession within their first year on the job.

But new nurse mentoring programs are popping up all across the country with the intention of providing guidance, support and advice, while preventing new nurses from leaving the profession. A little guidance can go a long way and numerous studies have been done to highlight the importance—and success of mentoring programs.

Online mentoring programs, such as N3, allow nurses to connect with a mentor who is not employed at their workplace or unit.

Marjorie Escobio, RN, BSN, CMSRN, is the mentoring program coordinator for the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) and notes the critical importance of mentoring programs for new nurses starting out in the workforce.

“Mentoring programs for new nurses are so important because they give the mentee someone to talk to, a shoulder to lean on and an objective voice,” Escobio notes. “Experienced nurses have already been in the new nurse’s position, so they are able to encourage them to stay in nursing.”

The AMSN offers both a hospital-based mentoring program, and a newer online mentoring program, “Nurses Nurturing Nurses” or N3.

“Our mentoring programs actually started as a research project and then turned into a hospital-based program,” she said. “Then it became a natural progression to take the program online. It’s nice with being online because the mentors and mentees can be anywhere in the country.”

Online mentoring programs, such as N3, allow nurses to connect with a mentor who is not employed at their workplace or unit, so many new RNs feel more comfortable asking questions and seeking advice from an objective source.

Nurses interested in participating in the program, either as a mentor or mentee, must be members of the AMSN and willing to commit at least six months to the program. They are then required to fill out an application and short questionnaire so that they can be paired with the best possible match for their unique circumstances and experiences.

All correspondence for the N3 program is done online through chat rooms especially designated for the new nurses and their mentors. Marcia Roberts, RN-BCC, PCCN, was a mentor for the N3 program and has also participated in other hospital-based programs and is a strong believer in the integral role that mentorship plays in a new nurse’s success.

“I know the importance of mentorship first hand, because of my experience when I first started out in the field,” Roberts said. “I was assigned two wonderful people who taught me the things I didn’t learn in nursing school and without them I don’t think I would have stayed in nursing.”

“All of the meetings were done through a chat room on the AMSN website,” Roberts explained. “It gave us an open forum, where we could talk about anything. I hope that this gave my mentee the opportunity to ask questions that she may not have felt comfortable asking her peers.”

For Barbara J. Shaffer, RN, BSN, CMSRN, med-surg educator and staff development for Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton, Ohio and mentor for the N3 program, mentoring has been a passion since she embarked on her own nursing career later in life.

“I am a big believer in mentoring,” Shaffer said. “In nursing school you learn the bare minimum and don’t learn how to put all of the information and skills together until you are on the floor. Preceptorships at hospitals are great, but they are more task oriented. Everyone should have a mentor.”

Shaffer said that the most valuable skill new nurses can gain from a mentoring program is confidence.

“Mentors teach the new nurses critical thinking skills and how to identify problems in patients that they wouldn’t necessarily know without the experience, and they learn these things by going under someone’s wing,” she said. “They are able to learn things that they can’t teach in books.”

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