Mentoring in Nursing Can Improve Retention

Turnover continues to be a major issue within the nursing profession, and contributing factors include burnout and struggles with job satisfaction. Pairing nurses with mentors is one strategy to promote continued engagement and combat turnover.

According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, one of the biggest job stressors for nurses was a lack of support from colleagues. This study also discovered that a nurse’s negative emotional experiences in the workplace (e.g., negative interactions with patients or larger workloads) correlated with a lower level of commitment to their employer, raising the risk of turnover.

To reduce nurse turnover, many employers focus on finding ways to increase salaries or improve benefits. While these examples are important components of nurse retention, ensuring that nurses feel supported by a collaborative work environment is also imperative. Nurse mentorship is an ideal, yet often underutilized approach to improve nurse engagement, satisfaction, and practice.

Mentoring in nursing and retention

Collaboration, emotional support, clinical education, insight, and professional development are all areas that can benefit nurses when they form a mentor-mentee relationship. These areas play an enormous part in driving a higher job satisfaction and an elevated level of professional commitment.

Trish Richardson, MSN, BSBA, RN, NE-BC, CMSRN, Director of Post-Acute Care Solutions at Relias, President-Elect of the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA), and nurse mentor, suggested that facilities that participate in mentoring programs or encourage their staff to form these bonds will see improved outcomes. Healthcare organizations that intentionally invest in the professional growth of their employees will see enhanced staff engagement, which can improve retention, she said.

Richardson added, “This relationship will bear much fruit, including guidance for career pathing, networking, and navigating challenging situations in professional practice,” which can translate into nurses feeling more supported and confident in their roles.

Over time, mentorships can help nurses feel more fulfilled in their roles. These relationships can help nurses gain confidence in their practice, feel supported by their colleagues, and obtain career guidance. In fact, one 2020 study revealed that retention was 25% higher for nurses with a mentor than for those without.

Chris Recinos, PhD, RN, FNP, NEA-BC, nurse mentor based in Los Angeles, California, and founder of the Nurse Leader Network, emphasized the role that mentoring in nursing plays in job satisfaction.

“People come to jobs for things such as pay, but they stay because of relationships with those they work with and when there is room to grow and advance. Mentorship helps with all of those things,” she said.

Improved patient care

Patient care and safety are top priorities for nurses, nurse leaders, and their facilities. During a mentorship, nurses gain knowledge and self-confidence in their practice, which can translate into safer and better experiences for patients.

Joni Dirks, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CCRN-K, and nurse mentor in Medical Lake, Washington, commented on the influence mentoring in nursing has on patient care.

“Mentors can support their mentees with feedback on difficult clinical cases or suggestions for ways to advance their clinical skills. Having someone talk through a difficult situation and offer suggestions for an alternative approach can help build confidence and competence,” Dirks said, who has 38 years of experience as a critical care nurse and 20 years as a clinical educator.

Nurse mentors introduce an abundance of clinical education and personal insight from their years of experience. As the mentee absorbs the experience, these qualities can transfer into their day-to-day practice, improving patient care in all areas — especially communication, safety awareness, and clinical knowledge and understanding.

Recinos also added that mentorships can speed up the learning process for new nurses.

“They expedite learning so that the patient can receive consistent high-quality care. In addition to expediting learning, they help instill confidence and, many times, a sense of pride and joy in the nurse, which will contribute to a positive nurse-patient relationship,” she stated.

Everyone benefits from mentoring in nursing

It’s been shown that nurses who complete a mentorship are more likely to remain in their roles because of higher job satisfaction and engagement. In a 2017 survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses (ASPSN), 100% of nurse practitioners (NPs) who participated reported that a mentorship positively influenced their job satisfaction. Results like these show how beneficial and effective mentorships can be for mentors, mentees, and facilities.

Nurse turnover carries impacts like short staffing, lower quality of patient care, and increased costs for recruiting and training for healthcare facilities. With mentorship programs in place, expenses related to training and recruiting can be lowered, and a channel for professional development or career advancement can be provided. These advantages circle back to turnover and demonstrate how mentoring in nursing is linked to nurse retention and job satisfaction.

Through these experiences, more focus is given to nursing practice, leadership skills are fostered, and new and experienced nurses can feel they are giving back to the profession.

Cara Lunsford, RN, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HOLLIBLU, and Vice President of Community at Relias, emphasized the rewards mentorships can bring to the nursing profession.

“Mentorships play a major role in nurse retention. When a new nurse has this kind of support, they feel more confident in their practice, which is crucial to professional sustainability,” she said.

By implementing a mentorship program or encouraging staff to participate in these partnerships, you can have an influence in building more collaborative and meaningful work environments. In these times, nurses need reliable support systems and are more likely to go where they find them — and stay there.