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February 25, 2019

Importance of nurse mentoring

Jessica D'Anna and Rhonda Freeman

Rhonda Freeman is a former high school science teacher who has channeled her skills into being an Emory nurse. Now a nurse scholar at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, she sees surgical and nonsurgical patients and helps nurses there incorporate scientific evidence into their daily practice.

Working at the center is a good fit for Freeman. It allows her to pursue what she loves and maintain a schedule that allows her to spend time with her daughter after school. The latter wasn't always the case. Until recently, Freeman was nursing informatics education coordinator and an ICU nurse at Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. While she enjoyed her work, it often required long hours that meant arriving back home well after dark.

When Freeman began contemplating a job change, she talked it over with Jessica D'Anna, the critical care nurse she is mentoring in the Emory Nurse Peer Mentoring Program (ENPMP). In this case, it was the mentor who needed some advice.

"We were talking one day when Jessica told me, 'You should think of the three things you enjoy most and let them be your priority.' I was trying to do too many things at one time and starting to feel burnout," says Freeman. "Her advice helped me transition into the role I have now."

In turn, Freeman's mentoring has proven beneficial to D'Anna as she too weighs career options and work-life balance. D'Anna joined Emory University Hospital Midtown right out of school six years ago. For the past year, she has split her time there as a CCU charge nurse and unit administrator. Recently, she began a new role in the CCU as assistant nurse manager.

"I talked to Rhonda about whether I was ready to do something really different," says D'Anna. "She helped me figure out how to twirl the baton--what to do if I said yes and what to do if I said no to an opportunity. She's helped me look at the pros and cons because she's been through these changes. That's the point of the mentoring program--to have someone to bounce your ideas off of and introduce you to different people, experiences, and opportunities."

D'Anna and Freeman are among 12 pairs of nurses piloting the 12-month ENPMP, which targets Emory Healthcare (EHC) nurses at all levels of practice and leadership. The pilot group was selected and matched by a committee of 28 EHC nurses led by Mary Zellinger, chair, and Kara Garcia, co-chair, both from Emory University Hospital. Mentors and mentees met for the first time at an inaugural meeting last spring and continue to meet as a group at quarterly meetings, where guest speakers like Sharon Pappas, EHC chief nurse executive, and Dane Peterson, EHC chief operating officer, share their own mentoring experiences. Mentors and mentees also meet on their own and touch base via phone, text, and email. A committee facilitator regularly checks in with each mentor/mentee to see how things are going.

"Everyone can benefit from a mentor, regardless of what career stage you are in," says Zellinger. "Participation in the program benefits both parties involved."

The ENPMP is modeled from evidence-based sources written by Lois Zachary, Annabelle Reitman, and Sylvia Benatti--noted career development experts--and grounded in the work of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. EUH patient family adviser Sylvia Bell also provided input, based on the peer mentoring program she developed at the CDC, where she worked for many years.

This spring, the first cohort of mentors/mentees will graduate (and continue meeting on their own), and a new cohort of mentors/mentees will be selected and matched from a pool of applications solicited by the ENPMP committee.

Long term, EHC nursing leaders would like to pair every nurse hired with a mentor. They see the ENPMP as integral to meeting EHC nursing's strategic goals of retention, healthy work environment, and engagement.

Mary Gullatte, EHC corporate director for nursing innovation and research and ENPMP executive sponsor, is a firm believer in the program. "Mentoring is about establishing a relationship with a colleague to guide and support your career goals and strengthening your connection with the organization," she says. "It's about establishing a relationship that helps you grow."--Pam Auchmutey

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