In June 2000, New Hanover Regional Medical Center launched a program designed to help new nursing school graduates succeed as they began their career at one of the state's largest hospital networks. Forty-nine nurses, with about nine centuries' worth of nursing experience, volunteered to serve as mentors for the new nurses.
In the first year, the Mentor Program met its goal of improving retention and aiding in recruiting new nurses. The retention rate the first year increased from 66% to 92%. We have maintained that rate at the end of our second year.
The role of the mentor
Mentors provide career guidance, advice and leadership to beginning nurses who often find the transition to an actual hospital environment to be challenging and stressful. As we begin the third year of our mentor program, we have 95 mentors with greater than 1500 year of nursing experience. More than 950 of those years are in New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
In applying to be mentor, nurses cited a love for the profession, an ability to remain calm during stressful situations and the memory of what it was like when they started. Every one of them volunteered to meet with their protégés during off hours.
Mentors contact protégés before or during orientation week. They are encouraged to agree on parameters to meet, talk on the phone or email each other on a regular basis, and as needed. Mentors offer at least a year of service, serving as role model and career coach, advising on how to handle conflict and providing inspiration, teaching and tutoring.
"This is a way to give back to this institution what was given to me," said Saralyn Gillikin, a coordinator in the Family Birthplace. "It's my turn to give time as an experienced nurse."
Ms. Gillikin has worked in labor and delivery for 14 years, following her mother and grandmother as labor and delivery nurses. She remembers the "unofficial" mentor, Jackie Dingle, who adopted and encouraged her in those first few months.
The nurses say a big difference in today's profession is juggling all the responsibilities asked of nurses. Mentor, Debra Coston said mentors are most interested in helping new nurses give their best at what matters most - patient care.
"You get your reward in the long run," she said. "It doesn't come a lot of time from money. It really comes when someone says, 'Hey, you made my dad's day.' I want to help give that to someone else."