Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

I think everyone has heard the expression, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Right? Though the idea of eating an elephant makes me want to become a vegetarian. (But I digress.)

OK, I have another one: “How do you change the world? One life at a time.” And here I am speaking of mentorship. And not the namby-pamby, untrained, “Oh, you’re good at skills so I’ll make you a mentor” like Oprah handing out mentorships (“You get to be a mentor, and you get to be a mentor …”). But rather like a true, formalized mentorship program where the mentor can then elevate and enhance the life of a mentee.

First of all, a mentor should protect the mentee from being cannibalized by the nursing staff. I am so glad I hung in there, but I remember my days as a baby nurse. My boards were on paper and the results took about three months to be received. So, at the hospital where I started, they “used and abused” us nursing externs (that’s what we were called until we received word we passed our boards) as they saw fit. 

They assigned us whatever shift needed to be filled and then the nurses on that floor assigned us, you guessed it, the patients nobody wanted. Like, “Wow, let’s give all the difficult patients to the newbies because, like, they’re equipped to take care of them!” (NOT!)

And you probably went through something like that so why, dear Lord, why do you allow it to happen in your facilities? And then you’re surprised when new staff are gone a month later. I know we need staff but you can’t just throw them to the wolves! 

Well, a good mentor ensures your newbies don’t get an assignment they can’t handle, until, well, they can handle it, while encouraging them the whole way. Novel idea!

I also believe everyone has the innate need to be part of something meaningful. Something bigger than themselves. And to be part of something significant as well. A good mentor has the ability to make the mentee feel part of your “tribe”. Help them assimilate not only into the facility culture but live the mission, vision and values, which should never just be paper on a wall.

So, think about adopting an evidence-based mentorship program. Yes, it is a lot of work, but if it gets you out of agency use and builds a strong, skilled staff, isn’t it worth it? Just asking.

And just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates. 

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.