Profile of the mentor relationship in nursing service administration : a professional leadership development strategy



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Nursing occupies a critical and essential position among the health care professions. As health care needs become more diverse and treatment modalities more complex, nurses recognize the need to further strengthen their profession in order to function more effectively in this pivotal position. Efforts within the profession are being directed toward identifying and implementing strategies to promote professional maturation and further development of strong and competent leaders. One strategy for developing such leaders is that of encouraging and implementing the mentor relationship. It is necessary to have an understanding of the functions and characteristics of such a relationship so that its effective use may be communicated and modelled. The need for this study was directed by the desire to more fully understand the role of the mentor relationship in the development of professional nurses, and more specifically, nursing leaders. This study proposed to expand the knowledge of the mentor relationship as it exists within the nursing profession. Objectives of the study were to describe the prevalence, characteristics, and functions of the mentor relationship as reported by nursing service administrators, leaders in hospital nursing practice. Using the self-report questionnaire, "Mentor-Protege Survey, Section 1" (Spengler, 1982) data were collected from 238 subjects who were members of the Texas Society of Nursing Service Administrators of the Texas Hospital Association. Each subject held a senior administrative position with responsibility for nursing services in a member agency of the Texas Hospital Association. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Frequency distributions were computed and converted to percentage equivalents which provided information about sample characteristics and responses to research questions. Slightly more than half of the study population had had at least one mentor. Of those who did not have a mentor, more than half thought one would have been helpful. Major characteristics of the mentor relationship included intellectual stimulation, support, promotion of decision making and idea testing, fostering of exploration of ideas, and encouragement of independent growth. The one major characteristic identified which might be interpreted as negative was competitiveness. Major functions of the mentor included serving as a positive role model, encouraging the protege to believe in, and to think for, her/himself, encouraging intellectual development, pushing the protege to produce to maximum capacity, and providing for a two-way exchange of ideas. The mentor relationship most frequently lasted from one to three years and occurred in the work setting with the mentor most often being a nurse. The relationship was viewed as positive by virtually all subjects, and its length was seen as sufficient. The relationship between mentor and protege was most often that of professional associate, peer/colleague, and one of frequent contacts with a major component of friendship. The mentor relationship was identified as important to their own career development by almost all mentored subjects. The mentor relationship was identified as important to an individual's career development by almost all of both mentored and nonmentored subjects, with a greater degree of importance being emphasized by mentored subjects. Both mentored and nonmentored subjects had previously mentored others and planned to continue to do so, however the number of subjects who answered positively to these questions was greater in the mentored group than among those subjects who had not been mentored. Based upon this research further investigation should be undertaken to develop a profile of the mentor relationship as it exists nationally among nursing service administrators, as well as at other levels of nursing practice. Information available about mentoring should be organized into a model specifically applicable to nursing which could be communicated and used in both nursing education and nursing practice.



Nursing services--Administration, Mentoring in nursing, Leadership