Faculty Mentoring at a School of Nursing

Editor’s Note
This mentoring-in-nursing research report is actually focused on mentoring of nurse educators in higher education, a huge part of the nurse shortage problem. The report is essentially a program evaluation and it is a refreshingly different piece. Although it is based on surveys, not often an especially helpful method, the details of the mentoring and professional development program and mentoring structures are included. THAT is helpful!

Also, it provides in-depth explanations of mentoring practices and recommendations for improved results, which are also welcome and unique contributions. These are so helpful because, when we hear, “protégés found considerable benefits from the program”, we can locate information that can help us answer the question, “Why?”. Our “Thanks” to the authors.

Blauvelt, M.J. & Spath, M.L. (2008). Passing the torch: A faculty mentoring program at one school of nursing. Nursing Education Perspectives. Jan 1, 2008.


The Problem
The need for qualified excellent nurses is well documented and well known. (At the writing of this report in 2008) it was estimated that 126,000 nurses were needed to fill hospital vacancies and that more than one million nurses would be needed by the year 2012 (1).

Part of the solution for meeting this challenge is the work of schools of nursing in many institutions of higher education and community colleges. However, these programs also face challenges which threaten their ability to effectively help address the nursing shortage.

In academic year 2004-2005, 43.7 percent of all applications were rejected, even though they were submitted by qualified persons to pre-licensure nursing programs. A large part of the reason is a shortage of nurse faculty to meet the growing demand for nursing education (2).

Actually, there are three basic but critical problems facing university schools of nursing:
1. a shortage of available qualified nursing educators;
2. loss of nursing faculty due to retirement;
3. the desire to retain novice faculty

A Brief Review of the Nurse Educator Mentoring Literature

The literature was undertaken to help us understand the current knowledge base regarding the challenges in the nurse education profession and how nurse educator mentoring can best address these challenges and better support nurse education faculty retention and success.

The Challenges
The shortage of qualified nursing faculty numerous causes:
1. low salaries;
2. the academic credentials demanded by higher education;
3. the “graying” of current faculty (48% of nurse educators are age 55 and over) (3-5);
4. new faculty must cope with demands regarding teaching, research, publication/scholarship,and service and are expected to have expertise in all these areas (6).

The cumulative effects of these factors create unique demands that challenge and stress new nurse faculty members.

Multiple efforts to solve the shortage of faculty are underway. DeYoung, Bliss, and Tracy (7) proposed solutions that focus on more aggressive and inclusive recruitment strategies. These are helpful. However, recruitment is only the beginning of the problems. Developing and retaining new faculty are also challenges, ones for which mentoring is an effective answer.

A recent position statement by the National League for Nursing advocates the use of mentoring as a strategy to socialize and develop new nurse faculty (10).

The Mentor Role
An effective mentor must be accessible, approachable, nonjudgmental, intuitive, and empathic. Watson states that “the nurse who is sensitive to feelings is able to make another person feel understood, accepted, and capable of moving toward a more mature level of functioning and growth” (12, p. 19). This is certainly a desired mentoring quality too.

Accessibility and approachability are crucial when a protégé is struggling with a decision or does not know an institutional protocol. The mentor must be able to anticipate and detect in the protégé feelings of inadequacy, doubt, or a sense of being overwhelmed. Perceptiveness on the part of the mentor is critical, for rarely will protégés expose their fears unless they feel safe, accepted, and in the company of someone who not only has experienced many of the same issues and feelings, but is willing to admit it to new faculty.

Davidhizar (13) believes that protégés can learn from the mistakes that mentors are willing to share, integrating the mentor’s hard won experience into their own professional learning. A sense of trust is established through caring strategies such as the mentor’s storytelling of her own experiences, insecurities, and inadequacies during her teaching career. The need for caring, as emphasized by Leininger (14) and exemplified by the mentor, enables growth professionally and personally.

Linking Mentoring and Other Professional Development
The integration of mentoring with faculty orientation and ongoing training has been strongly recommended in the literature. Such comprehensive professional development programs for new nurse faculty are described (8,9), and research-based guidelines have been derived from analyses of existing faculty orientation, training, and mentoring programs, both in nursing and non-nursing (6).

The Professional Development and Mentoring System
This specific program was implemented because of the rapid expansion of the nursing department in the subject university and the resulting need to orient several new faculty members who all began working at one time. The subject program is a yearlong formal mentoring program with a different approach in each of the two semesters. The program was designed to develop new faculty and foster faculty retention.

How the Program Is Structured
This is a very comprehensive and integrated system of professional development and mentoring. The program components include:

1. Orientation
2. Mentor Selection and Matching
3. Caring Concepts and Mentoring
4. First Semester Mentoring and Cohort Group
5. Second Semester Mentoring
6. Mentor-Protege Feedback and Assessment
7. Mentor Observation & Coaching of the Protégé
8. Ongoing Orientation
9. Weekly Peer Support Meetings
10. Training New faculty

Details on each of these follow.

1. Orientation
All new faculty attend a general orientation to the university and to the Department of Nursing. At the conclusion of this orientation, the mentoring program and its purpose are presented and the assigned mentor is introduced. The mentoring program has multiple elements.

2. Mentor Selection and Matching
In this mentoring program, faculty are assigned to the mentor role through the mutual agreement of the Department of Nursing chair and the faculty member. Because of the time commitment required of the peer mentor, this role is considered part of the faculty mentor’s teaching load. The mentor assignment is negotiated every year to maintain continuity throughout each protégé cohort’s first year of teaching.

3. Caring Concepts and Mentoring
Elements from a “caring” course already offered in the nursing curriculum were used to enhance the mentoring program design by integrating caring principles into mentor interactions. These include several of Leininger’s care constructs (11) (support, compassion, empathy, stress alleviation, helping behaviors, and nurturance) that are well aligned with the values and mission of the department the institution, and mentoring.

4. First Semester Mentoring and Cohort Group
During the first semester the program uses weekly meetings of a group of protégés with a mentor who also serves as the facilitator.

During the first group meeting, the mentor gains awareness of the varied backgrounds and academic experiences of the protégés. A collaborative assessment is used with protégés to determine their learning needs.

Protégés receive a mentor program notebook that outlines eight topics addressed in the mentoring program. Policies, forms, articles, web sites, and tips are found within each section. As each section is introduced, discussion of the group’s knowledge of the topic provides the mentor with insight into individual learning and whole group needs and proficiencies.

This and other introductory informational interactions, allow the mentor to begin preliminary planning and prioritization of pertinent topics.

5. Second Semester Mentoring
During the second semester, one-on-one meetings take place. Topics of interest are initiated by the protégé.

6. Mentor-Protege Feedback and Assessment
Mentor-protege communication through ongoing feedback and assessment is a critical component of an effective mentoring process. Through mentor-guided self-assessment, protégés identify topics for which they would like guidance. Typical needs have been effective teaching strategies, syllabi development, test construction and planning, and classroom management.

7. Mentor Observation & Coaching of the Protégé
In addition, the mentor may:

  1. confer with the protégé to plan an observation of the protege’s teaching and collect data;
  2. provide those observational data from and ask questions to prompt the protégé’s reflection on the teaching and self-assessment on the data;
  3. provide a review of a protege-prepared syllabus and course assignment, or use of educational strategies in the classroom.

8. Ongoing Orientation
Protégés receive support, guidance, and resources from the mentor as faculty role socialization occurs. Role development is fostered through review of expectations as defined in the nurse faculty job description and through examination of the NLN’s Core Competencies of Nurse Educators (15).

Boyer’s Model of Scholarship (16,17) provides the basis for faculty roles at the university, so learning and discussion of the model is essential.

9. Weekly Peer Support-Mentoring Meetings
Protégés attend weekly peer group meetings, which facilitated formation of a cohort group of new faculty for surfacing needs, socializing, and discovering that their struggles are not unique, but rather are shared by most of their peers.

10. Training New Faculty
New faculty are trained to use web-assisted course design and facilitation, because both theory and clinical nursing courses use this mode to varying degrees. Group training and then individual mentoring follow up are provided in course design, syllabi, teaching, and classroom management. Resources on active lecturing, writing educational objectives using Bloom’s Taxonomy (18), concept mapping, student behavior, and other issues are provided.

Classroom management is typically a major need as few nurse educators have pedagogical training before beginning as faculty. The topic includes class discipline, time and task management strategies, and management of classroom traffic, storage, assignment collection and return, etc. Developing routines for each of these relieves new faculty stress to a large extent.

The mentoring program provides test construction resources and help for constructing tests. A unit on testing and evaluation is presented so that protégés can become familiar with university and program guidelines for grading, progression, and dismissal. University policies on plagiarism and dishonesty are reviewed, as are strategies to prevent and detect these violations. Protégés also learn concepts of test analysis to help them improve test questions.

Training in the new faculty member’s clinical role. This area of the mentoring program is tailored to the prior experience of the individual protégé and includes:

  1. student clinical and agency policies;
  2. clinical evaluation of a patient symptoms, response to treatment, and adverse reactions to therapy;
  3. use of clinical forms and grading;
  4. clinical course evaluation.
  5. Faculty who coordinate clinical courses orient new faculty to that course.

Training new faculty members in department curriculum rests with the mentor and includes:

A. curricular philosophy of the Department of Nursing;
B. curriculum construction and frameworks;
C. program goals;
D. details of curricular components;
E. curricular processes, and theories;
F. use of program goals to derive course and clinical objectives;
G. practice in writing objectives.

New faculty are trained for their advising role which includes assisting students in:

A. course selection:
B. progression policies;
C. assistance in preparation for the licensing examination.

This complex role involves intensive individual mentoring during which protégés observe the mentor demonstrating the process. Then the mentor observes the protégé conducting an advising session and advises the protégé based on the observation.

The Research Study
Essentially, this is an evaluation of the Program  During school year 2004-2005, five new faculty members were in the mentoring program; four were in the program in 2005-2006. The protégés and the mentors were surveyed to determine their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the development program, including the mentoring;

The Findings
1. Retention – Since starting formal mentoring, 15 new faculty members have participated, and 12 continue to teach in the department.

2. Strengths of the program included:

  1. explanation of the faculty role;
  2. introduction to varied resources;
  3. personalized attention;
  4. opportunities for discussion
  5. quick socialization to the position and organization;
  6. a consistent identified person to access for questions and concerns;
  7. provided individual support and assistance;
  8. it helped them develop a positive attitude toward teaching
  9. it gave them a vehicle through which they felt safe and able to express frustration, fears, and uncertainties.
  10. the weekly peer group meetings facilitated formation of a cohort group of new faculty for surfacing needs, socializing, and finding relief from insecurities and concerns about their own competence.
  11. it help them to quickly move from a survival mode to feeling that they were thriving.

1. Overall, protégés reported that recognition of the challenges of transition to the faculty role was demonstrated by the Department of Nursing, and especially by the formal mentoring program, both of which exemplified the overall caring environment of the whole institution.

2. Although their time for outside of classroom work was limited, protégés found value in participating in all program elements and expressed appreciation that their needs were uniquely addressed by each element.

3. Personalized attention, encouragement, guidance, and support resulted in new faculty in the program and mentors’ development of a more positive attitude toward teaching.

4. Continuation of this program and formal recognition of mentoring as part of a faculty member’s teaching load demonstrate the Department of Nursing’s commitment to mentoring.

5. The comprehensive. integrated approach of this professional development and mentoring system creates synergy and increased impact on protégés across their entire new faculty experience. This happens because protégé development is seen as a continuum of growth in which each part of their experience must prepare them for the next element, and each is built on the work of any previous element.


FOUR major program recommendations were made by protégés:

1. extend the mentoring program beyond one year;
2. decrease the ratio of protégés to mentors to allow more individualized assistance.
3. Make mentoring less intensive in the proposed second year.
4. Assign the same mentors during the second proposed year.

Discussion of the Recommendations

#1 & 2 – Protégés felt adding a second year to the program would:

A. better reinforce and support improvement of teaching;
B. clarify tenure and promotion options and requirements.

#2 – The rationale for decreasing the mentor / protégé ratio was creating more options for the weekly meetings, which protégés felt would make it easy to make the time available for attendance at these meetings.

#4 – Protégés thought this would create continuity across the two years.


1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2005). Nursing shortage fact sheet. Online at www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/FactSheets/ NursingShortage.htm.

2 . National League for Nursing. (2006). Nursing data review academic year 2004-2005. New York, N.Y.

3. Kaufman, K. (2006). Introducing the NLN/Carnegie National Survey of Nurse Educators: Compensation, workload, and teaching practice. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(3), 164-167.

4. DeYoung, S., & Bliss, J.B. (1995). Nursing faculty – An endangered species. Journal of Professional Nursing, 11(2), 84-88.

5. Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow. (2004). Nursing faculty shortage facts and factors. Online: www.nursesource.org/04FacultyShortage.

6. Morin, K.H., & Ashton, K.C. (2004). Research on faculty orientation programs: Guidelines and directions for nurse educators. Journal of Professional Nursing, 20(I), 239-250.

7.  DeYoung, S., Bliss, J., & Tracy, J. P. (2002). The nursing faculty shortage: Is there hope? Journal of Professional Nursing, 18(6), 313-319.

8. Brown, H.N. (1999). Mentoring new faculty. Nurse Educator. 24(I), 48-51.

9. Snelson, C.M., Martsdolf, D.S., Dieckman, B .C., Anaya, E. R., Cartechine, K.A., Miller, B., et al. (2002). Caring as a theoretical perspective for a nursing faculty mentoring program. Nurse Education Today, 22(8), 654-660.

10. National League for Nursing. (2006). Mentoring of nurse faculty. Online at  ww.nln.org/aboutnln/PositionStatements/index.htm.

11. Leininger,  M. (1978). Transcultural nursing: Concepts, theories, and practices. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

12. Watson, J. (1985). The philosophy and science of caring. Boulder, C o: University Press of Colorado.

13. Davidhizar, R. (1988). Mentoring in doctoral education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 13, 775-781.

14. Leinenger, M. (1991). Culture care and diversity and university: A theory of nursing. New York: NLN Press.

15. National League for Nursing, Task Group on Nurse Educator Competencies. (2005). Core competencies of the nurse educator with task statements.  Online:   wqww.nln.org / profdev/corecompletter.htm.

16. Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship  reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. San Francisco, CA.

17. Braxton, J.M., Luckey, W., & Helland, P. (2002). Institutionalizing a broader view of scholarship through Boyer’s four domains. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

18. Bloom, B. S. (1956). The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.