New and experienced nurses double up to broaden their horizons.
Alexandria Jones-Patten, MSN, MBA, RN, has had great mentors during her nursing career—but only one of them told her when she needed a break. That was Bonnie Fuller, PhD, MSN, CNE, who was matched with Jones-Patten through the American Nurses Association (ANA) Mentorship Program.
The purpose of this exclusive member program is to support nurses across the career life span. Registration opened in the summer of 2018 with a goal of 300 mentorship pairs, but demand was high and total registration reached 919 pairs when the program launched in late September. During the 6-month program, which ended in late March, participants received support to help create successful mentoring relationships, including a pre-program webinar and online community for mentors.
“The ANA Mentorship Program was designed and developed in direct response to what we have heard repeatedly from our members,” said Debbie Dawson Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANA Enterprise chief nursing officer and executive vice president. “Those in the early years of their nursing career wanted mentors to help them handle the daily challenges and carve out their career path. At the same time, experienced nursing leaders had a deep desire to strengthen the nursing profession by sharing their wisdom and experience with newer nurses. This program meets the needs of both those groups of ANA members.”
A dynamic duo Jones-Patten, a nurse on the telemetry unit at White Memorial
Medical Center in Los Angeles, applied for the mentorship program because she wanted
guidance to support her ambitious career goals. She is starting her doctoral studies at the University of California Irvine this fall and sought a mentor who would check her career and education progress and point out any roadblocks she might not see.
When she was working part time while in an accelerated master’s program, work-life balance was a concern for Jones-Patten. She also volunteered outside of work and school as president of the Council of Black Nurses Los Angeles and as the health committee chair for the Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals. “In every conversation Bonnie and I had, she reminded me to take more time for myself,” she said.
The pair initially communicated through email but then moved to a scheduled monthly phone call, with Jones-Patten, an ANA\California member, free to get in touch between calls for quick questions or check-ins.
Fuller, who is a professor at Purdue University Global School of Nursing and a Florida Nurses Association member, has been in nursing for 35 years. She began her career as a cardiac critical care nurse, became a certified nurse specialist, and then moved into education 20 years ago.
She said it was a match made in heaven when she was paired with Jones-Patten. “I think I have benefited as much as or more than Alexandria has” from the relationship, she said. The two both have direct personalities, as Fuller put it, and Jones-Patten’s career goals closely matched Fuller’s achievements.
“We discussed my goals and then started putting them in motion,” Jones-Patten said. “Bonnie showed me ways to start aligning my current job with the population I want to study.” Talking to someone who had achieved the degrees and career growth that she wanted for herself made applying to PhD programs much easier. “She’s been instrumental in keeping me sane throughout this process,” Jones-Patten said.
The two quickly developed a dialogue in which they felt free to discuss issues from time management to race. Jones-Patten plans to study heart failure in African Americans and will be the first African American in her PhD program. She noted that talking to Fuller gave her a different perspective that can help her address potential cultural barriers.
The online mentor-mentee relationship is a safe space to have frank or delicate conversations, according to Fuller. “Being in a whole different environment from one another allows the richness of mentoring to come out and you learn how to look at things from another person’s perspective,” Fuller said. “It’s a different way of mentoring and I’m really excited about it.”
“Nursing is hard,” Fuller added. “There’s a lot to it that you don’t learn in nursing school. Talking to someone who’s been there, done that, leads to a healthier profession, which leads to better patient care.”
ANA is preparing for the ANA Mentorship Class of 2019-2020, with improvements to the program based on feedback from last year’s participants. These will include more detailed application questions for more accurate matches, a dedicated online community and other resources especially for mentees, and a more structured program timeline that includes goal setting, milestones, and progress checks. Registration is planned to open this summer. All ANA members in good standing will receive an invitation to participate via email.