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Mentorship programs and novice nursing faculty

By: Stephanie W. Terry, PhD, RN, CNE

Caring, supportive mentors can help ease faculty shortage.


  • Mentoring is one strategy to help solve nursing faculty shortages.
  • Good mentors lie at the heart of every good mentorship program.
  • Mentors and mentees must be carefully matched to ensure that a positive relationship develops.

mentorship program novice nursing facultyAddressing the U.S. nursing shortage begins with increasing nursing school enrollment. Unfortunately, we’re also experiencing a shortage of nursing faculty. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, qualified applicants have been turned away from nursing schools because of inadequate faculty, clinical sites, and clinical preceptors, as well as budget constraints. Without nursing faculty, the education of future nurses will continue to decline, escalating the shortage.

One way to solve the faculty shortage may be mentoring, which helps to foster collegial and caring environments for novice educators to promote success and retention. To explore this idea, I conducted a study to identify characteristics important to mentorship programs. (See Mentoring study.)

Mentoring study

The mentoring study included semistructured interviews with six novice faculty from three universities to learn about their mentoring experiences. From participants’ perspectives, mentoring helped build skills, knowledge, confidence, and socialization. Their mentors helped them:

understand the various roles of an educator
stay focused
understand the university’s culture
develop relationships and bond with new and seasoned faculty around the institution
focus their teaching in the right direction
know that they weren’t alone and that someone cared about their success
acclimate to their new role as nurse educators.

Care, connect, communicate

At the heart of every good mentorship program is good mentors. A successful mentoring relationship incorporates caring, connecting, and communicating components. Study participants defined caring and supportive characteristics in a variety of ways; some defined it as someone they liked to hang out with “off the record” just to talk. Others described the reassurance they felt when a mentor closed the office door and didn’t answer phone calls when they wanted to talk or when the mentor didn’t seem bothered when they needed support.

For mentorship programs to be successful, mentors and mentees must be carefully matched to help a positive relationship develop. Most of the study participants felt that their mentor was selected carefully for them. Others expressed appreciation for mentors who volunteered, saying that it indicated interest in the success of the new faculty not just because they were needed but also because the mentors truly cared. (See Characteristics of a good mentor.)

Characteristics of a good mentor

The following mentor characteristics were described by study participants as influencing their decision to continue teaching:

  • Embodies a professional educator
  • Is approachable and respected
  • Balances multiple tasks
  • Volunteers to mentor others
  • Cares for the development of new faculty
  • Makes learning fun
  • Is caring and supportive
  • Provides encouragement and validation
  • Is highly intelligent and dedicated.

Components of a good mentorship program

Successful mentorship programs have guidelines and an evaluation process. Mentors should be chosen based on their willingness to participate in the program and their ability to provide caring support in service to mentees’ success. The program should include mentor training and guidelines for carefully matching mentors with mentees.

All mentors should schedule regular time to meet with their mentees to offer advice and guidance and review progress reports. In addition to advice about teaching, research, and scholarship, mentors should offer guidance related to work–life balance and socialization within the school of nursing. In addition, a good mentoring program thrives when the institution stays up-to-date about advances in mentoring.

Supporting novice faculty

The path to a strong nursing workforce requires robust nursing education that includes dedicated faculty. Formal mentoring programs can aid in building and retaining nursing faculty, providing the support novice faculty need to gain the confidence and skills required for educating future nurses.

Stephanie W. Terry is the program director of nursing at Bryant & Stratton College—Hampton Virginia Campus.

Selected references

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing shortage fact sheet. 2017.

Baker SL. Nurse educator orientation: Professional development that promotes retention. J Contin Educ Nurs. 2010;41(9):413-7.

Ingeno L. Nursing schools face faculty shortage. Inside Higher Ed. 2013.

Institute of Medicine. The future of nursing: Focus on education. 2011.

National League for Nursing. Position Statement: Mentoring of Nurse Faculty. 2006.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Mentoring: A boon to nurses, the nursing profession, and patients too. 2013.

Waldrop J, Chase S. Lead faculty workload model: Recognizing equity and leadership in faculty. Nurse Educ. 2014;39(2):96-101.

1 Comment.

  • Lisa Sasser Graham, RN
    October 20, 2019 11:33 am

    Awesome article, Dr. Terry. I referenced this article in one of my recent online discussion posts. I am so very proud of your work. I hope you and the family are doing well.

Comments are closed.

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