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For January’s National Mentoring Month, we celebrated the power of supportive and meaningful mentor relationships by spotlighting their benefits.
Mentoring and building relationships is the best antidote to burnout, which many nurses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building connections boosts engagement and leads to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.
For many nurses, transitioning to practice from the safety of the classroom can be challenging. They often don’t know what to expect and can feel overwhelmed by the real-world applications of nursing.
“When I was a new grad, I got a little lost in the reality of nursing,” says Acute Care Charge Nurse Jessa Sacedor, BSN, RN, CNRN. That’s why she reached out to Acute Care Nurse Melinda (Mindy) Roces, BSN, RN, when Mindy finished her residency and started practicing. Jessa, who has now worked as a nurse for seven years, became Mindy’s mentor, and the two began meeting once a month last March, talking about their experiences and the realities of acute care nursing.
Like Jessa, Mindy said she was scared just starting out. “We have these patients’ lives in our hands,” she says. “It’s a lot of responsibility for a 23-year-old just out of college. I was grateful to have Jessa there to check on me and tell me how she dealt with it when she was new.”
Now that she’s been a nurse for several years, “I want to help new grads be more confident in their critical learning skills and become independent,” Jessa says. “I also want to make sure their mental health is OK. We’ve already had a toll on our mental health from the pandemic. Anything we can do to alleviate it will help, and I believe mentorship helps a lot.”
The COVID-19 impact
Nursing is a demanding calling. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, when many healthcare facilities were overwhelmed by patient demand, and burnout skyrocketed. According to an analysis published in the journal Health Affairs, the number of registered nurses in the United States fell by more than 100,000 in 2021, the biggest decline in 40 years.
During the height of the pandemic, nurses reported challenges with stress, anxiety and fatigue.
“I thought serving as a mentor to Mindy would help,” Jessa says. “New nurses need to feel like they’re supported, now more than ever.”
Loneliness and isolation trending upward
Nursing may be particularly affected in a post-pandemic world, but loneliness and isolation were on the rise across professions — and particularly among young people — well before COVID-19 hit. A survey released in 2020 found that 69% of millennial employees and 81% of Gen Z employees reported feeling lonely, compared to just half of baby boomers.
These feelings only intensified with the abrupt appearance — and lingering persistence — of the pandemic. According to a 2022 report from Cigna, 79% of young adults reported feeling lonely — a percentage double the amount reported by older adults.
In addition to its negative impacts on people, loneliness can also affect business performance. Employees who report feeling lonely miss more than five additional workdays each year than those who say they aren’t lonely.
These lost days can take a large toll on productivity, costing employers roughly $154 billion a year.
Giving a hand up to the next generation
Making mentorship a core part of a nursing program helps new nurses feel less alone and more supported. It lets experienced nurses give a hand up to the person climbing the ladder behind them.
Nurse Manager of Clinical Education and Practice Jessica Guenser-Onstot, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CPHON, knows the benefits of mentorship firsthand.
“As a new graduate, I worked with a nurse who really helped me transition to practice,” Jessica says. “She helped me learn how to trust myself as a nurse and recover from difficult shifts. It was incredibly influential to me and helped me have a successful start to my career.”
Inspired by the mentor/mentee relationship, Jessica continued to seek out mentorship opportunities during the course of her career. “I’ve cold-called people across the country saying, ‘Hi, I’m Jessica. It looks like your career path has been similar to mine. Would you be willing to share your experiences with me?’ People are so open to helping. I’ve never had someone turn me down,” she says. “You have to be vulnerable and just reach out and say you want help.”
The benefits of mentorship
At a time when loneliness is on the rise, relationships are powerful tools. They not only provide practical, hands-on advice, but they also can bring us together, make us feel like we matter, teach us to care for others with compassion, and help us navigate to greater connections and opportunities.
Building connections also happens to be one of the best antidotes to burnout, especially post-pandemic when we need human connection more than ever. It boosts engagement and leads to higher job satisfaction and retention rates among employees. In fact, according to a survey from CNBC/SurveyMonkey, nine out of 10 workers who have a mentor say they’re happy in their jobs.
“Mentorships help your career,” Jessica says. “They help you grow faster and in different ways than you would if you didn’t ask for help and develop relationships along the way.” (Consider that 86% of CEOs surveyed in 2020 said that mentors were a crucial part of their career development.)
In addition to leading a team of nursing professionals who mentor nursing graduates as they complete their residencies, Jessica serves on the innovation committee of the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD), the national governing body for nurse educators.
Jessica’s passionate about mentorship because she knows it works. “Mentorships open doors,” she says. “I think seeing yourself in other people you aspire to and reaching out to them helps you build confidence and the skills you need to grow in your journey. I have mentees I worked with 10 years ago who are now applying to graduate school or becoming nurse practitioners and reaching out to me for recommendations. These relationships you build never end.”
Mentorship doesn’t just benefit the mentee, either. Mentors develop leadership skills, get additional experience in staff management and development, and, most importantly, take personal satisfaction from helping someone else grow. “That’s why I always want to be both a mentor and a mentee,” Jessica says.
For her part, Mindy hopes to pay it forward.
“I’m taking what I’ve learned from Jessa and giving that same advice to new residents,” she says. “Since I’m newly out of the residency program myself, I know exactly what’s it’s like to be in their position.”
Learn more and find a provider
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.