The Value of Formal Mentoring in Healthcare
Formal mentoring programs in healthcare systems have been linked to increased employee retention, engagement and satisfaction. It is known to attract new talent.
In healthcare, mentoring matters. It helps professionals develop needed skills and confidence, encourages career advancement, promotes ongoing learning and relationship building and provides multidisciplinary collaboration, engagement and more.
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“Mentoring is important because there is so much to learn from each generation,” says Alexis Beal, RN. “With mentoring, it’s not a teacher and a student. It’s a double line of open communication that is based on a relationship.”
Beal, who has been a registered nurse for nearly five years, participates in Cleveland Clinic’s Mentoring Resource Center, which launched in July 2021, and is the health system’s first formal global employee mentoring program. She has had two mentors in the program — her current being Executive Chief Nursing Officer (ECNO) Meredith Foxx, MSN, MBA, APRN, NEA-BC.
By participating in the formal mentoring program, Beal has made inspiring connections with other professionals, benefited from numerous job shadowing experiences, and opted to advance her education and become a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
“My mentor took all my past experiences and my passions and told me I would make a great CNS. At the time, I didn’t even know what a CNS was,” Beal says. “She set me up to shadow a CNS and a nurse practitioner so I could see the difference between the positions. I had a phone conversation with another CNS who then suggested I shadow three more.”
From there, Beal says, she was accepted into Cleveland Clinic’s MAGNUS Experience, in which clinical nurses participate in thought-provoking discussions about leadership potential. And this fall she will be going back to nursing school to become a CNS.
These types of opportunities are exactly what Mentoring Resource Center creators hoped the program would deliver. And not just for new healthcare professionals, but for everyone, no matter where they are in their career.
Nurse Manager Tonya Moyse, RN, used the Mentoring Resource Center to help empower her professional development and gain insight and knowledge about Cleveland Clinic career paths.
“Being in my professional field for more than 23 years, I was initially apprehensive about what value or benefit I would gain,” Moyse said. “To my surprise, I found being a mentee to be incredibly helpful.”
Ja’Net Colbert, Program Manager for Cleveland Clinic’s Mandel Global Learning and Leadership Institute, says the primary goal of the Mentoring Resource Center is to invest in caregivers by offering connections that help them learn and grow.
The Mentoring Resource Center currently has 252 mentees and 198 mentors, and represents every Cleveland Clinic location locally, regionally and internationally.
The program is set up like an online dating site, according to Colbert, who highly recommends this approach to healthcare organizations.
“We wanted it to be different than a traditional mentor matching program,” Colbert says.
Mentees view a mentor directory, which contains mentor profiles: a picture, biographical information, skills and expertise and more.
“When I was reading my mentor’s bio, I knew right away that I wanted to connect with her,” Beal said. “Her information stated that every ‘yes’ she had taken in her career had led her to the next step in her journey. I appreciated that and could relate to her spirit of saying yes to any opportunity that came her way — whether big or small. I had no idea what would transpire, but before I knew it, I was having coffee with the ECNO.”
Mentees can select one or more mentors based on who they think may be a good fit for them. The directory offers filters to aid mentees with mentor selection.
“Research shows the primary reason why mentoring programs fail is because the mentor/mentee relationship isn’t a good fit, so we wanted to give mentees a lot of flexibility and empowerment to select a mentor who they felt they could connect with, whether that’s someone who looks like them or works in a specific institute or specializes in a certain skill set,” Colbert says.
Mentors also have flexibility, with the option to turn their availability on or off at any time. Additionally, how mentors and mentees choose to develop their relationship is flexible. The only commitment is a one-time, 45-minute session that can be done virtually or in-person. After that, the relationship becomes what the participants make it.
Mentors and mentees are provided guides, checklists, best practices and other helpful resources that describe the program and how to make the most of it.
With formal mentoring programs, it’s important to measure success. For healthcare organizations, formal mentoring programs have been linked to increased employee retention, engagement, and satisfaction. It is known to attract new talent. And it is also proven to enhance the workplace experience, teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Cleveland Clinic evaluates how many mentoring hours participants log, the number of connections made, geographic locations of connections, the institutes, departments and professional fields represented, and total number of program participants. Participants receive reminder emails to log hours following mentoring meetings.
Quarterly surveys query participants about what they find most valuable from the program. Mentees provide comments about their mentor experiences.
Engagement is driven by a quarterly newsletter, a monthly prize drawing, mentor recognition events and other incentives.
“Having a mentor keeps you on your toes, helps you learn, promotes a spirit of curiosity, gives you a cheerleader and holds you accountable in reaching your goals,” Beal says. “For me, participating in a formal mentoring program improves my focus on my personal and professional goals. It allows me to grow in my career and life and helps me fulfill my purpose.”