The benefits of a mentor-protégé relationship to student success have gone unrecognized in nursing education. Educational experience that involves student relationships with faculty seems to have a major impact on the success of the student (Endo & Harpel, 1981). However, very few studies describe the value of this type of experience in academic settings (Jowers & Herr, 1990).
According to Astin (1990), interacting frequently with faculty during the undergraduate years has many benefits, including professional and personal development and completion of the academic program. Astin reports that students are much more likely to be satisfied with their educational experience if they have frequent interactions with faculty. Similarly, Chapman (1985) found a significant relationship between participation in mentor relationships and student personal development.
The purpose of the study presented in this article was to determine if students from disadvantaged backgrounds who engaged in frequent interactions with faculty through mentor-protégé sessions would achieve positive outcomes such as completion of and satisfaction with the nursing program.
In the fall of 1988, a mentoring program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds was implemented in an urban university located in the southeastern United States. The program consisted of five major components: (1) recruitment from within the university, (2) quarterly program meetings, (3) a summer enrichment course, (4) faculty development in the area of working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and (5) mentorprotégé sessions. The need for this program was determined after a review of graduation rates from 1982 to 1987 revealed a less than desirable figure.
The mentoring project sought to increase the retention of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In this project, "disadvantaged" was defined as: a student with an entering GPA of less than 2.5, a firstgeneration college student, and an income for a family of four of less than $14,999 per year (Federal poverty guidelines). The criteria for the program were that the student possess two out of the three traits listed in the definition. Eighteen students met the criteria and expressed interest in the mentoring program.
A descriptive, exploratory study was conducted to examine the following hypotheses:
1. Students who participate in mentoring sessions will remain in the nursing sequence until graduation.
2. Students who participate in mentoring sessions will show greater levels of satisfaction with the nursing school than those who do not participate in the mentoring sessions.
Methods and Procedures
Of the 18 students originally eligible for the program, only eight remained in the school in the fall of 1990; four were in the mentoring program and four were not. These eight students provided the subjects for this pilot study.
A 10-item Likert-type questionnaire was developed to determine level of student satisfaction. Face validity was established by having five faculty members from the school of nursing review the questionnaire prior to administration. A Cronbach coefficient alpha of .9206 for this instrument was determined through analysis of the six student questionnaires completed.
The qualitative questions were designed to elicit further information from the students about their own experiences in the school and what experiences they felt were beneficial or nonbeneficial. An attempt was made to construct nonleading questions. The researchers decided to administer these questions anonymously along with the level-of-satisfaction scale. Because both investigators had previous contact with the students, they believed that a face-to-face interview would not provide the candid information that could be gained from a written anonymous questionnaire.
One researcher visited the senior class and explained the study to the students in the class. Questionnaires were distributed to the eight students. The only markings used on the questionnaire were the letters "M" and "NM" to distinguish the mentored and nonmentored groups. Students were asked to return the questionnaires to a researcher's mailbox by the next week. When all of the questionnaires were not returned by the next week, a second request was sent.
Limitations of the Study
Due to the small sample size and the fact that only one baccalaureate nursing program was included, this study cannot be generalized to other populations. In addition, the researcher-developed tool used in the study to measure student satisfaction was a self-report instrument. Therefore, we recommend the use of the instrument with different populations to ensure the instrument's ability to produce the same results on repeated measurement occasions.
Description of subjects
All of the students were female and ranged in age from 22 to 35 years. Six of the eight students returned questionnaires. All four students who had participated in the mentoring program returned questionnaires, whereas only two of the nonmentored students participated. One of the nonmentored students chose not to respond to the open-ended questions.
Analysis of Hypotheses
To test the first hypothesis, that students who participated in the mentoring sessions would remain in the nursing sequence until graduation, record-keeping data regarding commitment to mentor-protégé sessions, GPA, and progression through the curriculum were kept quarterly on each subject. All students met with their mentors at least once per month during the sophomore year and at least once per quarter during the junior and senior years. Faculty mentors discussed various topics with protégés, including academic performance (GEA), personal problems, and career development. All four students remained in the mentoring program and graduated in the spring of 1991. The mean GPA for this group upon graduation was 3.25.
To test the second hypothesis that measured the level of satisfaction with the nursing program, both quantitative and qualitative approaches were used. Results of a t test revealed no significant difference between the mentored and nonmentored students. However, when examining each question separately, responses to some of the questions yielded interesting results. For example, the mean score on the questions concerning value of information provided by the advisement office and class size relative to type of course were higher for the mentored group than the nonmentored group. The same pattern was true with the question concerning out-of-class availability of instructors. Even though the question about advisement was strictly about the advisement office, the researchers believe that mentored students may have received advisement (advice) information from their mentors and thus were happier with the help they received from the advisement office.
Overall, these findings suggest that mentored students seem to have higher expectations of faculty than their nonmentored peers. However, the questions concerning attitude of the teaching staff toward students, quality of instruction in nursing, and challenge offered by the nursing program had lower mean scores for the mentored than the nonmentored group. The investigators believe that mentored students were unhappier with the overall teaching staff possibly because they expected that the relationship with all of their teachers should have been like the one they experienced with their mentors. While these questions were not originally proposed as research questions, further research is indicated in replicating this study to validate these findings.
To analyze the qualitative section, openended questions were reviewed to detect any patterns of similarity. The results of the open-ended questions revealed information about the experiences that affected the subjects' careers as nursing students and what experiences they would or would not recommend for all students. The dominant theme that emerged related to students' feelings about their clinical experiences within the hospital setting. Comments from participants included: "I could leam more from the teacher who had valuable clinical experience"; "It would be nice if we had a lab on how to work various machines in hospitals"; and "Through my clinical experience, I have learned about which areas I would not be interested in during my career."
Another theme that surfaced was that all students should have the opportunity to have a mentor. Two of the mentored participants specifically mentioned the encouragement the mentor had given them toward professional involvement in the student nurses' association. One of the mentored students who had the lowest satisfaction score on the quantitative questionnaire spoke highly of the mentoring program in these open-ended answers. Comments such as the following were made:
My mentor was very supportive and encouraging and I truly admire and respect this woman as a nurse, a teacher, and a person. I am very grateful for the time and support that she gave.
I needed a person who was supportive of me while I was in school and who had a real understanding of what was involved in completing my education. I didn't feel that my family and friends could give me what I needed. Having a mentor was the answer. I knew that there was one person that could give me specific suggestions if I was having problems in school.
I think a faculty and senior-student mentor should be available for every sophomore student. The student probably shouldn't be required to participate in the program but should have the option of being involved. The faculty mentor can provide continuity for the student perhaps by meeting at least quarterly to review progress, determine any special learning needs, and provide encouragement for future efforts. Senior students can give information on particular courses and share any special learning tips that have worked for them.
Findings from this study revealed that students who did not participate in the mentoring sessions were equally as satisfied with the nursing program as those who participated in the mentoring sessions. Moreover, students who participated in the mentoring program completed all educational requirements. In fact, mentored students cited many benefits from the mentor relationship. These findings are similar to Chapman (1985) who concluded that participation in mentor relationships can enhance the student's personal development.
The investigators suggest replication of this study using the interview technique. Interviews will perhaps reveal more information than was gathered through the open-ended questions requiring a written response by the subjects in this study. A qualitative study using a phenomenological approach to describe the lived experience of the mentored students may also prove to be beneficial. We also recognize that there are other intervening variables, besides a mentored or nonmentored status, to be examined regarding satisfaction and continuation in a nursing program.
- Astin, A.W. (1990). Educational assessment and educational equity. American Journal of Education, 98, 458-478.
- Chapman, R.D. (1985). Student-faculty mentor relationships in an undergraduate college: An exploratory study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Available from UMI Dissertation Information Service, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48 106.
- Endo, J.J., & Harpel, R.L. (1981). The effect of student-faculty interaction on students education outcomes. Paper presented at the Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 205 086)
- Jowers, L.T., & Herr, K. (1990). A review of the literature on mentor-protégé relationships. In G.M. Clayton & RA. Baj (Eds.), Review of research in nursing education (pp. 49-57). New York: National League for Nursing.