Journal of Nursing Education

Major Article 

Enhancing the Educational Environment for Diverse Nursing Students Through Mentoring and Shared Governance

Christine L. Latham, DNSc, RN; Harsimran Singh, PhD; Karen K. Ringl, MSN, RN



A structured peer-mentoring program for diverse nursing students culminated in shared governance meetings between mentors and program coordinators to address mentees' concerns and issues.


After informed consent, mentees reviewed mentor profiles online and selected mentors. Baseline data were collected on ethnic identity, lifestyle, social support, and academic habits. Outcome data included mentors' self-reflective journal themes and student satisfaction surveys and focus group evaluation of the program.


Students reported weak scores in the areas of wellness, exercise, and stress management. Journaling revealed valuable information about challenges faced by mentees that could impair their success. Mentors' proactive suggestions to handle major mentee journal themes were shared with nursing school administrators using a shared governance approach.


The mentoring program supported students and culminated in a shared governance process to discuss ways to address mentee challenges that might improve the educational environment for future students. [J Nurs Educ. 2016;55(11):605–614.]



A structured peer-mentoring program for diverse nursing students culminated in shared governance meetings between mentors and program coordinators to address mentees' concerns and issues.


After informed consent, mentees reviewed mentor profiles online and selected mentors. Baseline data were collected on ethnic identity, lifestyle, social support, and academic habits. Outcome data included mentors' self-reflective journal themes and student satisfaction surveys and focus group evaluation of the program.


Students reported weak scores in the areas of wellness, exercise, and stress management. Journaling revealed valuable information about challenges faced by mentees that could impair their success. Mentors' proactive suggestions to handle major mentee journal themes were shared with nursing school administrators using a shared governance approach.


The mentoring program supported students and culminated in a shared governance process to discuss ways to address mentee challenges that might improve the educational environment for future students. [J Nurs Educ. 2016;55(11):605–614.]

To meet strategic national goals of increasing access to quality health care, reducing health disparities and improving health equity in all U.S. populations, schools of nursing are seeking to diversify the nursing workforce to optimize provider alignment with challenged communities by enrolling students from these settings (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014). As nursing programs accept students from these communities, there needs to be more attention to increasing support for the success of these students who are educationally disadvantaged or ethnically or racially underrepresented (Gilchrist & Rector, 2013; Rodger & Tremblay, 2003). Educationally disadvantaged students may be first-generation students or students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those experiencing frequent moves during primary or secondary education or graduating from high schools with low achievement scores. Other factors that may create academic or socialization challenges for college students include inadequate high school preparation, English as a second language, unmet financial needs, and disabled status (Zuzelo, 2005). Commonly encountered college stressors can create high levels of anxiety in students, which can interfere with their ability to meet academic expectations (Rodger & Tremblay, 2003). These vulnerable students often report self-esteem issues and are less likely to seek help (Karabenick & Knapp, 1991).

As nursing programs increase enrollment of students who represent diverse ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds to reflect changing patient care demographics, peer support from other students can be used to address student anxiety, feelings of not belonging, and self-impressions of not being able to meet academic demands. Peer mentoring for university students is increasingly being accepted as an effective strategy to reduce stress, improve support networks, augment professional socialization, promote student use of campus resources, and enhance academic engagement, including improved study strategies and problem solving to maximize student success in university degree programs (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004; McKinley, 2004). Dennison (2010) discussed the benefits of peer mentoring for nursing students as affording them opportunities for improved networking between students at different program levels who would not normally interact. This enhances students' ability to seek resources to solve problems, answer questions, and acquire skills for lifelong learning. In addition, research conducted by Giordana and Wedin (2010) highlighted the value of having a mentor during the new and unfamiliar experiences that are included in nursing preparation programs. Peer mentoring that targets first-year students assists them to develop problem-solving skills to cope with academic challenges and perceptions of self-efficacy that can be especially beneficial to first-generation college student mentees, who may find navigating resources for coursework and campus life to be more challenging (Dapremont, 2013; Latham & Ahern, 2013; Rodger & Trembley, 2003). The purpose of this article is to share the structure, baseline data, and outcomes of a 2-year university peer mentoring and shared governance program that was modeled after two previously successful hospital RN programs.

Program Goals

The goals of this program were to provide a structured peer mentoring program to augment student success, develop student mentor skills in leadership, teamwork, and shared governance, and address the identified needs of diverse Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students who require support and assistance.

Structure of the Program

Mentor–Mentee Recruitment, Selection, and Matching Process

A faculty peer-mentoring coordinator (PMC) initiated the program in a university BSN school of nursing. The PMC recruited nursing students from senior classes as mentors and freshman and sophomore students as mentees. The PMC attended new nursing student orientation and a student-run boot camp to introduce the concept of mentoring and recruit students. The PMC also attended preselected lower and upper division undergraduate nursing classes to ask for volunteer mentors and mentees. The Nursing Student Association on campus provided time in their meetings to discuss mentoring and conducted speed meetings to introduce potential mentors and mentees to each other. In addition, they appointed student liaisons from each class who brought questions or concerns to the PMC and helped with scheduling meetings to accommodate the hectic schedules of students.

To augment recruitment, a special Web-based portal was developed to house the project. The Web site provided mentoring information to interested mentors and mentees, facilitated collection of demographic and other pertinent data, and showcased the volunteer mentors' profiles to allow mentees to read about and choose their mentor. Students who agreed to participate in mentoring registered in the portal as either a mentor or a mentee and were asked to complete a university institutional review board–approved informed consent form, selected demographic information, and other baseline data. The portal was monitored to ensure that all required data were password protected and were kept confidential.

Mentee Selection of Mentors

To facilitate mentees' choice of a mentor, mentors posted a brief video on the Web site to introduce themselves and briefly discuss what they liked most about nursing. The static component of the mentors' profiles also identified contact information, hobbies and outside interests, semester in the nursing program, and career goals. This information was used by the mentees to select their mentor.

Following mentees' review of the videos and profiles of the mentors, they selected their top three mentors and e-mailed their first choice. Once contacted, the mentors indicated whether they could accept another mentee, and, if available, they set up the first mentor–mentee meeting. The next step would be an in-person meeting or the mentee would e-mail their second mentor choice. Mentees e-mailed their preferred mentor through the monitored portal that also tracked the number of mentees per mentor. Mentors were encouraged to limit the number of their mentees to one or two to ensure that all mentors could have an equal chance of being selected by a mentee. The importance of ensuring that the mentor is a good fit for the mentee has proven important in successful mentoring relationships (Latham, Hogan, & Ringl, 2008; Zachary, 2009). In this program, it was determined that the mentees would select their mentors to increase mentee confidence and engagement in the mentoring partnership, as well as to help the mentee feel more comfortable with their mentor.

Support System for Mentors and Mentees

In the authors' experiences in evaluating professional nursing and student-focused mentoring programs, the need to also provide ongoing support to the mentors was identified. Mentors need affirmation, co-mentor support, and additional information on how to handle unique issues and concerns of mentees. Education, training, and ongoing support for mentors and mentees were provided by the PMC in one-to-one and group meetings, e-mails and telephone feedback, and through the Web site. Educational materials and Web page documents included “Keys to Successful Mentoring,” “Mentor/Mentee FAQs,” and “Strategies for Successful Mentoring Relationships.” Information about the mentor and mentee roles and responsibilities, as well as the phases of mentoring, was provided through online education that included voice-over PowerPoint® presentations and video lectures that were developed by the PMC on the basis of Zachary's work (2009, 2012) and research on mentoring (Latham, Hogan, & Ringl, 2008; Latham, Ringl, & Hogan, 2011, 2013).

Mentors and mentees were encouraged to meet or communicate with each other monthly. As part of their course assignment grade, mentors were asked to reflect on their meetings with mentees in the Web site's semistructured journal format. Their confidential journals included the focus and content of their meetings with mentees, outcomes, benefits, and challenges. A content analysis of these journals was conducted by two research faculty to extract themes while ensuring confidentiality of mentors' journal content. The value of writing reflective journals has been shown to enhance critical thinking (Benner, Sutphen, Leonard, & Day, 2010). In addition, Zachary (2012) emphasized reflection to support and inspire mentors, enhance mentoring skills, and help both mentors and mentees gain insights to improve their relationship. These journals were also analyzed for mentee themes that were summarized later for the mentor–nursing coordinator meetings, as described below.

Shared Governance

This program incorporated shared governance to improve retention and enhancement of students' collegiate experience. In this context, shared governance was used as a formal mechanism to review major mentee issues. These issues were discussed at a meeting where nursing administrators and mentors considered proactive approaches to address student concerns and challenges. This approach was previously shown to create a more supportive workplace culture in health care facilities by teaching RNs how to communicate concerns to administration, consider ways to address the issues, and ultimately serve as a mechanism for continuous quality improvement of the workplace environment (Latham, Hogan, & Ringl, 2008; Latham, Ringl, & Hogan, 2011, 2013). In the case of student peer mentoring, the issues that were considered for discussion at shared governance meetings were repeated in multiple mentors' journals, indicating a pattern. From this early content analysis, themes were extracted by the mentor program director, and then a meeting was convened with mentors and administrators to review the themes, allow mentors to add context to the issues, and then discuss possible ways to address the mentee issues. The university program recruited volunteer student mentors willing to discuss journal themes with nursing school administrators and suggest possible ways to proactively address issues. In the nursing program, this type of shared governance process was found to foster leadership skills and the use of positive, proactive approaches to help students improve their school environment. Because shared governance is increasingly used in organizations that employ nurses, including it in the nursing program affords students an opportunity to gain experience in problem solving with administrators and increase skills involving accountability, organizational decision making, and peer negotiation. The shared governance process used with students had three steps:

  • Themes from the content analysis process were introduced to the mentors by the mentor program director as part of a debriefing process prior to meeting with administrators.
  • Students then shared proactive strategies to create possible solutions to the challenges of mentees that were identified in the themes. Students incorporated suggestions that included changes to school operations, course requirements, or university resources.
  • Finally, a meeting between mentors and administrators was convened and facilitated by the mentor program director, who led a discussion of mentee themes that were identified so suggestions for resolving student issues could be considered.

These types of meetings with administrators, in which students feel that they can contribute to a solution to improve the educational environment, have been described as shared governance. Such forums create open lines of communication and allow administrators and students to test assumptions, understand others' perspectives, share information, and develop understanding and trust. Student perspective sharing has been shown to benefit underrepresented students who may not believe that they have a voice (Luescher-Mamashela, 2013; Tingson-Gatuz, 2008). Other positive outcomes include improving student engagement; being open to student perceptions and potential student outcomes as a whole, in the form of better quality of decisions; and co-creating an engaging, user-friendly campus environment (Luescher-Mamashela, 2013; Olson, 2009).

Recognition and Rewards

At the conclusion of each academic year, recognition ceremonies were held to celebrate the successes of the mentoring program and a specially designed mentoring pin and certificate were given to each mentor. Additionally, letters of reference were frequently requested by graduating seniors so they could highlight their mentoring capabilities to potential hiring agencies.

Data Collection Procedures and Measures

A triangulated data approach was used to gather both quantitative and qualitative baseline data to better understand the mentor and mentee and to sample groups and the context of their interpersonal interactions for each year of the program. Students were not required to participate for more than a semester and the majority of mentors graduated following their 1 to 2 years of mentoring experience. Baseline data were collected at the beginning of the program for each group of mentors and mentees. Statistical analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS® for Windows Version 21 software. Descriptive results are presented as the number and mean and standard deviation (SD) unless otherwise indicated. Due to low numbers in both groups, a Mann-Whitney U test was used to check for any significant differences between the mentor and mentee groups in each year of the program. The evaluation process controlled bias by working with an outside evaluation team to conduct focus groups to track mentee issues and outcomes, as well as mentee perceptions of the effectiveness of peer mentorship. This program evaluation team was responsible for student satisfaction surveys and the conduct and analysis of focus group findings.

The baseline data for mentors and mentees were collected online and included demographics such as financial need, description of students' prior education and parents' education to determine first generation to college, and possible other education and financial challenges. Four questionnaires about students' ethnic identity, lifestyle, perceptions of support, and student academic success indicators were administered and are described below.

Students completed the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) that measures ethnic identity search (five items) and affirmation (seven items; Phinney, 1992). The ethnic identity search subscale evaluates a person's efforts to be involved in activities and practices associated with their ethnic group and to increase their understanding of the group, including its history and traditions. The affirmation subscale assesses one's feelings of connection and pride in membership. MEIM items used a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree), and the MEIM subscales were scored using a summative mean for ethnic identity search and affirmation. Validity was determined by factor analyses with internal consistency reliability scores above .80 for a variety of ethnic groups (Phinney, 1992).

The Lifestyle Profile (LP) completed by the students has been shown to be valid and reliable with a variety of ethnic and racial groups, including studies involving adults residing in Mexico and U.S. Mexican Americans (Latham & Calvillo, 2009, 2013). The LP has 48 items and six subscales that measure stress management, self-actualization, health responsibility, exercise, nutrition, and interpersonal support. These subscales use summated scores based on a 4-point response format, ranging from 1 (never) to 4 (routinely). Content validity of the LP was originally established with both English-speaking groups and later used with Spanish-speaking immigrants (Walker, Sechrist, & Pender, 1987). In more recent studies, high Cronbach alpha reliability estimates ranged from .96 to .97 in both U.S. and Mexican samples (Latham & Calvillo, 2013).

Students' perception of support focused on that received from their family and friends. Students completed the Perceived Social Support (PSS), a 40-item tool that uses the responses yes, no, and I don't know. The PSS score includes positive support answers that measure perceptions of support from Family (20 items) and Friends (20 items). Discriminant and convergent validity of the PSS has been established previously (Procidiano & Heller, 1983), and subsequent studies showed excellent reliability for the measure with Mexican American and Mexican adults (Latham & Calvillo, 2009, 2013).

School-related success was assessed using the nationally normed School Success Factors Index (SSFI; Ombudsmun Press, 2013). It is an 80-item test measuring academic aptitude or college success. The SSFI profiles students' fundamental preparation to be successful in school and pinpoints areas that need improvement across 8 subscales (10 items each), including responsibility and control, competition, task precision, expectations, wellness, time management, school, and family involvement. The instrument is reliable (Cronbach's alpha = .90), and student success measured in this instrument has a moderate to high predictive validity with grade point average (r = .35 to .50) in a diverse sample of 65,000 students throughout the country.

Student Satisfaction

Apart from the questionnaires, additional survey data were collected by the outside contracted program evaluation team from mentors and mentees to seek additional input from students about the mentoring program. These online surveys used Likert scale questions about students' perceptions of various components of the mentoring program, interactions with their mentor or mentee, and feedback on the peer mentor Web site. Written student self-reflections of their mentoring experience were collected and analyzed for major themes.

Mentors' Journals

Mentors were asked to reflect on the meetings with each mentee and complete a written online journal shortly following these meetings. To capture the intent of the mentor–mentee meeting, the journaling component of the Web site included six categories for mentors to choose from for each journal entry. These journaling categories included the purpose of each mentee meeting, and the journal category was chosen by the mentor: setting up the relationship, psychological support, providing information, encouragement or coaching, assisting with goal setting, or highlighting mentee achievements.

Journaling gave mentors an opportunity to reflect on their meetings to describe some of the challenges encountered by and opportunities afforded to mentees and to plan future meetings with mentees. To capture these rich data, the mentoring program director coordinated an evaluation of all student mentor journals for themes each semester. As discussed earlier, this process was initiated with a content analysis that was independently conducted by two faculty, who then compared emergent themes and used the data in shared governance meetings.

Mentee Student Focus Groups

Focus groups were conducted with mentee students to assess their satisfaction with the program. The focus groups were conducted at the end of the semester by an external program evaluation team from the College of Education. The program evaluators held focus groups of up to 10 students per group, and a note taker and facilitator were assigned to each group. Students were invited to share how they chose their mentors, how useful they found their mentoring interactions, challenges or issues in communication, if any, and suggestions for improving the program.


The majority of mentors and mentees (>50%) were educationally or financially disadvantaged (or both) and single (i.e., never married), with most between the ages of 22 and 25 years (Table 1). The majority of students in both project years were non-Caucasian, identifying themselves as having an Asian or a Hispanic heritage. Table 1 also presents a summary of other demographic results for both mentors and mentees in years one and two. In the first year of the program, 19 mentors and 15 mentees consented to participate, whereas year two included 20 consenting mentors and 35 mentees. Other results of baseline questionnaires are depicted in Table 2.

Demographic Information for Participants

Table 1:

Demographic Information for Participants

Summary of Results for Participants in the Mentoring Project

Table 2:

Summary of Results for Participants in the Mentoring Project

Perceptions of Support

Both mentors and mentees completed the PSS measures to assess their perceptions of support from family and friends. Mentors and mentees were not significantly different in reporting greater perceived support from their friends than their families in both years of the mentoring program.

Ethnic Identity

Both mentors and mentees scored higher on the affirmation subscale of the MEIM, compared with the identity search subscale, in both years one and two. Therefore, students indicated a strong sense of pride and connection with their ethnic group even though they did not report high involvement in activities or traditions related to their ethnic group.

Lifestyle Profile

This measure assesses the extent to which individuals engage in a health promoting lifestyle. Mean scores for health responsibility, exercise, and stress management were lower in both mentors and mentees for years one and two, compared with other lifestyle aspects evaluated by this measure. Students in year two reported relatively poorer nutrition scores, compared with the cohort in year one. In terms of significant differences between mentors and mentees, in year one the mentors reported better scores on interpersonal support (U = 24, p < .05) and stress management (U = 25, p < .05), compared with their mentee counterparts. In year two, the mentors seemed to indicate stronger health responsibility, compared with their mentees (U = 173.5, p < .05).

School Success Factors

This measure assesses students' preparation for success in an academic institution and evaluates them against the national norm. In year one, both mentors and mentees scored the highest on task precision and the lowest on wellness. Task precision evaluates strong task orientation and a desire to complete a task, such as assignments, in a thorough and systematic manner. The cohort reflected the motivation and determination necessary for challenging academic pursuits. These students reported relatively low scores on wellness, and this was also indicated in their lifestyle profile discussed above. In year two, similar to the previous cohort, students scored lowest on wellness. Both mentors and mentees again scored high on task precision; however, family involvement received the highest scores from mentors. This reflects family encouragement for studying and academic progress and participation in planning and decision making for student success. There is other qualitative data from mentor and mentee satisfaction surveys, mentee focus groups, and mentor journals about their mentees that provides additional context to the above findings.

Mentor and Mentee Satisfaction Survey and Reflection Results

Overall, the mentors indicated high satisfaction with the mentoring program and found information presented on the Web site to be useful in their mentoring interactions. Furthermore, student journal reports suggested that the mentorship training also had helped the mentors master and balance the demands of their personal life and academic requirements. For example, a mentor indicated that this experience inspired her to invest more time and effort in her studies. Some mentors reported difficulty recruiting mentees in the first year, and this was attenuated in the second year by allowing mentors to attend lower division coursework early in the semester to discuss the mentoring program. Mentors reported spending an average of 10 to 15 hours per semester learning about how to mentor effectively from the Web site and mentor support meetings, and generally spent 1 to 2 hours per week communicating with mentees. All mentors were self-selected and volunteered to be a peer mentor, and none of the mentors abandoned this commitment. Many mentors were seniors and graduated following their 1 to 2 years of mentoring experience. Many of the graduating mentors planned to make arrangements to continue the relationship with mentees as alumni.

Survey results for mentees indicated that they too responded favorably to all aspects of the mentoring experience, with the majority of mentees indicating that the relationship with their mentor was either very good or excellent. Likewise, written mentee self-reflections outlined student impressions of how mentoring affected them. Retention and progress to program completion are important parameters for all students, and mentoring assistance helps them to overcome self-perceived challenges to academic success. The reasons for seeking mentoring assistance often capture other factors beyond academic performance that could deter student progress if left unchecked. Mentoring interventions for volunteer mentees address issues such as the need for psychosocial support, guidance in using campus resources, providing information about extracurricular engagement, life skills (e.g., stress reduction and staying healthy), and academic motivation (e.g., avoiding procrastination and keeping a schedule). Mentee self-reflections were analyzed and themes were extracted to validate mentee outcomes. According to mentee self-reflections, there were definite reasons for wanting to be mentored based on a deficit perceived by the mentee. As one mentee shared, “I was looking for someone who was very social with other people; someone who could help me come out of my comfort zone.” Many mentees sought mentors who may help them to meet their needs to augment personal growth. Another mentee stated, “The factor that was most influential in choosing a mentor was experience. I chose a mentor who I felt had a significant amount of experience in the nursing program, and this helped me to know what to expect.” Mentees perceived that experience mentors would help them to anticipate what was ahead form them in the program, and this was valued. Mentees sought mentors they perceived as social and articulate and believed the partnership with mentors would benefit their experience in the program.

The mentee outcome themes included appreciation for psychological support, assistance with self-development, study support strategies, and helpful empathy with mentees' personal and college-related issues. The majority of mentees described their mentor as a substantial support system and explained the mentor's impact on mentee development as a nursing student. One mentee stated:

My mentor's insight has helped me see the big picture during moments when I felt engulfed by stress and school responsibilities. My mentor has listened to my frustrations, shown genuine empathy, and provided advice that has helped me to not only continue working hard but also succeed.

This level of empathy and advice offered by mentors assisted mentees to release or minimize anxiety, stress, and tension. Mentoring allowed the creation of a platform for mentees to express doubts and insecurities in a nonthreatening environment. Another student mentee stated:

I was grateful to have someone to talk to. At the beginning of the semester, I hadn't made any friends yet, so she [mentor] was the only one I told about my fears, doubts, stresses, and grades.

Collectively, the emotional and psychological support received by mentees seemed to positively influence their performance as nursing students and helped them to succeed.

Other areas of mentee growth based on self-reflections included development of self-confidence, time management, and communication skills. Mentee self-reflections included statements about feeling more capable of making it in the program due to reassurance and bolstering of self-esteem. Mentees indicated that the mentors shared strategies about time management, keeping calendars, and sticking to agendas related to studying and writing papers. One self-reflection summarizes better time management: “Thanks to my mentor and my nursing friends, I have learned to manage my time well and enjoy nursing school without shutting myself out.” Evident in most self-reflections, mentees found their own pace of completing academic work and balancing their personal lives through the guidance of their mentors.

Mentee Focus Group Findings

Mentees indicated that they had positive relationships with their mentors, who had been a valuable source of information by helping them manage their uncertainties and expectations about the nursing program. Mentees reported feeling supported and encouraged, and they appreciated having someone who “had their back.”

Journal Findings

Following content analysis, mentee themes in mentor journals over the 2 years included psychosocial issues, benefits of mentoring support, health needs, strategies to improve academic success, career information, and support for diversity. Mentors' journals reflected increased confidence in their new role. Mentors also included mentee outcomes about how they were able to help increase mentee self-efficacy and employment of new strategies that improved their academic outcomes. Mentors shared that technology (e.g., texting, using Skype) was used when in-person meetings were not possible.

Mentor Self-Reflections

Written mentor self-reflections were also reviewed, and mentors reported developing more skills in communication, listening, and eliciting the trust of others. Examples of self-reflections include mentor reports of learning how to build rapport with their mentees through connections about their backgrounds, research interests, and passion for nursing. As stated in one self-reflection:

I believe what I did well was listening to what my mentees were saying, really listening to them. The act of really listening has been a trait I have been able to become good at. Before nursing school, I was not that great a listener. After catching myself not listening, I focused my attention to really listen to what the other person is telling me.

Another mentor captured the optimistic outlook that resulted from helping others, which is a theme that was prevalent in most mentor reflections: “I felt so optimistic after meeting both mentees that I returned home with a smile on my face.” Finally, the majority of mentor self-reflections included their thoughts about how participating in a program with mentor support improved their knowledge of mentoring and heightened their self-confidence. For example, using another mentor as a source of support, one student stated, “I learned that the other mentors had the same struggles I had as a mentor. With their help I was able to understand more about the mentoring program.” Many mentors began working together and formed collaborative efforts. Mentors discussed learning about team building and being supportive to others who are attempting a new role as a mentor. Mentors also shared how the mentoring program helped them to develop mentoring skills, and their future ability to either seek out a mentor or serve as a mentor during their professional nursing career.

Themes from mentees that were shared in the shared governance meetings with administrators ranged from feeling anxious and uncertain about nursing course work to needing advice for time and stress management, as well as ways to improve overall health and wellness. As part of shared governance, students suggested proactive approaches to improve the school of nursing operations and overall student school environment. The student suggestions included a mechanism to improve the overall culture of support by initiating a new “Most Valued Person for Support” that would recognize student support of their peers. Students suggested that deadlines for assignments be from 10:00 pm to midnight the day before the class meeting to discourage students from procrastinating and losing sleep by staying up the entire night and coming unprepared and sleepy to their morning classes. A variety of ways that students might improve their health using campus resources also were suggested.

In the shared governance process, mentors also developed leadership skills in using proactive problem solving, communication with people in authority, and follow-thorough to implement mentee-suggested changes. One example of leadership to achieve a more supportive culture in the nursing program occurred when three mentors helped to develop a more interactive, culturally appropriate orientation for incoming nursing students. The mentors developed and shared a peer mentor panel and a video of testimonials from mentors and mentees about the benefits of participating in mentoring with incoming students.


The benefits of mentoring programs in learning communities are well established. This article discussed a structured peer mentoring program that was initiated to assist in the adjustment of nursing students to the rigorous curriculum and to enhance their college adjustment and personal development. A unique aspect of this study was to empower students to learn about problem resolution by using a proactive shared governance approach to address mentee themes. In their meetings with administrators, student mentors helped to improve perceptions of the educational environment and create a more user-friendly culture by discussing major journal themes about mentee experiences and perceptions. Both mentors and mentees contributed to a more inclusive, supportive culture and nursing program experience.

Of the measured psychosocial outcomes, social support was found to be important to college students, with both mentors and mentees reporting greater perceived support from their friends than their families. This is not surprising, given that college students, especially minority students, may experience unique and specific challenges as part of their college life, which may be better assessed and met with help from their friends compared with their families (Rodriguez, Mira, Myers, Morris, & Cardoza, 2003). Support from family has been shown to be critical in helping students appreciate the importance of going to college and making their college choices, as well as setting priorities while in school. However, first-generation students usually come from families with less than adequate knowledge of college requirements and they often lack parents' support. This often becomes a source of anxiety for these students, as parents are unable to guide their children effectively about how best to navigate the demands and stresses related to higher education (Boehmer, 2014).

Ethnic identity and family traditions may be challenged as students are exposed to other cultures. The ethnic identity measure used in the current study suggested that both mentors and mentees were more likely to report a stronger sense of pride in their ethnic group (i.e., affirmation), in comparison to adapting and being involved in activities or traditions of their specific group. Studies in this area involving minority youth have shown that individuals with a high sense of ethnic identity and pride also report high levels of confidence in their abilities to use pathways to achieve their goals, having the motivational aspect of hope (Yager-Elorriaga, Berenson, & McWhirter, 2014).

The health construct, measured by the LP, indicated that students were struggling in the areas of health, nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Although slightly better scores were observed for the mentors compared with the mentees in a few aspects of a healthy lifestyle, it is hard to overlook the generally less than ideal scores overall in this student population. However, these results are not alarming in light of the increasing literature showing the rising prevalence of poor dietary choices, weight gain, increased stress, and poor sleep patterns in children transitioning from adolescence into adulthood while attending college (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997; Macht, Haupt, & Ellgring, 2005; Mokdad et al., 2001). This situation is especially problematic for Hispanic students due to a combination of genetic, cultural, and environmental factors (Quinn & McNabb, 1999; Despues & Friedman, 2007; National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2002).

The ability to address academic challenges was measured by the SSFI. The SSFI confirmed health-related findings from the lifestyle profile that the lowest scores for both mentors and mentees were in the area of wellness for both years of this study. These results highlight the urgent need to educate and support these students to incorporate healthy eating and exercising habits into their daily lifestyle. This academic inventory of how they address school, homework, and interaction with classmates provided additional validation of the link between academic success and health.

Qualitative feedback received from the students indicated high satisfaction with the mentoring program. Students were able to build strong and effective relationships that enabled both mentors and mentees to challenge themselves and aim higher both academically and in other aspects of life. Mentoring also helps students locate additional supportive services. Finally, the journals provided rich data on student perceptions about opportunities for creating a more supportive educational environment.

Our past work in developing mentoring programs for RNs in acute care settings and the current study of nursing students highlights the need to support mentors to enable them to participate effectively and acquire new skills in communication, sensitivity, and proactive problem solving. If mentors are unable to share their doubts and discuss their action plans (whenever needed) with an experienced facilitator, they may run the risk of dropping out or, in other cases, may lack confidence and support to engage in an effective conversation targeting change to assist the mentee. Journaling was an important tool for mentors, as writing about mentee interactions allowed mentors to reflect on their experiences and communication with mentees and appreciate what went well and what could be discussed during the next mentee meeting. Journals also provided concise information on mentee needs that helped mentors plan their next interaction.

The shared governance approach between mentors and school of nursing administrators outlined in this article provided an opportunity for volunteer mentor students to discuss themes of the mentees' perspectives and to share possible strategies to address mentee challenges with school administrators. It also provided an opportunity for mentors to learn proactive problem-solving skills and communicating with administrators. Survey data regarding stress, nonoptimal lifestyle choices, and poor academic habits were reflected in the journal themes. By sharing the journal themes, students were able to identify ways to assist mentees to seek help and develop a higher level of self-efficacy as they began to become more independent and involved with professional socialization. In addition, journal themes focused students and faculty on how to improve the supportive culture. Two shared governance outcomes led to the Student Support Award, and faculty were given suggestions on how to handle student procrastination.

Many lessons were learned from the incorporation of peer mentoring into an ongoing nursing program. Some of the mentors indicated that instead of regular face-to-face meetings, many of them also texted and used Skype to obviate the burden of trying to arrange meetings. Journals were semistructured, and the mentors found that it was beneficial to write a journal about the mentee meeting. Because the mentors chose the mentoring assignment within their course, the incentive was not only obtaining a course grade, but also the possibility of personal growth, improved listening and communication skills, and helping others.

One of the drawbacks to the program included the time it took to recruit mentees. Students developed recruitment plans that included visiting early nursing classes to share information about the program and ways that students could find a mentor using the online profiles. We found that if mentoring content and assignments were incorporated into both early courses (for mentees) and later courses (for mentors) within the program, it formalized procedures to address mentee recruitment in early coursework and also allowed more support for mentors to address roadblocks or challenges in establishing first meetings with mentees.

In summary, this article describes new educational model of using both instruction of peer mentoring and creating student–administrator alliances using shared governance to address student mentee concerns and perceptions. The needs of diverse BSN students were thus supported by peers and addressed by program coordinators through structured mentoring and shared governance that resulted in suggestions on ways to improve student misperceptions and resolve mentee challenges. The program initiated the skill foundation for future mentor participation in leadership, teamwork, and shared governance to help create proactive problem resolution that students can use as they embark on professional nursing careers and participate in reforming ways that nursing respond to resolving ways in which nurses can best address conflicts inherent in health disparities and health care inequity for those who are most vulnerable. By introducing and allowing participation to improve the environment and positive culture of their student environment, students learned important skill sets that could help them to cope with transitioning to employment following graduation. The leadership, communication, and proactive problem resolution skills learned by mentors and mentees are an important aspect of professional nursing education and ongoing life learning.


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Demographic Information for Participants

VariableYear 1Year 2

No. of MentorsNo. of MenteesNo. of MentorsNo. of Mentees
Female gender13 (68.4%)13 (86.7%)14 (70%)32 (91.4%)
Age range18 to 21 years, n = 1; 22 to 25 years, n = 15; 26 to 30 years, n = 2; 36 to 40 years, n = 118 to 21 years, n = 6; 22 to 25 years, n = 8; 26 to 30 years, n = 118 to 21 years, n = 1; 22 to 25 years, n = 10; 26 to 30 years, n = 7; 36 to 40 years, n = 1; 45 to 50 years, n = 118 to 21 years, n = 15; 22 to 25 years, n = 9; 26 to 30 years, n = 5; 31 to 35 years, n = 2; 36 to 40 years, n = 2; 41 to 45 years, n = 1; 45 to 50 years, n = 1
EthnicityWhite, n = 2; Hispanic/Latino, n = 4; Chinese, n = 1; Filipino, n = 6; Korean, n = 1; Asian heritage other, n = 4; Mixed race, n = 1White, n = 2; Hispanic/ Latino, n = 3; African American, n = 1; Filipino, n = 4; Korean, n = 2; Asian Indian, n = 1; Mixed race, n = 2White, n = 5; Hispanic/ Latino, n = 5; Filipino, n = 5; Korean, n = 2; Asian heritage other, n = 3White, n = 12; Hispanic/ Latino, n = 5; African American, n = 4; Chinese, n = 1; Filipino, n = 4; Korean, n = 3; Asian heritage other, n = 5; Asian Indian, n = 1
Class standing in the baccalaureate nursing programFreshman, n = 0; Sophomore, n = 0; Junior, n = 2; Senior, n = 17Freshman, n = 0; Sophomore, n = 0; Junior, n = 6; Senior, n = 9Freshman, n = 0; Sophomore, n = 0; Junior, n = 3; Senior, n = 17Freshman, n = 4; Sophomore, n = 17; Junior, n = 13; Senior, n = 1
Educationally or financially disadvantaged11 (58%)8 (53%)15 (75%)23 (66%)

Summary of Results for Participants in the Mentoring Project

QuestionnaireaYear 1, Means (SD)Year 2, Means (SD)

Perceived Social Support
  From friends14.75 (5.8)15.30(4.3)16.38 (4.2)15.88 (4.7)
  From family10.00 (4.3)12.00 (3.6)13.17 (2.3)13.10 (2.5)
Multigroup Ethnic Identity
  Ethnic identity search3.01 (0.5)3.18 (0.3)3.03 (0.5)2.74 (0.6)
  Affirmation score, belonging, and commitment3.39 (0.5)3.29 (0.4)3.29 (0.6)3.16 (0.5)
Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile
  Self-actualization3.61 (0.4)3.31 (0.5)3.27 (0.6)3.32 (0.4)
  Health responsibility2.73 (0.6)2.28 (0.4)2.60 (0.6)***2.24 (0.4) ***
  Exercise2.52 (0.8)2.18 (0.8)2.21 (0.8)2.46 (0.6)
  Nutrition3.10 (0.8)3.10 (0.8)2.76 (0.8)2.73 (0.6)
  Interpersonal support3.67 (0.4) *3.11 (0.4) *3.30 (0.5)3.21 (0.5)
  Stress management2.95 (0.6) **2.38 (0.5) **2.73 (0.7)2.61 (0.4)
School Success Factor Index
  Responsibility and control42.73 (1.2)43.67 (1.1)42.54 (3.1)41.3 (4.9)
  Competition40.20 (1.3)41.17 (1.6)37.38 (4.5)41.33 (4.2)
  Task precision43.40 (1.1)45.50 (0.9)42.69 (3.4)42.83 (3.9)
  Expectations40.53 (1.5)40.75 (1.2)37.85 (5.2)39.3 (4.6)
  Wellness35.47 (1.7)36.0 (1.8)35.31 (5.9)36.67 (3.6)
  Time management41.40 (1.5)42.3 (1.3)40.08 (4.2)39.67 (4.6)
  School involvement40.2 (1.6)41.5 (1.4)39.62 (5.5)39.17 (6.3)
  Family involvement41.47 (1.7)41.42 (1.7)43.00 (2.3)40.33 (4.5)

Dr. Latham is Professor, and Ms. Ringl is Faculty, California State University School of Nursing, Fullerton; and Dr. Singh is Clinical Research Scientist, Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, California.

This project was supported by funds from the Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under the Advancing Health Equity and Diversity (AHEAD) Grant D19HP25909 funded for $1,050,000. This information or content and conclusions are those of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by the BHPr, HRSA, DHHS, or the U.S. Government.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Christine L. Latham, DNSc, RN, Professor, California State University School of Nursing, 800 North State College, Fullerton, CA 92834-6868; e-mail:

Received: September 24, 2015
Accepted: July 06, 2016


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