As previously discussed, peer mentorship can have different structures (one-to-one or group) and processes (formal or informal). Two examples of peer mentorship have been given that concentrate on the one-to-one structure, but either situation could be formal or informal depending on what the educational institution has implemented. Other examples of peer mentorship within nursing education that are more formal are group projects such as student-led seminars and assignments requiring students to give each other critical feedback. The former would generally be classified as group and the latter as one-to-one. There are also formal peer mentorship programs with defined structure, design, and faculty and institutional support for the mentor and mentee. Regardless of the structure or process, benefits and challenges exist within peer mentorship for the students, instructors, and educational institutions.
Benefits and Challenges of Peer Mentorship
Benefits and challenges within peer mentorship in nursing education exist at all three levels—student, instructor, and institution. The benefits outweigh the challenges for all levels, with the largest support being for the students, followed by the institutions and ending with the instructors.
Nursing Students. Within a peer mentorship relationship, the student takes on the role of mentor or mentee. Each role has its own benefits and challenges, resulting in the need for the student to decide whether he or she wants to take on either role and determine what he or she wants from the relationship.
Mentee. The mentee is often the novice nursing student within the first year of the program. With this, the mentee often encounters trials that can include anxiety and isolation from being in an unfamiliar environment; not knowing what to do; experiencing clinical scenarios that are foreign to them; being unsure of expectations placed on them; and learning a new identity as a student and a nurse (Chojecki et al., 2010; Christiansen & Bell, 2010; Giordana & Wedin, 2010; Hamrin et al., 2006). Peer mentorship can benefit the mentee in overcoming these challenges, as shown in Table 1. However, it is important to keep in mind that peer mentorship creates its own challenges for the mentee, also shown in Table 1.
Peer Mentorship Mentee Benefits and Challenges
By reviewing the benefits and challenges, it is easy to identify the value of peer mentorship for the mentee, but there is a need for buy-in and engagement of the mentee to want to participate and take an active role in the relationship. This can be overcome through clear articulation and education of the benefits and anticipated outcomes for the mentee and supporting the mentee, with scheduled time for mentorship, provision of effective communication skills, assistance in goal development, facilitation of mutual respect between the mentee and mentor, and provision of tuition reduction incentives (Bryant et al., 2015; Chojecki et al., 2010; Robinson & Niemer, 2010).
Mentor. The mentor is often an experienced nursing student within the program and is past his or her first year of education. The mentor has overcome the trials the new nursing student experiences and is ready to share and solidify his or her learnings and experiences. The benefits and challenges the mentor experiences from peer mentorship are shown in Table 2.
Peer Mentorship Mentor Benefits and Challenges
As with the mentee, the benefits of the peer mentorship relationship prevail over the challenges and provide value to the mentor. The challenges with time, commitment, and effort required by the mentor and potential lack of knowledge on how to mentor can affect potential buy-in. This can be overcome by providing mentorship training on coaching, empowerment, motivation, constructive feedback, and caring; instructor support through regular engagement; well-defined structural processes; scheduled time within the curriculum for meeting; encouragement of participation for individuals who want leadership and teaching experience; tuition reduction; and education to the mentors on their valuable contributions of informing and addressing gaps they have identified in clinical processes, curriculum, and literature (Bryant et al., 2015; Chojecki et al., 2010; Colvin & Ashman, 2010; Daloz, 2012; Dennison, 2010; Grossman, 2012; Robinson & Niemer, 2010).
Instructors. Instructors take on an important role in facilitating the mentee–mentor relationship. Instructors support the relationship in ensuring it is moving forward smoothly and that learning is safe and appropriate. The instructor acts as an advisor to the relationship and is the evaluator of performance assisting in removing the hierarchal power in the relationship. The benefits and challenges of peer mentorship as an educational strategy are less for the instructors than for the nursing students; however, the benefits still provide value to the instructor. The benefits and challenges are shown in Table 3.
Peer Mentorship Instructor Benefits and Challenges
Although the benefits and challenges are nearly equivalent, the instructor can find value within the peer mentorship relationship through the knowledge that he or she is providing a caring student-centered learning environment and that he or she assisted the mentor and mentee to learn and grow beyond what they could have on their own. Overcoming the identified challenges affecting the buy-in for instructors can be addressed by using more experienced instructors to facilitate mentoring relationships, providing formal education on mentoring and facilitation skills, defining clear role definitions in the mentoring relationship, and reducing and building time into teaching workloads (Bryant et al., 2015; Chojecki et al., 2010; Colvin & Ashman, 2010; Hanover Research, 2014; McKimm et al., 2007).
Educational Institutions. Nursing educational institutions struggle with system-level issues, such as limited clinical placements and patients, increased number of students, budgetary constraints, and attrition rates (Chojecki et al., 2010; Christiansen & Bell, 2010; Dennison, 2010; Robinson & Niemer, 2010). Peer mentorship assists the educational institutions with these issues as shown in Table 4. Also shown in Table 4 are the challenges encountered by educational institutions when implementing peer mentorship.
Peer Mentorship Educational Institution Benefits and Challenges
If educational institutions incorporate peer mentorship into learning environments and the curriculum, there needs to be an understanding as to the extent, time, and effort that is required, particularly in relation to formal programming. Educational institutions will find value in investing this extra time and effort by knowing that peer mentorship relationship will enhance the student learning environment, provide a student-centered approach to learning, and support success and retention for the students (Chojecki et al., 2010; Christiansen & Bell, 2010; Robinson & Niemer, 2010).
Overall, the benefits for peer mentorship as an educational strategy are highly supportive of nursing students and provide instructors and educational institutions with an opportunity to create a positive and valuable learning environment. Nursing students are able to participate and direct their own learning, interact socially through collaboration, learn and grow with and beyond each other, and be leaders and role models. All these concepts fall within the humanistic adult education philosophy and social constructivism theory, supporting a grounded teaching and learning strategy.