Journal of Nursing Education

Research Briefs 

Role-Reversal Mentoring: Case Study of an Active Approach to Faculty Growth

Britt Cole, MSN, RN, CPN; Alexis Zehler, MSN, RN, C-EFM; Sara Arter, PhD, RN

Abstract

Background:

The path to academia can be rocky for nurses. Nursing academia is much more than educating students. The balance of teaching, service, and scholarship that is required for tenure, coupled with the institution of academia, can be overwhelming. New nursing faculty often find themselves feeling unprepared for the multidimensional nature of the role. Effective mentoring is crucial for new faculty success.

Method:

A new faculty cohort, The Tenure Tribe, took initiative to establish a unique mentoring process of planned, purposeful connection and networking as peers and with experienced faculty for the purpose of academic nursing success.

Results:

Role-reversal mentoring was found to increase feelings of support and job satisfaction for the new faculty while creating a unique way to accelerate and support their transition from clinician to educator.

Conclusion:

Role-reversal mentoring was an effective means for new nursing faculty assimilation, growth, and development. [J Nurs Educ. 2020;59(11):627–630.]

Abstract

Background:

The path to academia can be rocky for nurses. Nursing academia is much more than educating students. The balance of teaching, service, and scholarship that is required for tenure, coupled with the institution of academia, can be overwhelming. New nursing faculty often find themselves feeling unprepared for the multidimensional nature of the role. Effective mentoring is crucial for new faculty success.

Method:

A new faculty cohort, The Tenure Tribe, took initiative to establish a unique mentoring process of planned, purposeful connection and networking as peers and with experienced faculty for the purpose of academic nursing success.

Results:

Role-reversal mentoring was found to increase feelings of support and job satisfaction for the new faculty while creating a unique way to accelerate and support their transition from clinician to educator.

Conclusion:

Role-reversal mentoring was an effective means for new nursing faculty assimilation, growth, and development. [J Nurs Educ. 2020;59(11):627–630.]

For nearly two decades, the literature has described a critical shortage of nurses, in part due to qualified applicants being turned away from nursing programs that lack the number of faculty needed to expand nursing programs (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2005American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2019; Clochesy et al., 2019; Daw et al., 2018; Feldman et al., 2015; Gywn, 2011; National League for Nursing [NLN], 2006; Sawatzky & Enns, 2009). Challenges cited as contributing to the nursing faculty shortage include aging and retirement of current faculty, compensation, lack of doctoral-prepared nurses, competition with advanced practice roles, and lack of preparation for the transition to academia (AACN, 2019, Benner et al., 2009; Campbell et al., 2017; Clochesy et al., 2019; Daw et al., 2018; Gywn, 2011; NLN, 2006; Sawatzky & Enns, 2009). This article addresses one solution to a smooth transition into academia for those nurses who choose to be educators.

Background

Nurses are educators at heart. Effective teaching is foundational to delivering quality patient care and ensuring a successful transition of new nurses into clinical practice. However, academic nursing requires much more than simply teaching students the required knowledge to be great nurses. Academic nursing entails the knowledge of an educator (i.e., theories of learning, curriculum development, student development), the knowledge of a nurse educator (i.e., AACN Essentials, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses, NCLEX® content), and the knowledge of a clinical nurse (i.e., staying up-to-date on trends in current nursing care, new medical technologies, procedures, and products, the art of caring, skills needed for collaboration, communication, and clinical reasoning to keep up in a complex, ever-changing health care environment).

Academic nursing also calls for the advancement of nursing practice and education through involvement in research and scholarship, while simultaneously engaging in service to the nursing program, the university, the community, and the profession of nursing. Additionally, maintaining a clinical practice is a requirement for advanced practice registered nurses, and maintaining clinical competence is highly encouraged for academic nurses without advanced practice degrees. New faculty are underprepared for these challenging and competing demands (Daw et al., 2018; NLN, 2006). Adapting to academic culture and organizational structure can be overwhelming with resemblance to culture shock, which makes for a taxing transition from practice to academia for new faculty (Dunham-Taylor et al., 2008; Feldman et al., 2015; Gwyn, 2011; Nick et al., 2012). Given the existing nursing faculty shortage, the need to support new faculty in the transition from practice to academia is critical. One approach supported in the literature to ease this transition and promote retention of new faculty is mentoring (Campbell et al., 2017; Chung & Kowalski, 2012; Clochesy et al., 2019; Daw et al., 2018; Dunham-Taylor et al., 2008; Gwyn, 2011; Law et al., 2014; Miner, 2019; NLN, 2006; Nick et al., 2012; Sawatzky & Enns, 2009; Straus et al., 2013). This article will describe the development of a mentoring model, role-reversal mentoring, which builds on the strengths of peer mentoring in combination with mentoring from experienced faculty. In this model, new faculty developed an active way to create and develop informal mentoring opportunities.

Academic mentoring is an interactive process and traditionally takes the form of a vertical relationship, where a more experienced faculty member (the mentor) provides guidance and teaching to a less experienced faculty mentor (the mentee) (Curtin et al., 2016; Law et al., 2014). Mentoring can be formal or informal, as evidence indicates both increase faculty confidence, improve productivity, and increase new faculty retention (Nick et al., 2012). Formal mentoring is assigned, has clear constructed goals with associated time commitments and communication expectations (Fountain & Newcomer, 2016; Law, et al., 2014). The purpose may be to assist the mentee to transition into the full responsibilities of an academic role or it may focus on one aspect of the role, such as scholarship or teaching expectations. Informal mentoring emerges when a mentee finds a supportive guide in an experienced faculty member that does not necessarily fill the designated purpose of a formal mentoring relationship (Law et al., 2014). This arrangement may fulfill less structured needs of a mentee, such as serving as a sounding board for new ideas in the classroom or sharing wisdom about handling student performance concerns. Peer mentoring is a horizontal mentor relationship, often stemming from shared experiences in academic nursing. This relationship serves as a foundation of support to pool budding expertise, learn from one another's successes or shortcomings, discuss the inevitable issues that come with the new faculty career, and build upon experiences for future challenges (McBride et al., 2017).

Mentoring affords mentees both professional and personal benefits. Career outcomes of mentoring include clear understanding of organization operations and expectations, departmental socialization, assimilation to university culture, development of teaching and scholarly endeavors, and increased success with promotion and tenure (Gwyn, 2011; Law et al., 2014; NLN, 2006; Nick et al., 2012). Effective mentoring provides a supportive psychosocial environment that can ease the transition to academia, improve job satisfaction, and create a positive work–life balance (Clochesy et al., 2019; Miner, 2019; NLN, 2006, Nick et al., 2012; Sawatzky & Enns, 2009). Benefits of mentoring are experienced when there is reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values (Fountain & Newcomer, 2016; Straus et al., 2013).

Mentoring is often observed from the vantage point of benefits to the mentee, but mentoring also has many benefits for the mentors and the organization. For many experienced faculty, mentoring new faculty provides a sense of satisfaction in sharing accomplishments, challenges, successes, and knowledge with others. Involvement with mentorship can lead to career revitalization, exposure to new thoughts and ideas, higher rates of job satisfaction and accomplishment, and increased recognition as a leader and core component of a department (Fountain & Newcomer, 2016; Nick et al., 2012). Successful mentoring can build organizational capacity through retention of employees, increased collegiality and productivity, and development of effective teams and leaders (Daw et al., 2018; Dunham-Taylor et al., 2008; Feldman et al., 2015).

Yet, many characteristics of negative mentoring experiences exist, including poor communication, personality differences, differing expectations, and lack of commitment by either the mentor or mentee that obstruct successful outcomes for either party and may make the transition to academic nursing even more difficult (Straus et al., 2013). Specific to vertical mentoring, instances where administrators take the “arranged marriage” approach and pair mentors and mentees based on similar courses or equal dispersion of mentee assignments can often result in uncomfortable, nonproductive, or even resentful working relationships when failing to account for needs of the mentee, personality traits or support needed for mentors (Fountain & Newcomer, 2016; Law et al., 2014; Nick et al., 2012). New faculty members may fear appearing inept when struggling with the demands of academic nursing, which requires mentors to display interpersonal support characteristics that may not come natural to all. Negative mentoring characteristics specific to informal and peer mentoring include ambiguous roles and expectations, lack of confidentiality, unequal power distribution between mentor and mentee, and unfulfilled goals due to lack of defined structure (Bryant et al., 2015).

The NLN and other organizations recognize that various types of mentoring relationships are beneficial along the career continuum. Regardless of the form of mentoring, interaction with individuals who continually support, guide, teach, and challenge the individual is key (Law et al., 2014; NLN, 2006). Stanley and Clinton (1992) conceptualized the various types of mentoring as “the mentoring constellation.” In this model, four types of mentoring relationships are defined, and emphasis is placed on fluctuating mentoring needs across the course of a career. Role-reversal mentoring was developed by using two elements from the mentoring constellation, upward mentors and internal peer mentors, to create a modified approach to mentoring new undergraduate nursing faculty. In this model, the group modified the informal approach to mentoring in a purposeful, planned way.

Method

Role-reversal mentoring was developed by “The Tenure Tribe,” a cohort of three new undergraduate, tenure-track faculty in the department of nursing. This group met first at university orientation for new faculty. Each member later recounted how “out of place” and “overwhelmed” they felt at the large gathering but how having someone there from their department helped to ease the anxiety. The close proximity of their offices, situated in a quiet back hallway, created another opportunity for connection. They would see each other in passing or stop to check in and ask questions. In these encounters, the power of the informal, nonjudgemental nature of peer mentoring was realized, as everyone felt free to share their struggles and insecurities, as well as their successes. Learning was occurring rapidly. Each new faculty member attended different activities and offerings on campus, joined separate committees, and had been assigned formal departmental mentors. In their moments of “checking in,” little bits of this experiential learning would be shared. From these moments of connection, the Tenure Tribe was born.

Internal Peer Mentoring Development

As the tribe grew in their relationship, casual peer mentoring transitioned to more planned and purposeful interactions. Weekly tribe meetings were scheduled for the purposes of venting, encouragement, and mutual sharing of learning. Although these were informal and often very raw, the members also made sure to honor the additional purpose of sharing information. For example, each member reported on what their committee was working on and discussed how it related to the departmental and university goals. In this manner, each member was able to gain a better understanding of the impetus of each committee. In discussing their challenges, they were able to offer support and encouragement and brainstorm solutions. This internal peer mentorship allowed the members an opportunity to be vulnerable and open to feedback.

Although the benefits of peer mentoring were experienced unanimously, the major limitation was lack of experience, which is noted in the literature as one drawback (Zellers et al., 2008). Each new faculty was already assigned a senior mentor but did not want to miss opportunities to learn from all faculty in various stages of their careers. In her support of informal mentoring, Gwyn (2011) suggested senior faculty should be encouraged to reach out to junior faculty to form informal dyads of mentoring. Role-reversal mentoring was a unique way to accelerate assimilation to the role of academic nurse and was developed to complement already established mentoring processes. The overall purposes of role-reversal mentoring were to learn from faculty members at all career stages and peer mentoring. In this model of mentoring, the Tenure Tribe flipped Gwyn's idea and instead reached out to senior faculty for informal mentoring.

Role-Reversal Mentoring Development

The tribe began to invite other nursing faculty to come to a tribe meeting. Being mindful of busy schedules, a 20- to 30-minute block of time was allotted for each meeting. The invite to faculty listed the purposes of the meeting: (a) to discuss their academic experiences, and (b) to become acquainted with all the faculty within the department. Meetings with other nursing faculty were scheduled approximately every 2 to 3 weeks based on faculty availability. A list of questions was developed to guide each meeting and to keep the meeting on track. Afterward, faculty were thanked for their time with a gift card and hand-written thank you note. Later, the group branched out to faculty from other departments.

Questions used to guide discussions with faculty during role-reversal mentoring sessions included:

  • Please spend a few minutes to tell us a little bit about yourself as a person and nurse. Family? Passions? Hobbies? Clinical background?
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in your academic journey, and how have you overcome them?
  • What is your number one suggestion for new faculty starting on this journey?

Data Collection

At the end of their first year, tribe members met to discuss anecdotal findings and debrief about the year. Notes had been carefully kept during peer mentoring as well as role-reversal mentoring meetings. Notes were reviewed and observations were discussed to identify themes with particular focus on impacts on the Tribe's first year as new faculty and impact on faculty invited to role-reversal mentoring meetings. The Tenure Tribe identified and unanimously agreed on several common themes.

Results

Members felt the Tenure Tribe was a tremendous interpersonal support network where they could feel validated in a nonjudgmental outlet. One tribe member described the process as “guided and supported freedom that eased the transition to the academic world.” Tribe members also felt “fueled by the passion and energy of each other” and this energy spilled over to experienced faculty in the department. The tribe was described by others as “energetic, fun, and encouraging.” Another theme voiced by new and experienced faculty alike was the creation of departmental continuity through rapport created during role-reversal mentoring. The department was undergoing rapid growth, and it was imperative to have a collegial group of professionals working together to accomplish goals set forth for the change. The process of role-reversal mentoring provided both the interpersonal and professional support needed for success and allowed new faculty to quickly integrate into the department and become effective, contributing members. The tribe found that meeting with numerous faculty members over a short span of time led to an accelerated insight into departmental structure, individual faculty strengths, and overall university culture and expectations. The process of socialization into the role that can often take years was expedited.

Experienced faculty in this process stated they felt valued for their professional expertise as nurses and educators and their experiences with the transition to academia in their own career. They also commented that it was an “extra special touch” to be asked about their family, passions, and hobbies. Some voiced the desire to have participated in role-reversal mentoring opportunities as new faculty and spoke to the irreplaceable support they found in their peers when on their tenure journeys. Multiple faculty spoke to how the process demonstrated to faculty the tribe's commitment to the department, their peers, and the tenure process.

Conclusion

Research supports using various types of mentoring along the career spectrum for success. The Tenure Tribe developed a method to actively initiate an informal model of mentoring with peers and more experienced faculty. Moving forward, the nursing department recognizes the value of role-reversal mentoring and has continued the process with incoming faculty. Future studies will track the impact of this new form of mentoring on retention of nursing faculty. The effects of role-reversal mentoring experienced by the Tenure Tribe were so cogent that it is imperative to share this experience with other nursing programs. Although the transition from clinical practice to academic nursing can be difficult, strong mentoring relationships, such as those forged through role-reversal mentoring, are key to successful passage.

References

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2019). Nursing faculty shortage. https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/nursing-faculty-shortage
  • Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V. & Day, L. (2009). Educating nurses: A call for radical transformation. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Bryant, A. L., Aizer Brody, A., Perez, A., Shillam, C., Edelman, L. S., Bond, S. M., Foster, V. & Siegel, E. O. (2015). Development and implementation of a peer mentoring program for early career gerontological faculty. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 47(3), 258–266 doi:10.1111/jnu.12135 [CrossRef] PMID:25808927
  • Campbell, J., Ladden, M. D., McBride, A. B., Cimino, A., Kostas-Polston, E. & Deming, K. (2017). Overview of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program. Nursing Outlook, 65(3), 254–264 doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2016.12.008 [CrossRef]
  • Chung, C. & Kowalski, S. (2012). Job stress, mentoring, psychological empowerment, and job satisfaction among nursing faculty. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(7), 381–388. doi:10.3928/01484834-20120509-03 [CrossRef]
  • Clochesy, J. M., Visovsky, C. & Munro, C. L. (2019). Preparing nurses for faculty roles: The Institute for Faculty Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring (INFORM). Nurse Education Today, 79, 63–66 doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2019.05.018 [CrossRef]
  • Curtin, N., Malley, J. & Stewart, A. J. (2016). Mentoring the next generation of faculty: Supporting academic career aspirations among doctoral students. Research in Higher Education, 57, 714–738 doi:10.1007/s11162-015-9403-x [CrossRef]
  • Daw, P., Mills, M. E. & Ibarra, O. (2018). Investing in the future of nurse faculty: A state-level program evaluation. Nursing Economic$, 36(2), 59–82.
  • Dunham-Taylor, J., Lynn, C. W., Moore, P., McDaniel, S. & Walker, J. K. (2008). What goes around comes around: Improving faculty retention through more effective mentoring. Journal of Professional Nursing, 24(6), 337–346 doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2007.10.013 [CrossRef] PMID:19022206
  • Feldman, H. R., Greenberg, M. J., Jaffe-Ruiz, M., Kaufman, S. R. & Cignarale, S. (2015). Hitting the nursing faculty shortage head on: Strategies to recruit, retain, and develop nursing faculty. Journal of Professional Nursing, 31(3), 170–178 doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2015.01.007 [CrossRef] PMID:25999189
  • Fountain, J. & Newcomer, K. E. (2016). Developing and sustaining effective faculty mentoring programs. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 22(4), 483–506 doi:10.1080/15236803.2016.12002262 [CrossRef]
  • Gwyn, P. G. (2011). The quality of mentoring relationships' impact on the occupational commitment of nursing faculty. Journal of Professional Nursing, 27(5), 292–298 doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2011.03.008 [CrossRef] PMID:21925462
  • Law, A. V., Bottenberg, M. M., Brozick, A. H., Currie, J. D., DiVall, M. V., Haines, S. T., Jolowsky, C., Koh-Knox, C. P., Leonard, G. A., Phelps, S. J., Rao, D., Webster, A. & Yablonski, E. (2014). A checklist for the development of faculty mentorship programs. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 78(5), 98 doi:10.5688/ajpe78598 [CrossRef] PMID:24954938
  • McBride, A. B., Campbell, J., Barr, T., Duffy, J., Haozous, E., Mallow, J., Narsavage, G., Ridenour, N. & Theeke, L. (2017). The impact of the Nurse Faculty Scholars program on schools of nursing. Nursing Outlook, 65(3), 327–335 doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2017.01.013 [CrossRef] PMID:28416201
  • Miner, L. A. (2019). Transition to nursing academia: A positive experience. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 50(8), 349–354 doi:10.3928/00220124-20190717-05 [CrossRef] PMID:31356672
  • National League for Nursing. (2006). Mentoring of nurse faculty [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://www.nln.org/docs/default-source/advocacy-public-policy/mentoring-of-nurse-faculty.pdf?sfvrsn=0
  • Nick, J. M., Delahoyde, T. M., Del Prato, D., Mitchell, C., Ortiz, J., Ottley, C., Young, P., Cannon, S. B., Lasater, K., Reising, D. & Siktberg, L. (2012). Best practices in academic mentoring: A model for excellence. Nursing Research and Practice, 2012, Article ID 937906. doi:10.1155/2012/937906 [CrossRef] PMID:22685645
  • Sawatzky, J.-A. V. & Enns, C. L. (2009). A mentoring needs assessment: Validating mentorship in nursing education. Journal of Professional Nursing, 25(3), 145–150 doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2009.01.003 [CrossRef] PMID:19450785
  • Stanley, P. D. & Clinton, J. R. (1992). Connecting: The mentoring relationships you need to succeed in life. NavPress.
  • Straus, S. E., Johnson, M. O., Marquez, C. & Feldman, M. D. (2013). Characteristics of successful and failed mentoring relationships. Academic Medicine, 88(1), 82–89 doi:10.1097/ACM.0b013e31827647a0 [CrossRef]
  • Zellers, D. F., Howard, V. M. & Barcic, M. A. (2008). Faculty mentoring programs: Reenvisioning rather than reinventing the wheel. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 552–588 doi:10.3102/0034654308320966 [CrossRef]
Authors

Ms. Cole is Assistant Professor, and Ms. Zehler is Assistant Professor, and Dr. Arter is Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, Miami University, Hamilton, Ohio.

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

Address correspondence to Britt Cole, MSN, RN, CPN, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, Miami University, 129 University Hall, 1601 University Blvd., Hamilton, OH 45011; email: burlilbs@miamioh.edu.

Received: March 02, 2020
Accepted: May 04, 2020

10.3928/01484834-20201020-05

Sign up to receive

Journal E-contents