Mentoring has long been recognized as an approach to facilitating the assimilation of a professional role. An experienced member of the profession "passed down" the values of the respective discipline to the novice member. In fact, mentoring is an essential component of the Nightingale model upon which all of nursing education is based.
Niagara's College of Nursing, under the leadership of Dr. Dolores Bower, embraced this model and launched a formal mentoring program for its students. On Sept. 16, 1999, the College of Nursing alumni, faculty and second-year nursing students gathered to welcomed the Class of 2003. The liturgy and brunch marked the second year of the unique mentoring program in the College of Nursing. The main objectives of the mentoring program were to establish communication with students and assist them to socialize into their new professional role.
Initially 19 NU alumni accepted the invitation to mentor first year students in nursing. Through that year, mentors and their students engaged in formal and informal activities. Some students were able to follow their mentor through a typical work day, while others learned about the blending of personal and professional goals over a pizza supper. Tom Obst, '75 (mentor), arranged a visit to the clinical simulation laboratory at UB, providing a high tech adventure for both students and mentors. At the end of the first year, both students and mentors recommended continuation of the program.
The program grew to 40 alumni mentors representing classes from 1959 through 1997. Mentors reflected a variety of practice areas, including positions as practitioners, midwives, CRNAs, school nurses, and administrators, to name a few. But more important to the young students was the fact that all of the mentors love nursing. They understand what it was like to be a beginning student, uncertain about their career choice and possibly homesick. Not only did they relate to the challenges that students face with pathophysiology, for example, but they also helped students to understand the relevance of academic courses to practice. Most importantly, the mentors translated the values of a Niagara nurse. Mentor "care" was expressed in e-mail messages, letters, telephone calls, and even home-baked cookies. Alumni mentors shared their precious gifts of time, expertise and caring to those who followed in their footsteps.
With the closing of the College of Nursing, the mentors graciously transitioned in to the NUNAC, Niagara University Nursing Alumni Council. There is a specific link to this council to see what they are currently doing to support Niagara nurses.
With the reopening of a nursing education department, we are reestablishing a mentor program. We are referring to it as a "Learning Partnership." The goal remains to assist students to assimilate to role of B.S. prepared nurse, in the context of the values and traditions of an NU nurse. The current student population is different, being RNs with associate degree preparation. They are working, with family and job responsibilities. Their needs are for support in "returning" to the student role and balancing it with many other priorities. We know their mentors will provide support and guidance, coaching and encouragement as they have in the past.