Scholarly article on topic 'Increasing Retention and Student Satisfaction Utilizing an Online Peer Mentoring Program: Preliminary Results'

Increasing Retention and Student Satisfaction Utilizing an Online Peer Mentoring Program: Preliminary Results Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Michelle Mollica, Abigail Mitchell

Abstract Background Anxiety and apprehension have been observed in beginning nursing students as a recurrent pattern, particularly when students are entering upper level foundational nursing courses. This anxiety contributes to increased withdrawals from nursing programs and decreased satisfaction in retained nursing students. Purpose of Study To determine the effect of an e-mentoring program that pairs junior and senior level undergraduate nursing students on student satisfaction and student retention. Methods This mixed methods design utilizes an online peer mentoring strategy. 20 junior mentees and 20 senior level mentors participated in the study. Students completed surveys after one semester of participation, to evaluate the success of their mentor-mentee relationship, and gauge student satisfaction with the program. All information was utilized to assess retention implications, and implement changes with the e-mentoring program for future nursing students. Results and Conclusions 14 mentors and 16 mentees returned surveys. The majority of students felt that they had benefitted from participation after one semester. Students indicated they preferred the online format to in- person meetings. Mentors were able to share studying tips, time-management skills and organizational strategies. Responses to open-ended questions indicated that the success of the mentor-mentee relationship depends on the mentee communicating with the mentor. Implications for Practice While preliminary data suggests that promising results in student satisfaction, retention rates of students will be determined after one year of the mentorship program. An e-mentoring program could be a necessary component to foster relationships between excelling senior nursing students and junior nursing students, and allow for support in class load, coursework, school, and outside stressors. This relationship allows for collaboration of ideas, and provides perspective for the senior mentor in terms of growth and knowledge base.

Academic research paper on topic "Increasing Retention and Student Satisfaction Utilizing an Online Peer Mentoring Program: Preliminary Results"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 106 (2013) 1455 - 1461

4th International Conference on New Horizons in Education

Increasing retention and student satisfaction utilizing an online peer mentoring program: preliminary results

Michelle Mollica, Ms, Rn, Ocn* And Abigail Mitchell, Dhed, Msn, Rn, Cne

D 'Youville College, RN-BSN Online Program Coordinator, 320 Porter Avenue, Buffalo NY 14201, USA D 'Youville College, D irector of Gradua te Nursing, 320 Porter Avenue, Buffa lo NY 14201, USA

Abstract

Background: Anxiety and apprehension have been observed in beginning nursing students as a recurrent pattern, particularly when students are entering upper level foundational nursing courses. This anxiety contributes to increased withdrawals from nursing programs and decreased satisfaction in retained nursing students. Purpose of Study: To determine the effect of an e-mentoring program that pairsjunior and senior level undergraduate nursing students on student satisfaction and student retention.

Methods: This mixed methods design utilizes an online peer mentoring strategy. 20 junior mentees and 20 senior level mentors participated in the study. Students completed surveys after one semester of participation, to evaluate the success of their mentor-mentee relationship, and gauge student satisfaction with the program. All information was utilized to assess retention implications, and implement changes with the e-mentoring program for future nursing students.

Results and Conclusions: 14 mentors and 16 mentees returned surveys. The majority of students felt that they had benefitted from participation after one semester. Students indicated they preferred the online format to inperson meetings. Mentors were able to share studying tips, time-management skills and organizational strategies. Responses to open-ended questions indicated that the success of the mentor-mentee relationship depends on the mentee communicating with the mentor.

Implications for Practice: While preliminary data suggests that promising results in student satisfaction, retention rates of students will be determined after one year of the mentorship program. An e-mentoring program could be a necessary component to foster relationships between excelling senior nursing students andjunior nursing students, and allow for support in class load, coursework, school, and outside stressors. This relationship allows for collaboration of ideas, and provides perspective for the senior mentor in terms of growth and knowledge base.

* Corresponding author. Tel. 1-716-829-8279 E-mail address: mollicam@dyc.edu

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of The Association of Science, Education and Technology-TASET, Sakarya Universitesi, Turkey. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.12.163

©2013TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selectionandpeer-review underresponsibilityofTheAssociationofScience,EducationandTechnology-TASET,SakaryaUniversitesi, Turkey.

Keywords:Mentoring, nursing student, undergraduate, education, innovation

1. Introduction

Anxiety and apprehension have been observed in beginning nursing students as a recurrent pattern, particularly when students are entering upper level foundational nursing courses (Giordana & Wedin, 2010). This anxiety, coupled with an increased amount of information that the student must retain in order to be successful in didactic and classroom experiences, contributes to increased withdrawals from nursing programs nationwide and decreased satisfaction in retained nursing students.

The baccalaureate nursing curriculum is designed to prepare students for work within the growing and changing health-care environment (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). With nurses taking more of an active role in all facets of health care, they are expected to develop critical-thinking and communication skills in addition to receiving standard nurse training in clinics and hospitals. In a university or college setting, the first two years include classes in the humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, business, psychology, technology, sociology, ethics, and nutrition. In some programs, the nursing classes start in the sophomore year, whereas others have students wait until they are juniors. Many schools require satisfactory grade point averages before students advance into professional nursing classes. On a 4.0 scale, admission into the last two years of the nursing program may require a minimum GPA of 2.5 to 3.0 in pre-professional nursing classes, but the cutoff level varies with each program. The pressure to succeed is thus very high in such nursing programs, and there is great concern for the need to retain nursing students throughout the program.

In the junior and senior years, the curriculum focuses on the nursing sciences and emphasis moves from the classroom to health facilities (Warren, 2010). This is where students are exposed to clinical skills, nursing theory, and the varied roles nurses play in the health-care system. Courses include nurse leadership, health promotion, family planning, mental health, environmental and occupational health, adult and pediatric care, medical and surgical care, psychiatric care, community health, management, and home health care. Such courses starting in the junior year have high levels of knowledge and critical thinking, and are dense in theory and information. This is often the time when there is an increased need for support.

1.1. Peer mentoring

Mentoring early in a nursing program has been shown to reduce student anxiety, provide a positive learning environment, boost self-confidence and lessen confusion (Davison & Williams, 2011; Dennison, 2010). Improved retention rates and satisfaction among first semester clinical nursing students have also been observed with early mentoring (Colalillo, 2007; Dorsey & Baker, 2004). Dennison also notes that mentors benefit from the mentoring experience by incorporating new perspectives into their practice; demonstrating improved leadership, coaching, and listening skills; and becoming more engaged in their work.

Because mentoring is actually about process rather than product, certain key elements need to be in place at the outset of a mentoring program. This includes commitment by both mentor and mentee to the work of the relationship that is grounded in mutual respect, trust, and comfort (Bierema & Merriam, 2002). The ability for the pair to develop "just in time" strategies to answer questions and solve problems by e-mail or telephone is also essential to accomplishing the agreed-upon outcomes, which in turn, moves the relationship forward (Dahl, 2005). (Giordana & Wedin, 2010).

Although there is positive research on the impact that a peer mentoring program can have on nursing program outcomes, there are many challenges to instituting such a program. Among the challenges cited by students, it is

evident that the most common issue was finding the time to meet with the student's mentor, on top of studying and preparing for such a heavy course load (Giordana & Wedin, 2010; Warren, 2010). An online peer mentoring program, however, could be a potential solution to this issues. There is a dearth of research on the impact that an online peer mentoring program can have specific to nursing students.

1.2. E-Mentoring

Although electronic communication technology has grown rapidly and globally, literature related to e-mentoring is limited. A working definition of e-mentoring is that of Bierema and Merriam (2002) "computer mediated, mutually beneficial relationship between a mentor and a protégé which provides learning, advising, encouraging, promoting, and modeling, that is often boundary-less, egalitarian, and qualitatively different than face-to-face mentoring" (p. 212). Unlike web-based instruction, e-mentoring is sharing information with the goal of mentee growth. The virtual nature ofthe e-mentored relationship allows online conversations that may not take place in face-to-face relationships and give a degree of objectivity to the relationship. E-mentoring offers flexibility within a school setting, allowing the mentor and mentee to blend routine work and mentoring during school time. However, there are risks associated with e-mentoring programs. A loose, unstructured relationship and insufficient administrative support for the mentoring commitment can lead to mentoring problems early on (Akin & Hilbun, 2007). Miscommunication is a also common issue. More serious is the opportunity for disengagement by either the mentor or the mentee, often resulting in forfeiting the relationship (Bierema & Merriam, 2002). Nursing literature has typically focused on attributes of a positive mentoring relationship and its benefits to individual professional development within the organization (Hayes & Sexton Scott, 2007; Heller et al., 2004), essentials of novice-expert models for student clinical experiences and new staff orientation (Andrews & Wallis, 1999; Butler & Felts, 2006), and the use ofmentoring for nursing research. There is no known research, however, exploring the effect of an e-mentoring program on nursing retention in a baccalaureate nursing program.

2. Purpose ofthe Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of an e-mentoring program on nursing student satisfaction and nursing retention in a baccalaureate nursing program. Specifically, it aims to answer the research question: Does implementation of an e-mentoring program increase nursing student retention and nursing student sa tisfa ction in a bacca la urea te nursing program ? It is important to note that this report reflects preliminary results ofthis 2-year online mentoring program.

3. Methods

This pilot study utilizes an explorative mixed-methods, convergent parallel design, which involves simultaneous collection of qualitative and quantitative data, followed by subsequent merging of multiple data sources (Creswell, Klassen, Clark, & Smith, 2011). A pilot study is designed to preliminarily explore a topic or phenomenon, with a limited sample size (Leon, Davis, & Kraemer, 2011).

3.1. Online Peer Mentoring Intervention

To reduce student anxiety and empower senior nursing students to acknowledge their own growth as a nursing student, an online peer mentoring strategy was developed, pairing junior level nursing students with senior nursing students in a baccalaureate nursing program. Outcomes include nursing satisfaction, acceptability, and nursing retention rates. There are major objectives ofinstituting this e-mentoring program. Firstly, it is necessary to foster relationships between excelling senior nursing students and junior nursing students, allowing for the support with regards to class load, coursework, school and outside stressors. This relationship will allow for collaboration of ideas, and also provide perspective for the senior mentor in terms of growth and knowledge base. It will also foster the service component that is a pinnacle ofthe institution's mission.

Because of the challenges of a remote e-mentoring program, it was extremely necessary for faculty to closely monitor and support this mentor/mentee relationship to ensure appropriate usage of the relationship. Two nursing faculty served as coordinators for student learning to facilitate the mentorship process.

3.2. Setting

This e-mentoring program takes place in an undergraduate baccalaureate nursing program at an East Coast private college.

3.3. Sampie se lection and mentor program

The investigators recruited 20 junior level student mentees and 20 senior-level student mentors during the beginning of the Fall semester. All students enrolled in the junior-level nursing foundations course were eligible to participate. Junior-level students who were identified as high-risk for failure based on previous GPA were strongly encouraged to participate. All senior-level students enrolled in the senior-level foundations course were eligible to participate as a mentor, but were selected based on GPA, collegiality, and past clinical evaluations. Students were excluded that were on a leave of absence from the program, or that had a GPA below 2.5.

Once mentors and mentees were selected, they were paired up and contact information distributed. Faculty will met with the mentors initially to detail responsibilities, expectations, and provide tips and skills important in the mentorship process. Literature was provided to show evidence of successful mentorship and potential benefits of the program. Faculty also described successful mentoring and establishing boundaries of the mentor-mentee relationship.

A forum on the distance education site was created to facilitate the mentor/mentee relationship. This forum was only be open to mentors and mentees within the e-mentoring program, with the facilitation of the faculty members. Participants will be required to correspond at least weekly with their partner, in order to create continuity within the program and successfully attain program goals. Semi-monthly postings by faculty regarding issues in nursing programs and professional nursing can help generate discussion among pairs, and stimulate the relationship to start. In addition, students will be asked to complete monthly online surveys to evaluate the success oftheir mentor-mentee relationship, and gauge student satisfaction with the program.

After graduation of the senior nursing student mentors, the relationship was encouraged and fostered as well, as new graduate nurses can be very valuable mentors to their nursing student mentees. Graduates are encouraged to discuss NCLEX preparation, securing first nursingjobs, transition from student to professional nurse.

3.4. Study Duration

In order to allow for implementation of this program, the duration of this study will be 2 years long, with 2 separate cohorts of mentees. It is important to note that, when possible, the junior nursing student mentees will transition into mentors when they enter their senior year.

3.5. Outcome Measuremen t and ana lysis

This study will begin to compare retention rates of nursing students from 1-5 years prior to institution of the e-mentoring program to retention rates of the junior level nursing student cohorts participating in the program. In addition, student satisfaction among participants was gauged by utilizing anonymous online surveys with Likert-type and open-ended questions. Student satisfaction was analyzed using descriptive statistics (Likert-type questions) and thematic analysis to report common themes (open-ended questions).

3.6. Informed Consent

Each participant was aware of the purpose of study and intended data collection. Students were aware that their consent was implied upon participation in the mentor program, and completion of online surveys. Potential participants were made aware that there was no benefit to taking part in this study, and that choosing to complete

or not complete this study would have no effect on the ability to successfully complete the nursing program. There would be no direct benefit to a student's grades or GPA by participating in this program and/ or study. All surveys were completely anonymous and distributed via Survey Monkey. It is also important to note that both investigators did not have any ofthe students in class, so there was no risk ofgrade inflation or deflation based on participation.

4. Preliminary Results

Twenty junior-level mentees and twenty senior-level mentees participated in the first year of this online mentoring program. Two mentees lost due to student attrition and specific reasons are unknown. The sample was predominately female (85% female mentees, 80% female mentors). The report of preliminary results from this online mentoring program will only include nursing student satisfaction, as it is premature to report student retention rates at this point. Qualitative and quantitative data are integrated in the results presentation below. 4.1 Nursing student satisfaction

The majority of mentors (77%) indicated they felt they had a lot to offer their mentee. All ofthe pairs were able to communicate at least once per week, often utilizing cell-phone texts, emails, or phone conversations. The majority ofmentees (74%) considered the mentee relationship to be positive, and the most useful information provided by mentors was study habits, stress relief, and time management strategies.

It is important to note that there were some challenges noted by the mentors. Some mentors (46%) felt that the relationship was dependent on the initiative of the mentee; that they need to be open to learning, and ask questions often. At least one mentor felt that he could have been utilized more by his mentee, and was disappointed because he felt he had a lot to offer.

Select quotes from open-ended responses of the mentees demonstrate the preliminary success of the program: " Very heIpful for first tests/study hints"; and, "You did a great job matching us up; better than some da ting services!". The mentors also noted positive aspects of their role as mentor: "It brought back mem ories of the first time going to clinica /"; and, "It made us rea lize how m uch we ha ve a ctua lly grown as students".

4. Discussion

The preliminary findings from this study indicate that an online mentoring program could offer the support that undergraduate nursing students need. The benefits of this program from a qualitative perspective indicate that there was reduced student anxiety, a positive learning environment, increased self-confidence, and increased student interaction among peers. From a faculty perspective, the investigators gained significant insight into the role of an online mentoring program in this population. Mentors benefited by incorporating new perspectives into their practice, demonstrating improved leadership, coaching and listening skills, and becoming more engaged in their work. This supports the findings of Giordana and Wedin (2010), who studied peer mentoring in multiple levels of nursing students. It was also evident that support of the organization was critical, giving permission for the mentoring interaction to occur on work time and allowing use of agency resources. This idea is also supported in the literature (Dennison, 2010).

The format of the online-mentoring program was ideal for all of the students, which is supported in the literature (CITE HERE). The virtual nature ofthe e-mentored relationship allows online conversations that may not take place in face-to-face relationships and give a degree of objectivity to the relationship. In addition, e-mentoring offers flexibility within a school setting, allowing the mentor and mentee to blend routine work and mentoring during school time.

The challenges ofthe peer mentoring program include time and effort needed to facilitate the relationship. The investigators also noted that collaboration must occur from both mentor and mentee, and when the mentee is not likely to seek out help, it is necessary for the mentor to step up and offer more often. In addition, it was evident that weaker students seek out less help from mentee, and that encouragement from faculty was essential.

5. Limitations

Because this was a preliminary report of a pilot study, results are not generalizable nor transferrable to other populations. Although all efforts were made to match students according to gender and interests, this was not always possible, and it is likely that one or more of the pairs may have had personality differences that affected the relationship. In addition, the small sample size limits the inferences that can be made from the findings of this pilot study. The aims reflect the exploration of the intervention itself; thus analysis for effect size is not appropriate (Leon, et al., 2011)., 2011). There are several potential moderating and mediating variables present within the sample. It is not possible with this small sample size, however, to control for these variables or perform regression analysis.

5. Conclusion

It appears that the research on mentorship during nursing school demonstrates potential benefits to students' learning and success throughout nursing school. Through ongoing investigation and continuance of this program, it will be possible to investigate nursing retention rates and continued satisfaction of nursing students. While it is evident that mentoring programs have the potential to be of marked benefit to the participants, there remain issues which need to be further explored.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the D'Youville College School ofNursing.

References

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