Nurse mentorship programs have been shown to be an effective strategy for improving nurse retention. When nurses have the support of experienced mentors, they are more likely to feel engaged in their work and committed to their organizations long-term. Here are some examples of successful mentorship programs that have demonstrated positive impacts on retention:
One of the largest and most comprehensive nurse mentorship programs is the University HealthSystem Consortium/AACN Nurse Residency Program. This year-long program pairs new graduate nurses with experienced nurses to help with their transition from education to clinical practice. Over 10,000 new nurses have completed the program since it began in 2007. Studies have found that 1 year retention rates for nurses who complete the program are over 90%, compared to only around 57-60% retention nationally for new nurses without a residency program. After 3 years, retention is still around 85% for program graduates versus only around 33% for new nurses without mentorship support.
Another well-established program is the University of South Alabama Medical Center Nurse Internship Program. This 8 month internship pairs new nurses with mentors who are experienced BSN-prepared nurses. Mentors guide the interns through orientation, skill building, and help them adjust to their new role. Retention rates after the program are over 94% at 1 year and over 90% after 2 years for program graduates. In comparison, retention rates before the program was introduced in 2010 were only around 60-70% at 1 and 2 years.
At New York Presbyterian Hospital, they implemented a nurse mentorship program specifically focused on specialty units like oncology, cardiac care, neonatal ICU, and behavioral health. Experienced nurses are trained to be mentors and have protected time each week to meet formally with new nurses and be available informally as well. After completion of the 6-12 month program, over 90% of nurses remained working in their specialty unit, and 98% remained employed with the hospital. This specialty mentorship program helped address higher than average turnover in specialty areas.
Another approach is OHSU Hospital’s nurse residency program in Portland, Oregon, which includes didactic education and clinical mentoring over the course of 13 months. After completion of the program, 1 year retention was above 93% compared to only around 60% before the program was implemented. Even 5 years later, over 78% of graduates were still employed at OHSU, demonstrating strong long-term retention impacts.
At Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, they found that new graduate nurses were leaving within their first year at an alarming rate of 50%. To address this, they launched a nurse residency program pairing new nurses with experienced mentors. The focus of the mentorship was on improving confidence, competence, and coordination of care. After the first year of the new program, retention increased to over 92%. Now in its 10th year, they have retained over 90% of new nurses annually who complete the residency program.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nursing Management examined the impact of nurse residency programs on new graduate retention and competence. The analysis of data from over 2,700 nurses across multiple health systems found that nurse residency program graduates had a 71% lower odds of leaving their first job in the first year when compared to new graduate nurses without a residency. Residents also demonstrated higher competence scores on objective skill evaluations.
Clearly, nurse mentorship plays a vital role in supporting new nurses and easing their transition into practice. When done well through formal residency programs with dedicated mentors, it can significantly improve retention both short and long-term. The financial impact of higher retention is estimated to save organizations over $22,000 per nurse retained according to the University HealthSystem Consortium. With the continuing nursing shortage, retention should be a top priority – and mentorship has proven to be highly effective strategy for keeping nurses in the profession and with their current employers. Future research could explore best practices for mentor selection and training to optimize program outcomes. But overall, the examples here provide strong evidence that mentorship is a strategy worth adopting to boost nurse satisfaction and career longevity.
The nurse mentorship programs described demonstrate very promising results for enhancing retention of new nurses beyond their first year on the job, as well as long-term retention over several years. By pairing graduates with experienced mentors who help ease the transition to practice, providing dedicated time and support, these programs have boosted 1 year retention rates to over 90% consistently – well above the 50-60% rates typical without mentorship. This investment in onboarding and supporting new nurses through mentorship clearly pays off to improve workforce stability for healthcare organizations and enrich careers in nursing. Formal, standardized mentorship should be regarded as a best practice for easing nurses into their roles and keeping them satisfied and committed to the profession and their employers over the long run.