Six years ago, managers at Christian Living Communities began noticing that turnover among its 600 employees was beginning to rise. A root cause analysis revealed that workers were leaving the organization because they didn’t know what was expected of them, and didn’t have a friend at work who could answer their questions.
Today, nurses, nursing assistants, and personal care attendants at Christian Living Communities are assigned a mentor who works side-by-side with that employee during his/her first 3 shifts, and makes sure the employee achieves a defined set of competences within the first 30 days on the job. Mentors and new employees continue to meet monthly for the first year of employment. The program was “home grown”—it started as a nurse and nursing assistant program—and Christian Living Communities believes it is easily transferable to other organizations.
Mentors can be nominated by coworkers or supervisors and go through an interview process before being selected and trained; they are employees who embody the mission of Christian Living Communities. The program is 1-year long and mentors receive $500 over the course of a year if their mentee remains with the organization for 12 months. After mentors are selected and interviewed, they undergo 8 hours of paid training. Right now, they work with 3-4 mentees per year.
Christian Living Communities has incorporated the mentor program into each new employee’s orientation, which includes completion of approximately 40 competencies for certified nurse assistants, qualified medication administration personnel (or certified nurse assistant with QMAP certification), and nursing (both RNs and LPNs). The new staffer is introduced to the mentor the first day of a 2-day orientation. The mentor works within the same field, for example, a new nurse would be assigned a nurse mentor.
For the first few weeks, the mentor shadows the new employee for either the next three 12-hour shifts, or, the next four 8-hour shifts. During this time, the mentor talks to the new employee about the different competencies at the same time the mentee is working directly with the resident. As a result of this close partnership, the mentor is able to observe how the new employee learns best. As the mentee completes each competency, it is reported to the leader of the mentor program. Typically, the program leader is the staffing development coordinator or the assistant director of nursing. Once put in place, the mentor director spends about 5 hours a week on the program.
Mentors receive the $500 over the year in the following way:
- $50 for shadowing during the initial shifts
- $100 for completion of all competencies by the mentee
- $50 per month up to a year and a maximum of $500 (note that this stipend ends if the mentee leaves the community)
- At the end of each month, for the entire year, both the mentor and mentee do an evaluation of each other, which is sent onto the mentor program leader.
Christian Living Communities developed the day-long training for mentors and it focuses on leadership and communication, as well as on a refresher of clinical competencies and internal policies.
Factors for Success
- Identify a strong and consistent champion for the program.
- Keep reinforcing the program’s importance; work together with nursing staff who may be less supportive of the mentor program when they face staff shortages.
- Identify mentors who model the mission and values of your organization.
- Obtain top-level buy-in.
- At a cost of $500 per mentor per mentee, determine how many mentors you can afford.
- Develop your core competencies (i.e., the essential skills for each position so that the mentor and mentee can work through them).
- Retention rates at Christian Living Communities have increased steadily since the mentor program was instituted.
- The organization’s skilled nursing settings now enjoy a 90% retention rate among certified nursing assistants, up from 49% in 2012.
- The community estimates it was costing them $10,000 to hire a new person while the mentor program costs only $500 per mentor, per each mentee.
- As a result of this success, Christian Living Communities has incorporated the program into its assisted living, float pools, home care, and dining.