Open Journal of Nursing, 2013, 3, 389-394 OJN Published Online September 2013 (
A concep t analysis of mentoring in nursing leader ship
Alexis Kathleen Hodgson, Judith M. Scanlan
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Received 2 June 2013; revised 2 July 2013; accepted 10 August 2013
Copyright © 2013 Alexis Kathleen Hodgson, Judith M. Scanlan. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work
is properly cited.
Attention in the literature has been given to the criti-
cal state of nursing leadership development. There is
a need to identify effective ways to sustain and de-
velop nursing leaders. Mentoring has been identified
as an invaluable tool to attract and retain new nurse
leaders. Examining the concept of mentoring in
nursing leadership provides a greater understanding
of its importance in today’s healthcare system. The
concept of mentoring will be analyzed using the
framework developed by Walker and Avant. A lit-
erature review was conducted to examine the current
usage of the concept of mentoring. Consistent with
Walker and Avant’s framework, defining attributes,
antecedents, and consequences of mentoring have
been identified. Further illustration of this concept is
provided by describing model, borderline, related,
and contrary cases. Demonstrating the occurrence of
the concept of mentoring, Empirical referents will
also be explored.
Keywords: Mentoring; Nursing Leadership; Leadership
Development; Concept Analysis
Although attention in the literature has been given to
the critical state of nursing leadership development,
there is a need to identify effective ways to sustain and
develop nursing leaders. The concept of mentoring has
been identified as a way to address this need. Mc-
Cloughen, O’Brien, and Jackson [1] identified men-
torship and leadership as an “integrated phenomena”
(p. 97). However, the understanding of the concept of
mentoring in nursing is limited [2]. The purpose of
this paper is to examine the concept of mentoring, and
its relevance to nursing leaders.
This concept an alysis will be guided b y the framework
outlined by Walker and Avant [3] which includes
defining the concept, identifying usage of the concept,
and a literature review. Definitions of the concept and a
review of the literature will examine the current use of
the concept and the critical attributes associated with
mentoring. Related terms will be described providing
additional clarity of th e concept. Cases will be presen ted,
and the antecedents and consequences of mentoring will
be discussed. Lastly, empirical referents that indicate the
presence of the concept will be explored [3 ].
The Oxford English Dictionary [4] defines mentoring as
the action of advising or training another person, usually
a less experienced colleague. There is no single
definition of mentoring [5]; however, there is a shared
understanding that mentoring is a process in which a
person who is experienced, wise, and trusted guides an
inexperienced individual [6]. The act of mentoring has
become popular, despite the difficulty to clearly define
due to the subjective nature of the personal relationships
of those involved in mentoring. The term mentor dates
back to Greek mythology and Homer’s Odyssey. Mentor
was the older, counsellor, and friend of Odysseus who
entrusted the care of his son to Mentor [7,8].
Within the nursing profession, mentoring is described
as a valued relationship [6] a nurturing process in which
a more experienced person supports the professional
growth and career development of another [9]. Ali and
Panther [10] stress that mentoring is considered an
important role that “every nurse has to assume” (p. 35).
The act of mentoring leads to an ongoing relationship in
all domains of nursing practice, administration, edu-
cation, research, and direct care [11]. Mentoring is a
confidential, supportive relationship, in which a more
experienced person guides a less experienced person
with a goal of reaching their full potential [5,12]. A
personal connection, mutual trust, and respect between
two people are crucial for a successful mentoring re-
lationship [2,13].
A. K. Hodgson, J. M. Scanlan / Open Journal of Nursing 3 (2013) 389-394
History suggests that mentoring has been used in nursing
as far back as Florence Nightingale [14-16]. Nonetheless,
mentoring is a relatively new concept in nursing, ap-
pearing in the literature in the 1980’s [10,17]. While long
used in other professions, mentoring now is gaining
attention and acceptance as an effective strategy for
nursing professional development [13,18]. The literature
suppor ts the need to conduct th is concep t analysis, a s the
most recent concept analyses of mentoring in nursing
were published approximately 20 years ago [19,20] The
profession of nursing has drastically changed over the
past 20 years, and a current concept analysis of men-
toring based on relevant and current literature is
beneficial to the profession and to development of nurse
To gain an understanding of the true nature of the
concept, a broad search not limited to nursing literature
was conducted [3]. Definitions and uses of the concept of
mentoring were reviewed outside of nursing in the
disciplines of business management, vocational behavi-
our, education, library sciences, social sciences, and
medicine. A literature review was conducted using
databases of Pub Med, CINAH L, AbInform, Scopu s, and
the Cochrane Institu te.
Mentoring is a multi-disciplinary concept [8]. Acade-
mic medicine describes mentoring as a vibrant, fulfilling
relationship between an established faculty member and
a new faculty member preferably in the same discipline
[21]. In academe, mentoring helps scholars work inde-
pendently while navigating the culture and supporting
contributions to research and education [22]. The impact
of mentoring on career advancement has been exten-
sively studied in business [23]. Wang [24] stated that
“fledging professionals” are the beneficiaries of men-
toring processes.
Carroll [25] and Daniels [26] argue that understanding
the concept of mentoring is critical in nursing leadership
and management. Without an in-depth understanding of
the concept of mentoring, healthcare organizations
cannot increase knowledge development [2] or develop
effective leadership programs. Nurse managers work
with large spans of control, often with minimal support
and guidance, contributing to difficulty in recruiting and
retaining new nurse managers [27]. A strong support
system and mentor is a key aspect in the transition to a
nurse leader role [28]. Attracting new nurse leaders is a
critical issue that needs to be addressed by healthcare
organizations and the nursing profession [29-32]. Health-
care organizations and nursing leaders must recognize
and support the use of mentoring in succession planning .
Mentoring is used to identify, nurture, support, and de-
velop new nurse leaders [13,33-35].
Throughout the literature the term mentoring is used to
define a relationship between two people, with a goal of
furthering the mentee’s career and professional develo-
pment [36-38]. The concept of mentoring is used to
describe a form of employee development in which a
trusted person uses his/her experience to offer guidance,
encouragement, career advice, and support to another
person. Mentoring impacts personal and professional
skills and provides contextual feedback [35,39].
The Canadian Nurses Association [11] state “mentoring
involves a voluntary and mutually beneficial relation-
ship” (p. 18). Wroten and Waite [40] describe mentoring
as “purposeful activities that facilitate career develop-
ment, personal growth, caring, empowerment, and nur-
turance that is integral to nursing practice and leader-
ship” (p. 106). Mentoring relationships can vary across
settings and be formal or informal in nature [13].
Mentoring is a process that develops over time [41], a
complex, reciprocal relationship between a mentor and
mentee that has potential for successful personal and
professional development [42-45].
Mentoring in nursing leadership and management can
be described simply as leaders developing leaders [46].
Experienced nurse leaders, who share their tacit know-
ledge, support the new nurse leader when making
difficult decisions. Support for the new nurse leader
assists in attracting other nurse leaders to assume man-
agement roles. Mentoring is useful in developing the
skill set of the mentees [47] as the mentor reco gnizes the
potential of the mentee and guides and supports his/her
development from experience [42,48].
The nature and quality of the relationship is funda-
mental to the process of mentoring [17,46]. At the core
of the relationship are two people who see value and
meaning in eachother and want to be in a relationship
together [13,49,50]. Barker [42] and Young [45] describe
mentoring as a relationship that is based on mutual
respect and common goals. Mentoring involves the
sharing of valuable tacit knowledge [43,45] through ef-
fective engaging, and respectful communication [42,51].
Mentors are approachable, knowledgeable, honest,
friendly, patient, experienced, enthusiastic, and willing to
spend time with the mentee [1 0,15,17,43,44,47,50,52 ,53].
Mentors have astrong belief in the mentee’s capability
[13,18]; they ch allenge, support, and en courage a mentee
[54-56]. A mentee must be willing to learn, be career
committed, competent, and have strong self- identity and
initiative [13,57].
Precepting, coaching, role modeling, and networking are
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A. K. Hodgson, J. M. Scanlan et al. / Open Journal of Nursing 3 (2013) 389-394 391
terms associated with mentoring [20,58,59]. Precepting
is an orientation technique that is clinically focusedwith
assigned relationships between experienced and new
staff [19] and lasts for short or specified periods of time
[7,60]. Precepting usually includes formal assessments or
evaluations [42,53]. Coaching is a term that is similar to
mentoring in that an individual is provided with feedback,
receives support, and guidance [54,59]. Coaching
involves a more formal relationship with the coach
typically not selected by the mentee [61]. The act of
coaching is focused on behaviours and the development
of certain skills in a current role; whereas mentoring is
noted to focus on supporting career and interpersonal
development, rather than behaviours [41,61-63].
Networking is de scribed as a way of providing advice,
support, and feedback to individuals, offering unique
strategies to balance and deal with organizational and
home life issues [63]. Networking requires no relation-
ship and can be done by the employee alone, for example
an employee attends work functions to meet fellow
colleagues and supervisors.
Role modeling is a related term in wh ich an individual
internalizes and emulates behaviour, values, or appear-
ances of another [19]. Unlike mentoring, role modeling
is passive in nature and does not involve a relationship
between two people.
Defining attributes are characteristics of a concept that
occur throughout the literature and help to further define
the concept [3]. Based on the literature search conducted
for this concept analysis, four defining attributes are used
to describe mentoring. They are: 1) relationship between
two individuals with differing levels of experience, 2)
relationship based on mutual respect and common goals,
3) demonstrated willingness by mentor and mentee to
engage in the relationship, and 4) sharing of knowledge.
Walker and Avant [3] suggest that the use of cases
(model, borderline, contrary, and related) assist in further
illustrating the concept. The cases may or may not
contain all of the defining attributes such as those
described above. The inclusion of these cases in a
concept analysis enhances the understanding the concept
of mentoring.
8.1. Model Case
Sally, a clinical resource nurse, wants to pursue a career
in administration and nursing leadership. She feels
comfortable seeking guidance from her current manager,
Claire. Claire has extensive experience in nursing
administrationand is well respected amongst her peers.
She demonstrates a leadership style that facilitates an
open caring relationship with Sally. Aware of Sally’s
career goals, Claire encourages and supports Sally’s
growth and development by sharing her leadership
knowledge. Their relationship demonstrates engaging,
respectful communication.
This model case contains all of the critical attributes.
Sally and Claire demonstrate a willingness to participate
in a relationship. Claire shares her knowledge and
experience with Sally, supporting her career goals and
ambition. They demonstrate respect and understand the
common goal of furthering Sally’s career.
8.2. Borderline Case
Kevin, a clinical resource nurse, is interested in leader-
ship and wants to pursue a career in nursing ad-
ministration. Kevin’s current manager, Claire has ex-
tensive experience in nursing leadership and is well
respected amongst her peers. Aware of Kevin’s career
goals, Claire attempts to encourage and support Kevin’s
growth and development by sharing her leadership
knowledge. She demonstrates a leadership style that
would facilitate an open caring relationship with Kevin.
Kevin, however, is not comfortable seeking guidance
from Claire. He is enrolled in graduate education and
believes that he will gain knowledge regarding nursing
leadership through his studies.
This case lacks Kevin’s willingness to participate in a
mentoring relationship. Although the other critical at-
tributes that define mentoring are present, without par-
ticipation by both the mentor and mentee, the relation-
ship cannot be defined as a mentoring.
8.3. Related Case
Sarah is a new nurse on a surgical ward. She has been
assigned to a preceptor, Marcella. Marcella is a nurse
with 10 years of experience, and will work closely with
Sarah to assist in her orientation to her new position.
Sarah will work every shift with Marcella, with ongoing
formal evaluation in 12 weeks.
This case illustrates the related concept of precepting
[19]. However, precepting is a time-limited, orientation
process with assigned individuals. Precepting differs
from mentoring in which participants choose each other;
there is no time limit and no formal evaluations.
8.4. Contrary Case
Lisa is a new nurse, she feels overwhelmed and “scared”
in her new role and of her new responsibilities. She
approaches Tim, a senior nurse and asks for help. His
response is “I am sorry you are feeling that way. You
will get over it” and walks away.
This case is simply not mentoring. The actions of the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A. K. Hodgson, J. M. Scanlan / Open Journal of Nursing 3 (2013) 389-394
experienced nurse is a clear contrast to mentoring which
includes a respectful relationship in which knowledge is
shared to further the goal of the mentee’s development.
Antecedents are events or incidents that happen prior to
the occurrence of the concept [3]. The most obvious
antecedent of mentoring is that a mentor and mentee are
required. A mentoring relationship doe s not exist withou t
a mentor and mentee [20]. The act of mentoring begins
with mentors and mentees self-selecting each other and
establishing a relation ship [36,61]. Often the initiatio n of
the relationship is driven by the mentee [15,27,53,54].
Common interests and the right chemistry lead to
successful relationships [18,49].
As a career development tool, health care organi-
zations must believe in the outcomes of mentoring.
Mentoring is the responsibility of organizations to sup-
port the mentor and the mentee. An organization that
supports and encourages mentoring enhances success in
matching a n d mentorin g o ut c omes[45,46,52,64].
Consequences of mentoring occur after the concept is
present; that is outcomes of the concept [3]. The
experience of mentoring allows the mentee to gain
insight into and dev elop leadership sk ills [65]. Men toring
is associated with increased job satisfaction and retention
which is beneficial for the mentee, mentor, organization,
and nursing profession [14,38,41,46,49,52,66]. Not only
do the individuals involvedin the mentoring relationship
benefit, but the organization and ultimately the patient
benefit [7,16,27,49,67]. Mentoring empowers mentors
and mentees [68], and empowerment enhances em-
ployees motivation and professional development [18].
By embracing mentoring relationships, a culture and
workplace is created in which nurses want to come to
work [7]. The newly empowered nurse has high self
esteem and, in turn, mentors new staff and the cycle
continues [18,22,53].
Empirical referents indicate that the concept has occurred
[3]. Walker and Avant state that “empirical referents are
classes or categories of actual phenomena that by their
existence or presence demonstrate the occurrence of the
concept itself” (p. 71). There is a plethora of tools that
have been developed to measure both the career and
psychosocial functions of mentoring. The wide variation
in what each tool specifically aims to measure is
presumably due to the subjective nature of mentoring. A
Mentoring Function Questionnaire developed by Scan-
dura et al. [48] provides an example of areas or in-
dicators of mentoring that can be empirically meas ur ed .
The recruitment and reten tion of new nursing leaders are
affected by the seemingly overwhelming expectations
and responsibilities of current formal nursing leadership
roles. Nurses need to continue to step into formal leader-
ship roles, ensuring that the nursing profession success-
fully rises to meet the challenges and needs of the
healthcare system and the people we serve. The nursing
profession needs to commit to and embrace the concept
of mentoring to provide new nurse leaders with sup-
portive environments, in which they can grow and
flourish [9,38,52,69]. Examining the concept of men-
toring in nursing leadership provides a greater under-
standing of its importance in today’s healthcare system.
Mentoring is an invaluable tool for the future of
nursing leadership and should be highly regarded as a
way to promote and support nursing leaders; a me-
chanism critical to the future of the nursing profession
[70]. Mentoring must be recognized and supported by
healthcare organizations as a critical succession planning
strategy to attract and retain new nurse leaders.
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