York Central Hospital offers first of its kind mentorship program in Canada


As part of building capacity at York Central Hospital a strategy was created to enhance the learning environment for staff, attract staff to the organization and reduce the significant turnover within the first year. To this end a dynamic mentorship program was created supported by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inter-professional education initiative and York Central Hospital (YCH) Foundation.

“The mentorship program has been extremely successful in recruiting and retaining staff nurses,” says Interim Professional Practice Leader Audrey Sheridan. “Many new graduates told us that they chose YCH over other hospitals because of the mentorship program. It speaks volumes about the value the organization places on nursing, both experienced and new graduates. The mentorship program has truly been a catalyst for YCH, raising the bar for nursing education and clinical development across the organization.”

This multifaceted program includes a number of components including mentorship development; supernumerary time for mentor support of newly hired staff; extended program development support for both experienced and new graduate staff; clinical fellowships; specialty certifications; national certifications and degree support bursaries.

How does it work?New hires (experienced and new graduates) spend their first three weeks on the job learning in a classroom environment. Content includes: Assessment and Management of Pain; Risk Prevention and Assessment and Management of Stage I-IV Pressure Ulcers; Screening and Caregiving Strategies for Delirium and Dementia; Fall Prevention; Vascular Access and Diabetes Management drawn from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) Best Practice Guidelines (BPGs).

Following the in-class portion, new nursing hires are assigned mentors and begin working with them on their specific nursing services. Further development components related to relationships include: providing and receiving feedback, responding to emotionally charged situations, building trust and Patient Focused Care which was based on the RNAO’s BPGs for Client Centered Care, Therapeutic Relationships and Leadership.

Through an innovative partnership with York University’s Faculty of Nursing, Patient Focused Care, mentors and new staff are given the opportunity to learn together building their relationships with each other and with patients and families. An added bonus reported by those who took this class was that their learnings could be applied to their professional relationships with staff across the organization.

“I was scared, at first intimidated,” said one participant of the program. “I thought, I’m not ready for this. But I have learned so much, I am so fortunate (to have been able to participate).”

The mentorship program also benefited the mentors. They were supported in their role and were able to apply their knowledge, skills and expertise in the support of new staff. They said as mentors they learned about themselves as well as the organization. They felt part of the larger team in the hospital and were able to develop friendships with colleagues across the organization.

Nurses who were neither mentors nor mentees also benefited from the program. Funding was allocated to them for the development of expert knowledge in their service through Canadian Nurse Association Specialty Certifications. Many of these nurses took advantage of the generous support and reimbursement initiatives that were offered. A few nurses received funding to attend courses/workshops in other areas.

As much as possible, the mentorship program was designed to develop all nurses regardless of their years of experience. The feedback from the nurses was very positive. Staff identified that this was a phenomenal opportunity.

In the first 4 months of the program, starting June 2007, 34 mentors, 32 experienced new hire and 40 new graduates staff received 12,016 hours of workshop and 23,423hours of facilitated application. All experienced new staff in general care areas received a minimum of 3 months of supernumerary time while mentors received up to one month of supernumerary time for clinical time spent with the new staff. New graduates received mentorship for up to one year in specialty areas of emergency; intensive care and the operating room. Thirty-three staff received course registration and three month support for specialty certifications in intensive care, emergency and the operating room and 69 staff received support for advanced life support.

Next Steps:Moving into 2008, YCH will be incorporating many of the educational opportunities from the mentorship program into the newly revised mentorship program. There will be a greater focus on building and maintaining professional relationships, both with patients and the health-care team. Best practices from the original program have been retained and the clinical application portion has been expanded in the updated mentorship program.