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Many new orientees want guidance and support beyond the period of orientation. How can my organization offer this to them?

Through mentors, who are very different to preceptors. Preceptors are primarily concerned with helping the orientee acquire the ability to function as an entry-level employee. They concentrate on helping the new employee gain skills throughout a limited, specific period of time. The preceptor relationship generally ends with the conclusion of orientation.

However, a mentor is someone who is involved with the all-around professional development of an individual. The mentor relationship generally has no fixed conclusion. The mentor acts as a nurturer who listens and guides the new nurse. Research indicates that a long-term relationship, such as mentoring, has a positive impact on job satisfaction and retention.

Another option, and a positive, long-term program is residency. A number of healthcare organizations are offering residency programs in an effort to reduce turnover, improve retention, and enhance job performance. A nurse residency program is generally a partnership between academia and practice in a healthcare setting. Its purpose is to facilitate the new graduate's transition into professional practice.

Diana Swihart, PhD, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC

(July 2010)