According the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024. They also expect more than a million job openings because of growth and retiring nurses.

The SEIU Training and Education Fund, in partnership with four local nursing home facilities, has launched an initiative to help combat this impending staffing crisis.

The Gardens at Blue Ridge, The Gardens at Camp Hill, The Gardens at Gettysburg, and The Gardens at West Shore have all partnered with the SEIU Training & Education Fund to launch a peer mentorship program as part of a larger “Employer-Based Career Pathway” in Central PA. The overall program, including the development and implementation of mentorship opportunities for the participating employers, is funded by a Strategic Innovation grant from the Department of Labor and Industry and administered by SCPA Works.

Mentorship is a valuable retention tool. Long Term Care facilities see the highest rates of turnover within the first three months of an employee’s start date. By aligning newly hired CNAs and LPNs with experienced caregivers, peer mentorship creates a robust on-boarding experience and stabilized support system throughout the workplace – which leads to less terminations and ultimately reduces costs to employers. Mentors serve as a ‘first line of defense’ to identify barriers to job success and seek to resolve conflict and/or confusion before a larger crisis is at hand.

In addition to benefiting employers and boosting the confidence of new employees, mentorship also provides a crucial career step for caregivers who have extensive knowledge of their field to share with newcomers. Individuals who wish to become peer mentors are selected based on a diverse set of criteria – including colleague recommendations, overall performance, and demonstration of comprehensive understanding of the skills needed to provide excellent care to residents. The Mentors attend a three-day paid training where they dig into leadership, productive communication methods, team-building, adult learning styles, and best practices for coaching peers. Once they complete training, new staff are assigned as ‘mentees’ for the first three months of their employment. The Mentor leads the Mentee through their daily tasks and provides encouragement, constructive feedback, and a safe, supportive space to discuss concerns. This chance to improve their workplace culture is an exciting and welcome opportunity for mentors.

Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction leads to long-term workplace stability. Mentorship shows us that when management acknowledges their workers’ commitment to quality care and makes space for them to assist in creating a healthy nursing home environment, everyone reaps the rewards.