Featuring a mix of practical workshops and social events, the Ingram School of Nursing’s unique Nursing Peer Mentorship Program (NPMP) encourages liaisons between junior and senior students and provides a platform for them to meet throughout the academic year. In addition to helping new students feel welcomed into the school, the NPMP fosters resilience – a critical trait associated with nursing satisfaction and retention.

The seeds of the Nursing Peer Mentorship Program (NPMP) were planted when six first-year students confided in Professor Lia Sanzone that they felt overwhelmed. When she asked them if they thought they could benefit from a peer mentor, the answer was a resounding yes. An informal survey to the 300 students in the program revealed that the need for a peer support program was overwhelming. This came as no surprise to Professor Sanzone, who points out that, “Nursing is recognized as one on the most stressful of all health professions.”

In 2014,after securing initial funding from a McGill University fund supporting the initiation of new projects, Professor Sanzone launched the NPMP, recruiting 25 second and third year students who were eager to act as mentors to incoming students and to help develop the program. Dyads were formed between “mentor” and “mentee” and workshops offered to the group as a whole on topics identified as priorities by the students. Funding was later obtained from Health Canada to support language workshops where students could learn and practice French healthcare terminology.  Other popular workshops include clinical survival skills, managing stress during exam periods, balancing course work, labs and clinical rotations, and, for graduating students, the all-important transition to clinical practice.

Professor Sanzone is especially pleased by the willingness of “mentees” to serve as mentors to newer students, with some continuing to mentor their junior peers even after graduation. “I’m really proud of them for wanting to give back. It’s a reflex that will serve them well throughout their professional careers as well as our profession,” she says.

Recent ISoN graduate Vanessa D’Aquila, MScN, says that in addition to easing her adjustment to nursing school and building resilience, being involved with the NPMP from her undergraduate days helped her develop leadership skills. Upon graduating from McGill’s BScN program, she conducted a quality improvement research study of the NPMP. Along with Sae Fukamizu and Professor Sanzone, she co-authored a paper entitled Stemming the tide of nursing attrition: developing resilience via a peer mentorship program”, published last October in the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) e-Journal.

The NPMP proved to be so successful that the model was adapted to create the Nightingale Fellows. Under the auspices of the McGill Nursing Collaborative for Education and Innovation in Patient and Family Centered Care, the Nightingale Fellows assists new nursing recruits in their transition to practice at the McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital.

Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Oumeet Ravi is an enthusiastic proponent of both the NPMP and the Nightingale Fellows, describing them as confidential, safe spaces to discuss a variety of issues from study advice to administrative challenges to resource management to conflict resolution. Ms. Ravi, who participated in the NPMP during her graduate studies at ISoN, has served as a mentor with the Nightingale Fellows. “Building a network of people to rely on who validate your experiences is so important at all levels,” she asserts.

Ms. D’ Aquila, who recalls hearing new students say that they wanted to concentrate on their studies and wait a year before getting involved in programs like the NPMP, encourages students to take a “leap of faith” from the get-go.  “The Nursing Peer Mentorship Program will help you feel part of the nursing community, it can reduce your stress and can positively impact you academically too.”

If you are interested in joining the NPMP as a mentor, a mentee or both, please email Professor Lia Sanzone at npmp.nursing@mcgill.ca.  Mentors will be paired up with mentees by October…but it is never too late to apply!