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Mentoring program enhances CM training
Mentoring key in success of award-winning facility
A mentoring program for staff members who have already completed orientation is seen as a key strategy in the programs of Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in Charlotte, NC, which was recently named the winner of the 2009 Franklin Award of Distinction by The Joint Commission and the American Case Management Association.
An on-site evaluation of CMC's case management service model validated that the services met or exceeded the award's criteria for excellence. Criteria included:
"As we embarked on a shared governance model, a piece of what was found by the orientation council was that after orientation, employees felt the need for extended resources and assistance," says Barb DeSilva, assistant vice president for clinical care management. "Case management is an extremely autonomous function; they are the only one in the unit. Many have had clinical experience but not case management experience, so they are looking for leadership in guiding them through their professional development; they want people who role modeled the position."
There's a huge investment involved in training these people, she continues, so keeping turnover low is crucial. "It takes a long time to master the industry; they have a lot to master, such as payers, resources, and managing capacity, so to get a new team member fully proficient takes a couple of years," says DeSilva.
Creating the program
In creating the mentoring program, "we modeled it after some of the other programs in the literature," says Regina Osman, RN, MSN, ACM, CPUR, manager, clinical care management. "We discovered what was research-based and what worked; we wanted be as effective as possible."
What she found was that after new employees finish orientation (which is six to eight weeks at Carolinas) they wanted to have a "go-to" person.
"They wanted someone more at the employee base level, rather than having to come to management," she adds. "They need nurturing and support." It's not that managers aren't available, she continues, "but it would be better if they could have a peer to bounce ideas off of, a mentor they could go to with questions and network and share time away from the workplace."
The program was launched in the spring of 2008. In selecting the mentors, Osman looked for strong leaders with an extensive knowledge base who could play a nurturing role. "Our mentors have years of experience in the field, and have been viewed as role models not only by the employees in our departments but within the entire hospital system," she notes. "They have years of experience as nurses and social workers, good leadership skills, and good mentoring and preceptor [training] skills."
In pairing mentors and mentees, the facility developed some tools that enabled it to look at personality traits as well as at clinical skills. "Instead of just saying, 'You go with her,' or 'You seem to like each other,' we matched folks with similar backgrounds in clinical areas and areas of expertise, and also considered their personalities," Osman explains.
After a year together, it is up to the mentor and mentee to determine if they want to continue with the commitment, says Osman, who notes that new teams are created as needed. "Right now we have a meeting set up to match six new employees with mentors," she shares. She currently has 10 mentors in the department. "They can have up to two mentees at a time; if they have more than that, they may lose effectiveness," she adds.
Formal, informal meetings
The mentors and mentees get together and communicate on a number of different levels, says Osman. "On a day-to-day basis, the mentee knows the mentor is available by e-mail, pager, or phone if questions come up," she says. "But the 'meat and potatoes' of the program is that they have lunch together one or two days a month and do activities together. They go to team building or case management meetings outside of the hospital. They may have a dinner, or socialize, and pursue educational opportunities at that time."
The mentors, she notes, continually look at activities in the hospital they can attend with their mentee. "Some even went to wine tastings after work," she adds, noting that they are required to get together at least once a month. (See box.)
Measuring the success of the program "takes some effort on my part," Osman concedes. "I try to meet quarterly with the mentors and get feedback on an individual basis to see how things are going. I'm also rounding at least on a weekly basis, so I get informal feedback from the mentees."
There are now some recent graduates and feedback on the program, says Osman. She says they appreciated the opportunity to have a strong go-to person. "In this field, you can't learn everything in six to eight weeks," she notes. "With their mentor, they can ask questions, troubleshoot difficult discharges and other problems. A lot of folks who just completed the program say they do not want it to stop; they want to know their mentor is still available to them."
Although the program is time-consuming for the mentors, Osman says, "this is a priority for them. They look at their schedules and see if they can plug in even just 30 minutes. We also allow them flexibility in scheduling assignments if they need some time."
Osman is convinced the program contributes to improved quality of care. "I think it is strengthening these new employees to be the best case managers they can possibly be," she says. "We give them the skills and knowledge to be successful now more than ever; we take the time and effort to make it work for our new employees because we value them."
[For more information, contact:
Barb DeSilva. Phone: (704) 355-3191; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.]