Nurturing Excellence: Empowering Nurses through Mentorship at the VNA

In the world of healthcare, the role of mentors has become essential in shaping the future of nursing professionals. At the Lutheran SeniorLife Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), the practice of mentoring nurses is a longstanding tradition, consistently contributing to the quality of care delivered to those we serve.

VNA nurse Cathy Furey has been mentoring LPNs and RNs for a little over a year. According to Furey, the goal of the mentoring is to make sure every nurse feels “comfortable in their role…” before visiting a patient’s home.

“When you do home health, you go house-to-house by yourself and you see patients, and you take care of their needs, whether it’s calling the doctor or doing wound care, drawing blood, whatever you need to do—you do it by yourself…,” explained Furey.

In comparison, Sami Foster, VNA RN, who worked in one of the region’s largest health systems, understands the difference between working in a facility and in someone’s home, as she explained.  “You are by yourself, so if you need help with something you can’t just reach out and go and get another nurse,” said Foster. “You have to call somebody.”

Foster, who recently started working for the VNA about six weeks ago shadowed Furey visiting patients for the first three weeks on the job before making visits on her own.  Following a specific visit, Foster had to enter a new doctor’s order into the system, an unfamiliar task to her. In this situation, she called Furey for guidance and assistance in navigating the process.

“I feel that’s where the mentoring program is nice,” said Foster.  “I feel like if I didn’t have a mentor it would be more difficult to do my job.”

Furey provides training based on the comfort level of each nurse. “At first they just shadow me,” said Furey. “We go home-to-home. They watch how I do the visits….”

According to Furey, new nurses accompany a mentor daily during their field experience. This may involve observing physical and occupational therapy sessions to understand their roles. The mentorship continues until the new nurses receive approval on all documentation from a supervisor or until their skills are endorsed by a PCC.

“When we mentor, someone is with them until they are comfortable to be out on their own,” said Furey.

Training lasts two to three weeks or longer depending on the comfort level obtained by each nurse. In the end, nurses need to be comfortable with scheduling appointments, the admissions process, taking vitals, and wound care—if required, as well as completing the necessary documentation, ordering supplies and delivering blood to an outpatient lab when needed

“Having strong mentors that will assist staff in their new role or to assist staff that may need additional guidance is a key to retaining valuable nurses,” said Margie Walsh VNA Executive Director.  “In guiding and empowering our nurses, we not only enhance their skills but also amplify the healing touch we extend to every patient.”

As a mentor, Furey attempts to instill, in all of her mentees, the following three principles: “Quality Care is important: Patients depend on us. When you are in their home, they need 100% of your focus,” noted Furey. “We work as a team: We are never in this alone,” Furey continued.  Lastly, “Support: I just want them to know they can always contact me,” said Furey. “I always tell them, all the time, if you need something call me. It doesn’t matter if I am working, not working… call me.”