Exceptional mentors enrich nursing careers. Just ask Cheryl Woods Giscombe, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC. Like every Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, Giscombe has three mentors to guide her research, teaching and leadership growth. The value of mentoring is immediate and long-lasting, said Giscombe, an assistant professor in the school of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Mentors offer advice about her research project as well as career and personal guidance so she can develop “a sustainable career that can significantly impact the health of the public.”
Mentors also enable her to “be better prepared to present my research ideas, communicate with policymakers and other stakeholders, as well as consider how my work can influence policy,” said Giscombe, whose research includes stress-related health behaviors that contribute to health disparities in African-Americans.
The three-year RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar program, which started in 2007 and will end in 2017, builds national leaders in academic nursing. Each selected junior faculty member gets three mentors, said Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“A nurse mentor from the school helps them negotiate things at the school and understand the school culture,” Ladden said. “An interdisciplinary research mentor helps them think broadly about the impact of their research. And they have a national nursing mentor to help them think about how their work fits into healthcare science and their career at large.”
Nancy Fugate Woods, PhD, RN, FAAN, who serves as a national mentor and helped to design the program’s mentoring component, said a successful relationship is highly individualized.
As a mentor, the biobehavioral nursing professor and dean emeritus of the University of Washington School of Nursing said she feels “successful when watching somebody develop on their own path, their own trajectory, and not something I designed for them. But something I helped support [him or her] in envisioning.”
Mentees cite accomplishments
Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN, an associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, traces her success to her program mentors. Doering completed the program in 2011, but still talks to her mentors weekly.
“What has changed is the capacity in which I speak with them,” Doering said. “They were in a position I wanted to get to and I needed their expertise and experience in order to [develop] my success. Now we are more [like] colleagues and … it’s more of a dialogue now that I am tenured and have moved up to the associate professor level.”
Doering credits the program for preparing her as a faculty entrepreneur, a position she “never dreamed I would step into,” she said. “The program accelerated my career development and put me forward probably 10 or 15 years as compared to where I would have been had I not been a part of the program. The leadership training was incredible. I formed a start-up company and I am securing funding for that at the same time I am carrying out my faculty role and submitting proposals to INH. I am facilitating important work at the state across disciplines to promote health and outcomes of women during pregnancy and postpartum.”
Faculty entrepreneurs usually are associated with engineering and not nursing, said Doering, who is developing a safe sleep cradle to protect babies co-sleeping with adults.
“It’s not uncommon for an engineering professor to have created a technology that then spins off into a company and gets a license,” Doering said. “Their students, undergraduates and graduates, will help develop the technologies, and so it’s a relationship between the faculty and the university and the business community that catalyzes economic development. That’s where I am going and it’s just so exciting to be doing that.”
Giscombe, who wraps up the program this year, is thrilled she has engaged “in research to test the psychometric properties of my Superwoman Schema Scale and my Using Food to Cope with Stress Scale.”
She has also “submitted many manuscripts, had several papers published, and obtained additional grant funding to build upon my work accomplished during the RWJF NFS Program. I have been able to meet inspiring leaders in academia and healthcare. In particular, I was able to meet and shadow Dr. Mary Wakefield,” the previous administrator of HRSA, Giscombe said.
Another accomplishment for Giscombe was developing “close, authentic relationships with outstanding colleagues/cohort members that will last a lifetime.”