The Benefits of a Mentor-Mentee Relationship

By Bonny Kehm, PhD, RN Faculty Program Director, BS & MS Programs in Nursing

Tamara Coca, student in the MSN Education Tract, had a dilemma. She needed to complete her Practicum with a Mentor, but couldn’t find one. Tamara is currently living and working on the US Navy Base in Yokosuka, Japan and the Hospital Administration recently cancelled all future educational practicums due to personnel shortages.

She reached out to her department chair, Dr. Marcos Gayol at Aspen University, for help. Dr. Gayol contacted a colleague, Dr. Bonny Kehm, faculty program director in BS & MS Programs in Nursing at Excelsior College, who had experience mentoring graduate nursing students. Together with the help of the Capstone instructor, Dr. Nina Beaman, they came up with a possible solution of allowing Tamara to complete a Virtual Practicum with Dr. Kehm as her mentor. Dr. Gayol notified Tamara and said, “You are in luck! Dr. Kehm is a wonderful educator and tremendous mentor and will be a great asset to you for suggestions and ideas as you complete your practicum experience.”

To overcome the potential obstacle of a 15 hour time difference, Dr. Kehm and Tamara would skype Saturday mornings 7:00 a.m. Dr. Kehm’s time and 10:00 p.m. Tamara’s time to discuss her capstone project.

Tamara’s Capstone project, “Risks and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in Military Families,” was presented to community members at the Yokosuka Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Nurse Network of Yokosuka and Ikego, and at Yokosuka, Japan US Navy Base Health Fair. Tamara prepared a wellness topic presentation and developed a brochure about risks and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in Military Families. Some of these risks include: limited access to affordable produce in overseas installations; easy access to fast food restaurants; no healthy restaurant options; and stress associated with frequent moves. Dr. Kehm worked with Tamara to develop an assessment and evaluation tool for the health fair.

“The ideal mentor-mentee relationship does not end when the practice experience is over. The ultimate goal of the relationship should be to encourage the mentee to grow both personally and professionally and to actively seek opportunities for this growth to occur,” says Dr. Kehm.

Dr. Kehm, who was accepted to be a presenter at The Annual Nursing Education Institute conference called “Lessons from the Field: Innovations in Veteran Education and Care” this past June in Latham, NY, knew Tamara’s needs assessment from her capstone project of veterans health needs/ health disparities while living overseas was an important and relevant topic. Dr. Kehm felt that others needed to hear about Tamara’s unique perspective on our Military and their family members living in poverty overseas.

Through the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Kehm, Tamara submitted an abstract to The Annual Nursing Education Institute conference in New York. After several weeks, Tamara was notified that her abstract, “Risks and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in Military Families,” was accepted as a podium presentation.  Dr. Kehm continued the mentor-mentee relationship by collaborating with Tamara on her presentation.

Tamara flew from Japan to New York on June 1st, and Dr. Kehm flew from St. Louis to New York, to attend the Educational Day and meet in-person for the first time.  Tamara gave her presentation to more than 80 nursing education professionals nationwide. She highlighted the contemporary topic of vets living in poverty, including young military families qualifying for WIC and Food Stamps. She also discussed the diabetes costs for the military (VA expense and cost to recruit and train a military person), and shared her brochure.

“Thank you Dr. Kehm! I’m grateful for your guidance and I feel you have made me a more scholarly writer and a better nurse,” says, Tamara.