Mentoring Matters: Teach Others, Teach Thyself

By Kindred Healthcare

Kindred Healthcare Hospital Division’s Case Management mentoring program in the West Region follows these credos. The program began in 2010 for new MSN-level registered nurse case manager graduates from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland and Sacramento, CA, and has recently been extended to bedside nurses who wish to transition into the case management field. To foster the growth, development and mentoring of existing Kindred employees, academic partnerships with nursing training programs have also been developed between Kindred, the University of Phoenix and its nationwide campuses and online programs, and American Sentinel University online programs in Aurora, CO. These partnerships offer tuition reductions and other benefits to Kindred employees.

Both of these opportunities for mentoring facilitate a pipeline of eager students and recent grads, ready for the nurturing, growth, and development that strong mentoring supports.

Case management was a natural landscape for a mentoring program, as a field that faces unique challenges. Many case managers, nationwide, are approaching retirement, and recruiting and maintaining top talent to the field is critical to the viability of excellent patient care management and transitions of care. Escalating nursing shortages, competitive markets and overwhelming healthcare industry challenges are at play as well. At Kindred, add to that one more factor: the medical complexity of our patients and our dedication to providing them the highest quality care. Enter the mentoring program, which has already touched 13 case manager mentees. The programs that support Kindred employees in attaining higher degrees through academic partnerships have benefited about 100 students so far.

“While our fields of case management and nursing do face challenges and shortages, we are also uniquely positioned to take some of those challenges and turn them into something positive,” said Wendy De Vreugd, Regional Senior Director of Case Management for Kindred’s West Region. “We do have so many seasoned and excellent case managers, and now they can help us grow and nurture this next generation.”

Says De Vreugd, “Being mentored is one of the most positive and uplifting experiences one may have in a career.”

Pair an enthusiastic young mentee with a mentor possessing persistence, passion, dedication, and a knack for navigating complex resources and you have a match made in heaven, in which two-way learning occurs.

To infuse and foster a larger access for the professional case management community through networking, publishing, and professional educational alliances to provide meaningful mentorship opportunities, while mutually benefiting graduate registered nurses.

-Kindred Healthcare’s Educational Partnership Vision Statement

The mentorship program begins with a four-week period of onboarding, which helps the new case manager adjust to role clarity, learn about the organizational culture, and plant his or her feet in the nurturing soil of a guided educational experience for career development. That period includes an introduction to “Reflective Practice,” a daily habit of self-analysis and small adjustments that prevent the formation of fixed responses to situations. The mentees keep journals; some pearls from which have included:

  • Always take the higher road (ethics)
  • Answer a question with a question to gain more information (seeking information and clarity)
  • You can say anything if you say it with respect (communication)

The second phase of the mentorship program addresses the creation of a career ladder based on individual goals. The program lasts six months, but can last up to a year for mentees needing more support in entry-level practice. Mentors must be focused on the specific learning and cultural needs of their mentees and must be adaptive, because every mentee is different and the education must be tailored appropriately.

For Kindred, academic partnerships and the mentoring program were a natural extension of the company’s commitment to the case management profession. Professional affiliations with organizations such as the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) are encouraged, and De Vreugd and other leaders are dedicated to advancing the field of case management wherever possible through this and other affiliations, as well as networking and publishing within the field.

As a national leader in the provision of post-acute services, Kindred is uniquely positioned to offer expertise and resources to support the maintenance of and growth of the case management field as a whole. We are supporting and contributing to the CMSA’s Careers and Knowledge Pathways (CKP) project, which reflects a commitment on the part of the profession as a whole to its own sustainability, growth and development.

Kindred Healthcare is committed to recruiting and retaining top talent to the fields of nursing and case management through the mentoring and academic partnership programs.