The program resulted in greater employee motivation and productivity as well as improved relationships among workers at nursing home
Danielle Eisenstaedt, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Riverside Healthcare Center-Cambridge, knows that the impact of mentorship works both ways: The mentor gains just as much, if not more, as the person under her wing.
“Helping other people can sometimes help yourself in the strangest and most fulfilling ways,” she said. “It can also bring a sense of gratitude for what you can do in your own life and for others.”
Eisenstaedt recently served as a mentor for her fellow CNA, Alma Martinez, who had been promoted after serving in the kitchen and activities departments at Riverside. Martinez completed the CNA licensing course provided by the Education Fund to eligible nursing home employees who are part of the collective bargaining agreement with SEIU Local 2015. The Education Fund is a labor-management partnership between nursing home employers and the union.
The Fund’s peer mentorship program is meant to support nursing homes, retain skilled employees, particularly CNAs, at a time when the state is grappling with a nurse staffing shortage. CNAs who recently passed their state exams are paired with more seasoned CNAs in the same facility to help transition the new nursing assistants to their roles and responsibilities as members of the care team.
“I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have a mentor, I would be making a lot of mistakes,” Martinez said. “(The mentorship program) was a blessing. I was able to go to someone to ask questions, who would correct me, who would give me answers. You have that trust in your mentor that you’re not being lectured. Having a mentor was key to being successful in doing my job right and motivated me to keep going.”
Martinez said a peer mentor was effective because Eisenstaedt’s support and advice came from shared experiences. “She could relate to what I was talking about or say, ‘It happened to me before,’” Martinez said.
Being Martinez’s mentor was empowering for Eisenstaedt because it gave her an opportunity to contribute to someone else’s advancement. “It allowed me to help others, to encourage them to take ownership of themselves and be leaders in little ways whenever possible, through what we do, what we say and how we act.”
Jesse Mandujano, Administrator at Riverside Healthcare Center, believes that mentors need to be strong leaders themselves. “They are motivated to be the very best they can be toward their peers and with their clients. You want to develop leaders just like them.”
Mandujano sees the mentorship program as one of the many ways facility management can collaborate with the union. “We want to work together to do the very best for our employees,” he said. “It’s an affordable opportunity to further raise up leaders within our facility.”
The mentorship program adds more value to the education and training that members receive, Mandujano said. “It gives us an opportunity to say, ‘You can do this. We believe in you.’ (The facility) is always doing that, but this mentorship program makes it a little easier because there’s somebody who can be there for the employees, spend time with them and be more directly involved with them.”
Strengthening partnerships between coworkers also helps reduce employee turnover at nursing homes. “Turnover usually happens when people are unhappy or feel there’s no connection, no workers they can trust or look up to,” said Felix Beltran, SEIU Local 2015 representative for Riverside Healthcare Center. With a mentor, “you get someone you trust and someone’s face you’re familiar with. This person isn’t going to go away. It makes me proud that a mentor isn’t going to leave them hanging even if a program ends.”
Mandujano also points out that a mentor serves as another level of support for new employees and it “can add great value to have somebody there” who can answer their questions. “They may be reluctant to go to their supervisor. When you have a mentor as a peer it kind of takes that question that may never be answered out of the equation because you have that mentor who can help you,” he said.
Eisenstaedt wishes all nursing home employees would have an opportunity to participate in the Education Fund’s mentorship program in their facilities. “It’s encouraging and allows a space for constructive criticism and learning listening and communication skills. Being able to be a sounding board and learning from somebody who is new and has a different perspective, being able to help her find her own way, it encouraged me to do more for myself,” Eisenstaedt said.