Students launch peer mentorship program
Feb 2, 2022
Above, top: Steve Gandza, Alexander Skipper
Above, bottom: Krizalyn Jacinto, Maria Pratt
Getting through university during a pandemic is challenging enough, but Alexander Skipper and Krizalyn Jacinto wanted to do more during their final years to give back to fellow students in their program.
Skipper and Jacinto are students in the accelerated stream of the nursing program, which is a condensed version of the BScN basic program. This stream is designed for students who have already completed at least two years of university study. Skipper and Jacinto are also the accelerated program representatives for the McMaster University Nursing Students Society (MUNSS). The two students started a peer mentorship program this year with the goal of facilitating meaningful partnerships between first year and second year accelerated stream students.
“We recognized the unique needs associated with students transitioning from diverse academic backgrounds into a condensed program and wanted to provide the incoming cohort with the support and guidance necessary to navigate this process,” Skipper and Jacinto note. “This also gives upper-level students the opportunity to give back to the nursing community, while strengthening their leadership skills that will be highly valued within professional clinical settings. In the future, we hope to use what we have learned through this program to develop further supports for all McMaster nursing students.”
Skipper and Jacinto began the pilot project with 22 mentees and 13 mentors in the fall term and that grew to 26 mentees and 22 mentors by the winter semester. “We are still accepting applications,” says Skipper. “We encourage the mentorship pairings to meet on a bi-weekly basis on a schedule and timeline that is agreed upon by the pair. Mentees can ask questions and advice of their mentor at any time, get together for study sessions or social gatherings, public health guidelines permitting, and participate in workshops guided by our mentors.” In addition to initiating the program, they also plan to conduct a research project on student mentorship in undergraduate nursing in order to learn what structure, implementation, and programing works best.
The two students will be graduating in the spring. They hope to identify some students from the current ‘mentee’ group who are interested in becoming the next leaders of the mentorship project. They are planning to stay involved after graduation in collaboration with the new leaders.
Dr. Maria Pratt is the accelerated BScN stream lead. “Last fall, Alexander Skipper and Krizalyn Jacinto met with me and Steve Gandza, who is the accelerated stream clinical course planner. The students came with a proposal to create a peer mentorship program based on a survey they conducted to assess the needs of junior accelerated students. Steve and I thought it was a great idea. The peer mentorship program can help the junior learner get grounded in the program, gain confidence, and feel reassured and socially connected during this challenging time,” says Pratt.
Dr. Joanna Pierazzo is the assistant dean, undergraduate nursing programs. “I am so pleased these students developed this and that there are learners who wish to volunteer time to mentor a junior learner. This initiative highlights the value of students supporting each other,” says Pierazzo.