Group Mentoring of New Graduate Midwives: Emerging Professional Capacity: A Naturalistic Inquiry
This research explores an innovative group mentoring model developed at the request of four newly graduated midwives who were mentored as a group by four experienced midwives. Since virtually all research on mentoring, both internationally and in New Zealand assumes that mentoring is a one-to-one activity, this study aimed to describe how this group mentoring model operated and explore whether it was successful in supporting new midwives to gain confidence. A naturalistic study design was used with a mixed methods approach to collecting and analysing a large amount of richly descriptive data. Data were gathered from records of individual contacts between mentors and new graduates, from a series of interviews with each of the eight participants, and from the actual audio recordings of regular group mentoring meetings across the mentoring year. Simple descriptive analysis of quantitative data and detailed thematic analysis of qualitative data were undertaken. The study found the group mentoring model provided everything that is expected of one-to-one mentoring and the new graduates felt well supported as they gained confidence during their first year in practice as autonomous self-employed midwives. The group model provided new graduates with 24/7 one-to-one mentor support whenever they asked for it. This was found to occur mostly in the first half of the year and was highly valued. The new graduates and the mentors all agreed that the most important part of the model were the regular group meetings. These meetings were entirely focused on day to day experiences that the new graduates chose to present to the group. Analysis of the meeting transcripts showed that the new graduates' issues ranged across the whole scope of practice; that they were sometimes prompted by self-reflection, sometimes by issues to do with relationships with others, and sometimes by a need to discuss technical matters. The mentors' responses were variously supportive; listening and exploring; directing or informing; and questioning or challenging. The group aspect of this mentoring model added a number of features that would not be possible in one-to-one mentoring. The new graduates valued how the group meetings exposed them to multiple perspectives from several mentors. The group meetings modelled a supportive and collegial way of working together that facilitated their emerging professional capacity now and into their future. The group provided a safe yet challenging space: a "stimulating sanctuary" for the new graduates' development. Overall the study found that group mentoring can successfully meet the needs of new graduates and provides several advantages over one-to-one mentoring. Group mentoring may be a more sustainable model than one-to-one, particularly where there are shortages of mentor midwives available. It is a model that promotes a supportive professional midwife culture, contributes to new knowledge in the area and is the preferred approach to mentoring in the future.