To make a blended eMentoring & eLearning initiative a reality, a healthcare organization would need a web-based, total communication solution which would allow individuals to collaborate anywhere and anytime for improved productivity. Specific collaboration tools would include: Email, Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing, Desktop Sharing, Co-browsing, File Sharing, Internet Phone with Voicemail, Group Collaboration, Discussion Groups, Web Collaboration, and Virtual Classrooms. In particular, one of the challenges of any new mentoring relationship is the availability of time. Traditional mentoring requires that both parties be available at the same time to meet in person.
While time is always a factor in any mentoring partnership, it is not necessary for both participants to be available at the same time in a virtual mentoring relationship. Advantages include open correspondence, access to more geographically isolated regions, and efficiency of communication. Many healthcare professionals feel that there isn't enough time to do patient care, let alone mentorship. That's the harsh reality of the healthcare environment ? everyone recognizes mentoring is crucial yet there never seems to be enough time. Although face-to-face mentorship programs have a variety of positive outcomes, many healthcare professionals believe they simply do not have time to make a commitment to such programs.
However, we feel it is reasonable that they could spend 30-45 minutes per week mentoring in a virtual relationship. Virtual mentoring and online learning is also place independent, meaning the mentor and the mentee do not need to live in close proximity to each other. This allows mentoring relationships to be formed between parties living in different cities, states, or even countries. An organization can realize a huge cost savings because instead of learning and mentoring occurring in house at "X" dollars an hour, these mentoring partners are participating in different aspects of mentoring using e-learning software on their own time, not on the hospital's.
Corresponding by email allows both parties to communicate at a time that is convenient to them. Also, many shy participants may find it easier to communicate by email and/or instant messaging and may have deeper discussions when they aren't face-to-face. Mentees may feel less intimidated or hesitant asking questions using email than they might when posing those same questions in person. Mentor willingness to give feedback, both positive and negative, may increase when the feedback did not need to be delivered in person. Email and instant messaging also makes it easy to communicate thoughtfully and deliberately, and provides a record of communication. As a bonus, new online computer education skills are learned for all participants in a "virtual university".
Having to use the collaboration tools of computer-mediated communication helps participants get comfortable with working with elearning software and e-learning applications such as a Learning Management System for healthcare. That may help them perform better in an ever-increasing world of Internet learning and computer usage in healthcare.
Tony Colon, RN-C is a eMentoring & eLearning in Healthcare Specialist. Find out how a customized program in your organization boosts recruitment, development, nurse retention, and patient care at http://www.healthcarementoring.com