The Use of Virtual Mentoring in Nursing Education

A recent projection by workforce analysts indicated that the current shortfall in the number of nurses needed to provide care in the United States will rise to more than 500,000 by the year 2025 (Buerhaus, Straiger, & Auerbach, 2008). According to Bowen, Lyons, and Young (2000) nursing education is entering a period of unpredictable changes related to market workforce. The dilemma for educators is how to prepare students and faculty for the real world, where the perceived quality of care is decreasing, resources are scarce, the amount of work has increased, and the availability of jobs depends on the wide swing in the market forces, while at the same time ensuring that students and faculty have a solid preparation in nursing science. With no end in sight for the nursing shortage, colleges and universities must establish guidelines that meet local, national, and global health care goals and needs. The aim of this article is to explore the what, how, and why virtual mentoring may prove to be an innovative way to have an impact on increasing the number of experienced nurse educators.

What is virtual mentoring?

Virtual mentoring can be described as pairing a novice nurse or educator with one a nurse or educator with extensive experience who interact through the use of the internet. Several platforms are available to utilize this type of technology for example, Google Hangout and Skype. The general objectives most associated with virtual mentoring include individualized academic, motivational, and emotional support through the use of technology (Siegle, 2003). Virtual mentoring is a relatively new concept in nursing education, but has been utilized in the business, engineering and military sectors for years (Rowland, 2012). The most notable user of mentoring is the millennial student according to Simoneaux and Stroud (2010). Millennial students are usually very well versed in the use of technology. Virtual mentoring can support emerging relationships that can aid in collaboration and assist with bridging the generational gaps between seasoned professionals and new millennial students and faculty, plus allow learning to flow in both directions between mentors and mentees. Virtual mentoring networks established within nursing curricula is a powerful way to move education away from rigid requirements toward flexible learning opportunities that prepare nurses who are capable of managing large amounts of data-rich knowledge in technology-driven health care environments to make patient care decisions (Billings and Halstead, 2009).

Why Virtual Mentoring?

Why has the utilization of virtual mentoring in nurse education become an important aspect to learning? The IOM (2011) developed a focus group to discuss the future needs for nursing. The topics reviewed by the group included innovations in technology, online learning, nurse residency programs, and interprofessional collaborations that are being used across the country to improve access to high-quality educational opportunities for nurses at all levels. Nursing curricula is an ongoing ever changing process. The IOM (2011) believes that curricula needs to be adaptive enough to undergo continuous evaluation and improvement based on new evidence and a changing science base, changes and advances in technology, and changes in the needs of patients and the health care system.


How will the use of virtual mentoring improve the number of qualified nurse educators? Virtual mentoring can be utilized in both nursing education and healthcare settings. Virtual mentoring can support educators to establish and develop teaching pedagogies that aid in guiding and fostering effective learning experiences in virtual environments (Barrett, 2010). Through the use of virtual mentoring, mentors and mentees are no longer confined to a given location: they can communicate from virtually anywhere that has internet service. In order to promote student success in virtual learning environments, learning activities must be challenging, authentic, and interesting (Lok, et al., 2006). Formal guidelines and support for both the mentor and mentee are important if virtual mentoring relationships and environments are to be successful. This collaborative effort may aid in promoting a positive outcome for all involved in the virtual mentoring process.

The advances in technology have provided many new possibilities to promote the evolution of nursing education. These advances have made it possible for some of the most decorated nurse educators to mentor new and upcoming nurse educators. Virtual mentoring may have a very significant impact on the number of well-prepared nurse educators for the future. Through the use of technology and virtual mentoring arrangements, nurse educators from all over the world can share their vast amount of experience and knowledge to prepare the new generation of nurse educators.


Barrett, B. (2010). Virtual teaching and strategies: Transitioning from teaching traditional classes to online classes. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(12), 17-20.

Billings, D. & Halstead, J. (2009). Teaching in Nursing. A Guide for Faculty, St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Saunders.

Bowen, M., Lyons, K., & Young, B. (2000). Nursing and health care reform: implications for curriculum development. Journal Of Nursing Education, 39(1), 27-33.

Buerhaus, P., Staiger, D., & Auerbach, D. (2008) The future of nursing workplace in the United States: Data, trends, and implications. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Institute of Medicine (2011). “The Future of Nursing Leading Change, Advancing Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Lok, B., Ferdig, R., Raij, A., Johnsen, K., Dickerson, R., Coutts, J., & ... Lind, D. (2006). Applying virtual reality in medical communication education: current findings and potential teaching and learning benefits of immersive virtual patients. Virtual Reality, 10(3/4), 185. doi:10.1007/s10055-006-0037-3

Author Bio

Susan Clement B.S.N., M.S.N

Susan is employed at South Georgia State College, as an Assistant Professor of Nursing. As well, she has been employed as a labor and delivery nurse at Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas Georgia for the past 21 years. She is currently pursuing an EdD in Nursing Education at the University of West Georgia.