Mentoring in the workplace: A study of mentoring in allied health and aged care sectors

Author: Rosie Coppin

Coppin, Rosie, 2018 Mentoring in the workplace: A study of mentoring in allied health and aged care sectors, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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Mentoring is widely used in the health sector and has received a great deal of attention from health management researchers. Much of this research has concentrated on doctors and nurses working in the acute care public health sector at pre-qualification or early stages of their career. However the organisation and industry context in which mentoring occurs influences the effectiveness of different forms of mentoring. While there has been some research into mentoring in acute care health contexts, little attention has been paid to the needs of allied health professionals who are often employed in multiple part time or casual roles in public sector clinics or private practices. Many allied health professionals rely on a professional association to provide mentoring support and training. Further, there has been little research into mentoring in the rapidly growing residential aged care sector. Just as working conditions in the acute care sector are recognised as physically and psychologically demanding, similar conditions are experienced in the non-acute residential aged care sector. Workers are often subject to significant stress levels which can lead to burnout in extreme situations. Little is known about the psychological benefits of mentoring and in particular whether mentoring is an antecedent of psychological capital.

This thesis aims to fill this knowledge gap by investigating the mentoring experiences of allied health professionals and residential aged care workers to discover how these experiences achieve the individual and organisational goals typically associated with career and psychosocial mentoring. Two theoretical frameworks of positive organisational behaviour and the learning perspective underpin the exploration of mentoring in these contexts and the relationship of mentoring and psychological capital. This thesis examines whether mentoring can influence the psychological capital of residential aged care workers.

A three phase mixed method approach is used to investigate the mentoring experiences of allied health professionals and residential aged care workers. Phase 1 is a qualitative study of allied health professionals who rely on a professional association to provide a mentor and continuing professional development. Fifteen semi-structured interviews with mentors and mentees were conducted and template analysis explored three dimensions of mentoring; career, psychosocial and clinical mentoring as well as the method of delivery of a professional association mentoring programme. In phase 2, thirty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with residential aged care workers where the relationship between existing career, psychosocial and clinical mentoring interventions of four aged care service provider organisations and the psychological capital of aged care workers was analysed. Phase 3 is a quantitative study involving a survey of the mentoring experiences of aged care workers in relation to psychological capital.

Key findings for Phase 1 highlight the need to develop clinical skills of allied health professionals in the early stage of their careers. Professional associations have a role to play in supporting early career professionals through the delivery of mentoring programmes that need to address the specific needs of the professionals involved. Participants had a preference for one-on-one face-to-face mentoring rather than group mentoring or e-mentoring.

Key findings for Phase 2 highlighted that all career, psychosocial and clinical mentoring behaviours with the exception of four career behaviours were provided in the residential aged care context to a limited extent and often informally by peers. Of concern was that care workers reported being confronted with emotional challenges in the workplace, received inferior training and, little support from senior staff. As highlighted in the literature clinical mentoring is widespread in the health care sector and also in residential aged care. The researcher found that while clinical mentoring referred to psychosocial support, this support was actually the provision of psychosocial support for residents rather than for workers. Clinical mentoring is essentially a training and coaching support process as distinct from traditional mentoring theory. As such, clinical mentoring is an augmentation and not a replacement for other forms of mentoring. Another finding was that professional participants (ie. nurses) were more likely to receive mentoring than the paraprofessionals (ie. care workers) who represent the majority of residential aged care workers in the industry.

Key findings of Phase 3 highlighted a positive relationship between mentoring and hope, optimism, self-efficacy and a marginal relationship with resiliency. Further there was a positive relationship between the mentoring behaviours of coaching, acceptance and confirmation, counselling, friendship, role modelling and psychological capital. From a learning perspective the research has identified that some mentoring behaviours share a positive relationship with positive organisational behaviour and also confirms prior research that psychological capital can be learned.

Implications for academic researchers of these findings are that traditional mentoring relationships are no longer able to meet the learning needs of mentees working in diverse and dynamic organisational contexts. Further research into the relationship of the mentoring functions to personal learning and personal growth will provide new insights into mentoring relationships and of mentoring and psychological capital and positive organisational behaviour.

Implications for management practitioners include the need to recognise that clinical mentoring alone does not provide sufficient psychosocial support for residential aged care workers, particularly paraprofessionals. Further, psychological capital of residential aged care workers can be improved through training and coaching which will increase positive organisational behaviour of employees. Mentoring is a valuable learning and development strategy applicable to the personal development of individuals and personal growth of psychological capital leading to positive organisational behaviour and improved outcomes for organisations.

Keywords: mentoring, allied health, residential aged care, psychological capital

Subject: Population and Human Resources thesis, Business thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Dr Greg Fisher