Mentor Program

Colleague-to-Colleague Public Health Nursing Mentor Program

Mentorship is a one-on-one relationship that focuses on the learning needs of an individual and facilitates competency development that can be provided by an experienced professional willing to share expertise.  It is like constructing bridges with the mentor as the engineer, designing and constructing different bridges as people and conditions change.  The term mentor originated with Homer who tells of Odysseus, King of Ithaca leaving to fight in the Trojan War and places his son Telemachus in the care of Mentor, who served as a teacher and a caregiver.  Today the word mentor means one who is a trusted friend, teacher, guide, coach and wise person who can help someone bridge competency gaps and foster broader thinking and problem solving when the relationship with a mentee is voluntary and reciprocal. Models for these processes have existed in business, education, and other professions for years and can be effectively utilized in public health.


In public health, often workers begin careers with minimal experience in public health practice.  These new workers may struggle with the nuances, issues, and responsibilities that are unique to public health and the communities with whom they interact.  They are expected to exhibit leadership qualities in a variety of community settings, but not all workers come so prepared or possess the skills to carry out the burden of leadership responsibilities that the roles demand.  Often what is needed is a bridge to span the chasm between theory and practice.  Using knowledge and skills of an expert public health practitioner in a mentor relationship can provide the public health novices with skills, additional resources and support to begin to address workforce needs especially those related to Public Health Essential Service #8, Assuring a Competent Workforce.  Two components of this essential service, leadership and life long learning through continuing education include training and mentoring as key to the mentoring model. 


The Colleague-to-Colleague Public Health Nursing Mentor Program is a mentor program developed to assist with the recruitment, competency development, and retention of a competent public health nursing workforce.  The mentor model can be an effective way to develop the capacity of any of the public health disciplines whether it is public health nursing, health education, environmental health, health planning, epidemiology, etc.  The program is built on a foundation of Standards of Public Health Nursing and the Public Health Nursing Competencies and will focus on assisting public health nurses develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet selected public health nursing competencies.  The mentor program will focus on those competencies necessary for implementing public health nursing leadership roles.


The Colleague to Colleague Public Health Nursing Mentor Program began with a pilot project of four mentor/mentee pairs in September 2005 for a one year.  Participants receive an initial one-day training followed by three resource and support educational offerings, and technical assistance from public health nursing consultants is available.  The mentors and mentees will be expected to communicate at least 5-6 times during the year through face-to-face meetings, phone conferences and email communications.


Public Health Nurses Association of Colorado supports Colleague to Colleague Public Health Nursing Mentor Program and will provide some travel and some expenses for the mentor and mentee.

Program Goals


  1. Increase recruitment of public health nurses both into practice field and the membership of PHNAC organization
  2. Assist with the development of both nurses new to public health and those moving to a new leadership role
  3. Improve retention of leaders in public health nursing

Expected Outcomes
The Mentor Program participants will: 

  1. Model enhanced leadership skills
  2. Facilitate leadership development of public health nurses
  3. Demonstrate skills & knowledge related to the selected public health nursing competencies.
  4. Enhance collegial relationships within the PHNAC membership
  5. Discuss the use of public health competencies in the implementation of a mentoring program.