Supporting Nurses Through Education and Mentorship

Jess Sember, MSN, RN, IBCLC, CPLC, CCE, SBD / December 2022

The first time I heard it from a hospital, I was speechless. We’ve lost half our nurses in the last 7 months. We’re working short every shift. Healthcare workers face real struggles, such as staffing shortages and violence every day that they come to work.  By 2029, it is anticipated that over 3 million nurses will be needed to fill open positions (Handzel, 2021). It’s crucial to find ways to support nurses – and education  and mentorship are two ways this can be done.

I became a nurse because I had a desire to provide care to others. I knew from the time I was in middle school that I wanted to be a nurse and that I wanted to work in labor and delivery. I started working as a candy striper volunteer in my hospital and was able to take discharge newborn photos. I fell in love with the staff and the environment, and I knew that’s where I wanted to work. When I graduated, there wasn’t a position open in labor and delivery, so I began working in a different unit. 15 years ago, this unit lacked nursing leadership and was struggling with staffing. There were more than 9 new graduate nurses starting and some of us had the same preceptor. The conditions were less than ideal to make new nurses feel welcome and to create an environment for learning to occur. Due to the environment I was working in, I almost quit nursing less than 6 months after graduating. I was lucky enough to find a nurse mentor who helped support me as I grew in my new role. I changed the unit I worked in, started working in labor and delivery, and from there have had some of the most rewarding experiences as a nurse that I could never have even imagined.

Why Supporting Nurses is So Crucial to Healthcare Systems

Unfortunately, not all nurses in a similar situation have the same ending. The orientation period is a crucial timeframe for each nursing unit and can dictate nurse turnover, which is costly. One article cited that in a survey of 226 facilities, since 2016, the average hospital turned over around 83% of its RN staff.  Every bedside RN turnover costs around 40 thousand dollars – which then costs hospitals millions of dollars in loss per year (Plescia, 2021). Labor and Delivery and NICU settings are unique areas to the hospital, requiring specialized skills and training and additional training costs. At Medela, we aspire to provide healthcare professionals with knowledge and resources. Our site features many complimentary educational pieces that can be downloaded and incorporated into yearly competencies or new hire training.

I remember being very nervous the first time I was a preceptor. I wanted to do a good job and hoped I would instill confidence in my new nurse. One of my favorite things to do as a nurse is to teach, both patients and other nurses. You could find me in patient rooms for hours teaching them about breastfeeding and what to expect when taking their new baby home. Medela has tools that make it even easier to teach mothers and new nurses about breastfeeding. One infographic that I think is especially important to today’s patient population is At-risk conditions that impact breastfeeding. This infographic can be used prenatally as well as postnatally to help identify mothers that are at risk of delayed secretory activation. Including mothers and new nurses in a discussion together is a great opportunity for them both to learn and doesn’t require additional educational time off the unit, but is instead incorporated into patient care.

Incorporating Breastfeeding Topics Into New Nurse Support

Fast forward to the present, with hospitals and nurses learning how to function in a new post-pandemic normal. New nurses being hired may have less hands-on experience as clinical shifted to virtual experiences during portions of the pandemic. It’s important for hospitals to have a structured orientation program. In labor and delivery or NICU settings, orientation needs to incorporate breastfeeding and pumping topics for new nurses. A great infographic that can be used for this topic is Initiating milk production. This information covers the first few days after birth and the critical window following delivery that will help mothers “start things right” if she desires to breastfeed or pump breast milk for her baby. Nurses play a key role in helping mothers during the initiation phase and it’s important for this topic to be incorporated into the orientation process.

Another part of a successful orientation program includes pairing new nurses with experienced nurses (Handzel, 2021). Some hospitals have a nurse mentorship program for new nurses, while others leave finding a mentor up to the new nurse. Mentorship programs can improve job satisfaction, decrease turnover and also promote professional growth and development (Jean, 2022).

I’ve always thought of nursing as a profession of lifelong learning. Many states require CE credits to renew a nursing license. Medela offers something for everyone from the novice to the experienced nurse. Every month Medela offers webinars that are FREE! Check out past webinars, see the current schedule, and sign up for future webinars. This is a great way to spend an hour each month staying up to date on current breastfeeding topics and the latest clinical research.

Patients are a top priority. Often the reason you became a nurse is to provide care. It’s easy to get swept away with tasks and the workload at hand, but each patient you care for has a story and you’re a part of it. The care you provide will be remembered for years to come. When it comes to breastfeeding, patients need support from nurses and their entire care team. The things we do or don’t do in the initiation period are a predictor of breastfeeding duration and, if a mother is pumping, a predictor of the amount of breast milk available. When you think about the impact you have on the breastfeeding stories of the families you work with, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to incorporate education! At Medela, we’re  here to help. We know that each hospital, each nurse, and every situation is different and unique in its own way. Whether you’re a novice nurse or a healthcare professional with years of experience, we’re here to support you! Visit Medela for more information.


Handzel, S. (2021).  Improving nurse retention by restructuring nurse orientation.  Improving nurse retention by restructuring nurse orientation | Wolters Kluwer

Jean, J.  (2022).  The Importance of Mentorship in Nursing.  The Importance Of Mentorship In Nursing |

Plescia, M.  (2021).  The cost of nurse turnover by the numbersThe cost of nurse turnover by the numbers ( 

About the Author

headshot jess sember 2 low res version

Jess Sember MSN, RN, IBCLC, CPLC, CCE, SBD, began her nursing career over 15 years ago as a labor and delivery nurse. She has worked in various roles throughout her career including lactation consultant for NICU, postpartum and post discharge patients, childbirth educator, research coordinator, and has served as a nurse leader coordinating Perinatal Education and Perinatal Bereavement programs. Education and perinatal bereavement have always been areas of special interest to Jess; wanting to help patients in their time of need.  Jess currently works full-time as a Clinical Education Manager, NICU & Maternity Care for Medela LLC.

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