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Supporting Australian Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal nursing students using mentoring circles: an action research study

Jane Mills, Catrina Felton-Busch, Tanya Park, Karen Maza, Frances Mills, McCauley Ghee, Marnie Hitchins, Jennifer Chamberlain-Salaun, Nalisa Neuendorf

2014 Australia

Attempts to recruit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into nursing degrees have made minimal impact on the number of registered nurses working in Australia’s healthcare sector. Yet increasing the number of Indigenous nurses remains one of the most important objectives in strategies to close the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Poor retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree offered in far north Queensland, Australia, indicates the need for a different approach to support and retain Indigenous students. This action research study used a decolonizing methodology and was conducted at a satellite university campus in a remote Torres Strait Island community. Researchers trialled the use of a mentoring circle to support and retain nursing students and interviewed mentors and mentees about their experiences. Grounded theory methods were used to analyse the data. Findings indicated a growth in participant students’ emotional intelligence as a result of participating in a mentoring circle. Students developed confidence, formed a group identity, better-negotiated the university environment, became more effective communicators and supported one another through difficulties. The mentoring circle model improved students’ university experience and its use should be considered by tertiary educators working with Indigenous students.

emotional intelligence; healthcare education; Indigenous; mentoring; nursing; remote; retention