Leadership mentoring in nursing research, career development and scholarly productivity: A systematic review

Thóra B. Hafsteinsdóttir*, Angeli M. van der Zwaag, Marieke J. Schuurmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background Although nursing has been an academic discipline for decades, the infrastructure for nursing research in many countries is still fragile and struggling. Postdoctoral nurses have difficulties developing sustaining careers in nursing research due to lack of career opportunities. Considerable research has been conducted on leadership and mentoring in various areas of nursing. We aimed to systematically review the literature investigating leadership programs and mentoring for postdoctoral nurse researchers, as well as the influence of leadership and mentoring on research productivity, research career development, leadership knowledge and skills, the nurses’ health and well-being, staff relationships, work culture and collaboration, salaries and postdoctoral nurses’ experiences. Methods A systematic review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement was conducted. The electronic databases PubMed, CINAHL and EMBASE were searched without time limits for eligible studies up to January 2016. Reference lists of included articles were also searched manually and authors were contacted to inquire about other relevant papers. Two authors independently assessed eligibility of studies for inclusion. Titles and abstracts were matched with the inclusion criteria: studies investigating leadership and mentoring programs for postdoctoral nurses and leadership and mentoring influencing research productivity, and career development; and leadership knowledge and skills and other outcomes. The quality of the studies was appraised using the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine for surveys, the Critical Appraisal Skill Program Qualitative Appraisal Checklist for qualitative studies, and a critical appraisal list for mixed methods studies. Any disagreements were resolved by consensus. Data were extracted by two reviewers. Findings We screened 1775 titles and abstracts, resulting in 15 studies, which included quantitative, descriptive, qualitative and mixed methods designs and involved 3855 postdoctoral nurses. Two studies presenting mentoring programs for postdoctoral nurses were identified. Other studies investigated the influence of mentoring on various outcomes. The findings showed a positive influence of mentoring on research productivity, including increase in publications and grant writing and research career development, improved leadership skills and knowledge. Furthermore, mentoring positively influenced nurses’ health and well-being, staff relationships, work culture and collaboration. Postdoctoral nurses’ experience of mentoring, mentorship, leadership and peer-support is essential in supporting ongoing research activity. Conclusion Although there is a lack of studies with robust designs investigating leadership and mentoring programs, our results document some evidence of mentoring's influence on research productivity, career development and other outcomes of postdoctoral nurses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-34
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Leadership
  • Mentors
  • Mentorship
  • Nursing
  • Nursing research
  • Systematic review


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