How Can Mentoring Programs Improve Confidence of Adolescent Girls?

A novel approach for providing early support for overall physical and mental wellbeing for teenage girls.
black woman in doctor's coat standing in front of window
Dr. Shawana S. Moore, Assistant Professor in Jefferson’s College of Nursing.

Adolescence is a time of intense change and development, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Identities begin to take shape during this period – gender, race, ethnicity, class, differing abilities and sexual orientation all add layers of complexity. Young women tend to face more stressors than young men; rates of depression, anxiety, mood disorders and eating disorders are more prevalent in teenage girls than boys. Researchers like Shawana S. Moore, DNP, assistant professor and director of the Women’s Health Gender Related Nurse Practitioner Program in Jefferson’s College of Nursing, are working to provide mentorship for teenage girls at a critical phase in their lives. They are helping teens build their confidence as well as providing resources and information on maintaining their physical health. Read more about Dr. Moore’s research below.

What is your research focus?

I focus on nurse-led mentorship for adolescent females. During adolescence, the literature shows that there are increased rates of anxiety and depression in girls compared to boys. It’s also been shown that mentorship can be a protective factor for mental health, sexual health, overall well-being, education and outcomes in society. Unfortunately, there is limited data on the impact of nurse-led mentorship for young women, so my goal is to address that gap. When we invest, and invest early in the health and well-being of adolescent women, everyone in the community benefits.

What do nurses offer young women that is different from other professionals?

 Nurses serve in so many different capacities in our roles as health providers – preventive medicine, health promotion, therapeutic communication – we are uniquely trained to serve as mentors because, in a way, we play that role with our patients every day. A lot of qualities that make a good mentor are innate with nurses, both in our clinical practice as well as academic roles in training the future generation of nurses.

What’s one question you’re investigating?

Does a mentoring program impact confidence and self-concept within teenage girls? I developed a program that aims to provide support to young women ages 12-14, and will hopefully expand it to 10-14 in the near future, for overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The program is being implemented in Somerdale, NJ at Somerdale Park School. I launched the first cohort in January 2019. It is also set to launch at Julia de Burgos School in Philadelphia this August. It started as an onsite program and of course because of the pandemic, we have transitioned to a virtual format. It is a six-week program that focuses on creativity, education, self-esteem and confidence, leadership, mentorship and health. There are 5-10 students in the program, and they are each paired with a mentor. Our pool of mentors comes from nurse practitioners in training in our College of Nursing. We work with counselors at the schools to identify mentees, particularly those from vulnerable and underserved communities. We use the Harper’s Self Perception profile to get an insight into how the students evaluate themselves on various measures that include self-worth, social and academic competence, physical appearance and overall wellbeing.

What is your vision for the program?

I hope it becomes a novel approach for providing early support to adolescent girls, and acts as a primary prevention for negative outcomes like mental health disorders. It would great to see this integrated across schools, and replicated in other community settings, so that we can gather and provide more data that shows that mentorship can be a significant and positive influence on young women. The program has also been impactful for our mentors, and helps distinguish our nurses in training as leaders who our most under-served communities.

What first sparked your interest in your area of research?

My personal experiences with mentorship as an adolescent sparked my interest in exploring this vital topic and gave me an appreciation for the power of mentorship. I participated in a few enrichment programs as an adolescent growing up in Camden, NJ, which is considered to be an underserved area. The mentorship I received in those various programs – outside of my parents who were my first mentors and worked so hard to give me the opportunities to attend those programs in the first place – supported my own development and contributed to my own positive outcomes.

Many researchers have superstitions. Things they’ve done to cosmically help their research work succeed. What are yours?

I allow my passion to drive my research which has always led to successful outcomes.

What’s the best part of your job?

Educating the next generation of women’s health care nurse practitioners to enter into clinical practice with innovative technologies, community partnerships, and using a lens of equity. Equity is essential to combat disparities within communities. It is vital that health care professionals understand the implications of inequities and how to ensure equitable care for communities of people.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?

I am a former all American high school track and field athlete. This has shaped my endurance and resilience in my life work as a women’s health nurse practitioner, educator, researcher, and leader.

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