Aims and objectives. The focus of this paper is on one of four themes from a study exploring mentoring relationships between nurses in the intrapartum setting. The theme, relational learning, highlights how perinatal nurses engage with each other and engage with birthing women on a journey of learning in perinatal nursing practice.
Background. Few studies have explored the contextual, lived experiences of informal mentoring relationships within nursing, particularly within perinatal nursing.
Design. A qualitative feminist phenomenological study that considered a gender-centred, embodied exploration of human lived experiences was conducted.
Method. Five registered nurses practicing on a tertiary level labour and delivery unit in eastern Canada were purposefully recruited. Data were collected by phenomenological interviews, practice observations in the clinical setting and reflective journaling.
Results. Four themes emerged through thematic analysis and researcher interpretation: the meaning of nurse-to-nurse mentoring, mentoring as relational learning, mentoring as embodied learning and a contextual understanding of nurse-to-nurse mentoring. Relational learning came to be understood through feminist phenomenological analysis, which revealed that expert perinatal nursing knowledge develops within positive mentoring relationships between perinatal nurses practicing with birthing women. This learning extends beyond tasks to a holistic understanding of clinical situations within specific health and social contexts. The mentor models positive perinatal nursing practices and creates a sense of enthusiasm that harnesses the raw passion new nurses often have for practice.
Conclusion. The findings in this study aim to promote the understanding of the importance of relational, experiential learning for perinatal nurses’ professional development.
Relevance to clinical practice. The results from this study will encourage nurses and nurse leaders to support mentoring by providing adequate resources and positive feedback for mentoring relationships. This will foster and sustain expert nurses to support novice nurses in perinatal practice. The findings also offer insight for perinatal practices beyond nursing, including midwifery.