Aims and objectives: To generate a theoretical explanation of nurse-to-nurse mentoring in the clinical setting. Background: Despite an abundance of mentoring literature, the processes involved between nurses in mentoring relationships have yet to be studied. Nursing literature has focused on mentor attributes and relationship outcomes rather than focusing on theoretical discovery. Design: Classical grounded theory (CGT). Methods: CGT procedures (constant comparative method, coding and memoing) were used to analyse interview data exploring fifteen nurse protégés’ experiences of mentoring. Results: Confidencing, the protégés’ need to become confident in the professional role, emerged as the main concern of study participants. Three dimensions are threaded throughout nurse-to-nurse mentoring: earnest intentions, filial bond and trust-worthiness. Earnest intentions are the sincere attitude that protégés and mentors demonstrate regarding their mentoring relationship. An exclusive, familial-type connection, filial bond, attends to the affective needs of protégés and mentors. Trust-worthiness, the explicit feeling of trust between protégés and mentors, strengthens as each demonstrates being worthy of the other's trust. Mentoring Up theory explains five phases of mentoring: seeding, opening, laddering, equalising and reframing. The initial phases are periods of relationship discovery (seeding) and testing (opening). Laddering is an intense period of reciprocal interactions between mentors and protégés. Equalising begins as protégés perceive themselves to be equal to their mentors in terms of their professional capability. Protégés reflect on the meaning of the relationship in the reframing phase. Conclusions: Mentoring Up is a dense theory that reveals insights, explanations and predictions for initiating, developing and engaging in mentoring relationships. Mentoring Up fills a gap in the existing literature and provides a framework for future mentoring research. Relevance to clinical practice: The theory has implications for healthcare organisations, nursing education and individual nurses. Mentoring Up expounds on the interpersonal connections and reciprocal interactions vital for successful nurse-to-nurse mentoring.
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