Whether you’re a new nurse, a nurse transitioning to a specialty area, or a knowledgeable nurse seeking to share your wisdom, nurse mentorships are invaluable for both mentors and mentees.
When thinking about nurse mentorship, many may consider this term synonymous with preceptorship. While preceptorships share similarities with nurse mentorships, they’re vastly different.
Precepting is a method used to orient nurses into the work environment through teaching and clinical evaluation. These relationships are also for a limited time and during specific work hours.
Mentorships, on the other hand, are a collaborative effort intended to support nurses’ professional and personal development.
Nurse mentorships can also be formal or informal depending on the setting or relationship. Formal mentorships through a healthcare facility or other organization may match participants based on certain criteria, such as specialty area or license type, and include set objectives and guidelines (e.g., requirements for frequency of meetings or an outline of goals).
Informal mentorships can occur when a nurse approaches a senior colleague, leader, or friend to enter this partnership. Mentors and mentees can collaborate at any point without a formal program.
Becoming a Nurse Mentor
Before becoming a nurse mentor, you can first assess if a mentorship is the right choice for you by asking yourself questions such as:
- What do I hope to gain from a mentorship?
- Do I have time in my schedule to commit to another person?
- Am I empathetic with my colleagues?
- Do others consider me a good leader?
- Can I be transparent and open-minded?
As a mentor, you have to embody certain qualities and jump into different roles such as educator, supporter, and friend. President-Elect of the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA).
In addition, she suggested that leadership experience, effective communication and listening skills, and a pay-it-forward mentality can play an important part in making the collaboration effective.
Nurse mentors also carry many responsibilities, including providing clinical education, offering career guidance, and supporting mentees through challenging situations. All functions of a nurse mentor are significant; however, Richardson added, in her experience, the most critical responsibility is role modeling professionalism and leadership.
Mentors can shape and impact future nurse leaders, making this element even more pertinent.
At the start, you should set the goals both you and your mentee want to achieve and commit to a regular cadence of meetings or contact. By identifying these objectives, you may find that you share similar insights, or you have aspirations that align.
For instance, your personal goals as a mentor could be coaching an early career nurse, nurturing leadership skills in new nurse leaders, or giving back to the profession. It’s important for you as well to be able to learn and grow from this experience.
Being a Nurse Mentee
Nurse mentorships allow mentees to expand their skill set, gain more clinical knowledge, network with colleagues, and feel supported in their role. To find a nurse mentor, you can participate in a formal mentoring program or talk to your preceptor, colleagues, or nurse leaders about connections or mentorships with them.
Sometimes finding a mentor can be a challenge, such as at facilities in rural areas or smaller organizations. When encountering these situations, there are options available online, such as HOLLIBLU, a community-building social app for nurses co-owned by Nurse.com, or the American Nurse Association’s (ANA) Mentoring Program, a virtual program nurses with shared interests, specialties, or aspirations can use to connect.
Your aims may be to improve your clinical skill set or expand your network, or you may aspire to become a nurse leader. By identifying and sharing your ambitions, you and your mentor will be able to create and follow a plan at the onset.
Dirks, who has 38 years of experience in critical care nursing and 20 years as a clinical educator, said you should also share a “willingness to meet and actively engage in discussion” with your mentor. Being committed to the plan and sticking to a structured meeting schedule are also part of the constructs of a successful mentoring outcome.
And never underestimate the value of transparency and being open to criticism. As a mentee, sharing your perspective, ideas, and feelings with your mentor is vital, especially if you feel your needs aren’t being met. Being prepared to give and receive feedback will ultimately strengthen the dynamic.
Benefits for Mentees
Richardson touched upon the extensive list of benefits for mentees paired with the right mentors.
hese collaborations also allow you to enhance your clinical knowledge and professional skills or help you identify ways to address personal matters like burnout or maintaining work-life balance, according to Dirks.
Having a nurse mentor helps you identify and express what you really want — personally or professionally — and as you realize your ambitions and plan to advance in your career, your mentor will be there to celebrate with you.
Benefits for Mentors
As a mentor, you impact the nursing profession as well as patient care. Mentors provide nurse mentees with more support and more education, and this translates into a thriving workforce that improves the safety and care environment patients experience.
“Serving as a mentor provides experienced nurses with an opportunity to ‘give back’ to their profession by fostering the development of their peers,” Dirks said. Interactions with your mentee also can be energizing and offer a fresh perspective on the current state of the nursing profession.