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Explore The Benefits Of Nurse Mentorship

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What can having a nurse mentor do for you?

Explore the benefits of nurse mentorship in this blog, the second in the #healthynurse Mental Health blog series, powered by Capella University.

What Exactly Is a Nurse Mentor?

In addition to guiding from the sidelines, a nurse mentor is typically a volunteer, unpaid position. This person chooses to go above and beyond and serve as a mentor to other nurses because they want to, not because it’s in their job description. “Being a nurse mentor truly means  to give of self,” said Sabita Persaud, ANA Mentorship Program Mentee Advisor. “It’s a service to the profession, focused on supporting other nurses.”


It’s fulfilling to know someone trusts you and leans on you for your advice and wisdom. The nurse mentor/mentee relationship is often a positive one. Many of these professionals gain not just a mentee, but a friend. Have a wealth of experience and compassion to offer as a mentor yourself? Consider mentoring another nurse! 

What are the benefits of having a nurse mentor? 

Nurse mentorship helps create emotionally safe relationships that can help us be the best version of ourselves. Emotional safety is a precondition for productive relationships, even in the workplace. Having a nurse mentor means having a “safe place” to turn for advice, inspiration, and encouragement. Nurse managers, nurse coaches, and preceptors can provide these, as well, but there’s something unique about a mentor/mentee relationship.

“A nurse mentor’s role isn’t to supervise, so it often feels safer to go to them rather than leadership,” said Sabita. “A preceptor is often more directive and focused on growth within an organization, whereas a mentor guides from the sidelines and is looking more at long-term professional development.”

If you are a nursing student, having a mentor has the power to influence your career right from the beginning. Depending on what a nursing student wants to get out of the relationship, a mentor can help the student academically, offer emotional support and guidance, and help the student grow and mature. Even during school, student mentorship has the power to create opportunities like:
  • Introducing the student to wider networks
  • Allowing the student to get involved with a project or research study
  • Exposing the student to new experiences and learnings
  • Offering the ability to present at or attend a conference
The beauty of having a nurse mentor is that long-term relationship. As you move from one stage of your career to the next, your mentor becomes a constant, reliable guide to your growth as a nurse.

Nurse mentors may also be beneficial for working through:
  • How to best handle workplace interpersonal relationships
  • Dealing with feelings of conflict
  • Job stress
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Physical fatigue
  • Career questions and concerns
  • Self-care

For example, one of Sabita’s mentors taught her an important lesson in self-care: Find something that brings you joy and spend time on it, no matter what.

“One of my mentors goes dancing every Monday night,” said Sabita. “She’s very clear and vocal that it’s her time for herself. She doesn’t schedule meetings or other functions if they overlap with her dancing.”

Sabita’s mentor taught her a valuable lesson she now passes down to her own mentees: If you don’t take time to replenish yourself, everything else will begin to crumble. If you don’t spend time on what brings you joy, you’ll eventually lose joy in other areas.

“I’ve learned that when we’re depleted, we can have lapses in our practice and integrity because we’re just trying to get to the end,” said Sabita. “That impacts our nursing practice and the health outcomes of those we care caring for because we may not be making the soundest decisions.”

Types of Mentoring

There are 3 different types of mentorship. The first is the traditional one-to-one mentor and mentee relationship many people are familiar with. If you choose to pursue this type of mentorship, remember to set expectations. Discuss goals with your mentor and have an idea of what you’d like to get out of the relationship from start to finish. Establish a frequency of meeting. Get everything out on the table at your first meeting.

The second type of mentorship is one mentor to a group of mentees, which often occurs when there aren’t enough mentors to go around. Similar to the one-to-one mentorship, expectations should be established right away. How often will you meet? Does your group share common needs, so the mentor can meet with all of you at once? Or does the mentor have enough time to meet one-on-one with everyone in the group?

The third type is peer mentoring — when a fellow nurse helps to mentor another. You don’t have to wait to graduate from nursing school to become a mentor to someone else. Students can sometimes learn more easily and connect better with peers. They are sometimes less intimidated because these individuals are “at their level.” But in order for this mentorship to work, the mentor still needs to be able to facilitate conversation and provide additional knowledge and support. The ideal scenario is a higher seniority colleague or student mentoring a lower seniority one. 

How to Find a Nurse Mentor

”It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in (or out) of nursing school. There is never a bad time to find a mentor. “Every nurse needs a mentor,” said Sabita. “We shouldn’t be alone. Seek out mentors on your own. Find someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be a formal thing — find the right person for you.

The key is to identify some goals for a mentor/mentee relationship and look for someone you respect and admire to approach. Try to develop a rapport from a distance with the person and reach out to them at an appropriate time to ask them if they would consider mentoring you. Remember the riskiest part about becoming a nurse mentor is having enough time to fully commit. Mentors need extra time in their work weeks to commit to a mentee long term. It is important to be respectful of their investment in you as a mentee. Be intentional in your discussion with them and outline goals and expectations at the outset of establishing a mentor-mentee relationship.

Here are a few options to consider:
  1. Think close to home! Build a relationship with someone you already know. Do you have a coworker or colleague who you already turn to for advice and encouragement? Sometimes the best mentor/mentee relationships form organically over time. Ask this person if you can contact them when needed with career questions or dilemmas.
     
  2. Check with your school/education provider or workplace to see if there are mentorship programs or other opportunities that can foster or support developing mentoring relationships. Ask within your department leadership, look into your alum or professional networks, or student and professional organizations.
     
  3. Social media is another way to network with other nurses, seek advice, and feel camaraderie. You may even connect with another nurse who eventually becomes a mentor. 
     
  4. Nursing associations may also offer nurse mentorship programs or be looking for mentors for other nurses. Check with your specialty or constituent/state nursing association as well

    If you are an ANA member, sign up for ANA’s Mentorship Program. This 8-month program offers ANA members a structured career stage mentoring program that matches mentees with nurses who have more professional experience. Mentors and mentees are encouraged to connect electronically (phone, email, video conference) in this virtual program. Participants can also access two online communities for support: one for mentees, and one for mentors. Interested in learning more? Sign up here to receive notifications about registering for the 2022 cohort in August! 
 
Do you have a nurse mentor, or are you a mentor to someone? How has nurse mentorship impacted your career? Tell us in the comments section to the right.

Missed the previous blogs in the #healthynurse Mental Health blog series, powered by Capella University? Read them with the links below:

Ways to Use Journaling to Unwind & De-Stress
How Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone Benefits Health

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Capella University honors the work nurses and health care professionals do every day, which often includes providing mental health care for others.

Continue to advance care, and expand your knowledge, with an online degree. Earn your BSN, MSN or DNP in Capella’s groundbreaking FlexPath learning format. FlexPath lets you set your own deadlines, control your costs and leverage your nursing experience to move forward at your pace. 

Learn more here.

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Mental Health Series, powered by Capella University 38

Capella University honors the work nurses and health care professionals do every day, which often includes providing mental health care for others. Continue to advance care, and expand your knowledge, with an online degree. Earn your BSN, MSN or DNP in Capella’s groundbreaking FlexPath learning format. FlexPath lets you set your own deadlines, control your costs and leverage your nursing experience to move forward at your pace. Learn more here.