How Nurse Mentorship Can Improve Your Nursing Career
To be the best version of ourselves, we need to feel emotionally safe. The same is true at work. Emotional safety is a precondition for productive relationships, even in the workplace.
Nurse mentorship helps create those emotionally safe relationships. 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 Persaud, ANA Mentorship Program mentee coordinator. “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.”
What Exactly Is a Nurse Mentor?
In addition to guiding from the sidelines, Sabita said 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. “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. And the nurse mentor/mentee relationship is often a positive one. Many of these professionals gain not just a mentee, but a friend.
The riskiest part about becoming a nurse mentor? Having enough time to fully commit. Mentors need extra time in their work weeks to commit to a mentee long term.
The Benefits of Having a Nurse Mentor
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
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.”
How to Find or Become a Nurse Mentor
Don’t have a mentor at your workplace, but wish you did? Have a wealth of experience and compassion to offer as a mentor yourself? Here are a few options:
Formal Option #1: If you are an ANA member, sign up for ANA’s Mentorship Program. This structured career stage mentoring program 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. This 8-month program is open exclusively to ANA members. Sign up to receive notifications about enrolling to become a part of the next 2019-2020 Mentorship class.
Formal Option #2: Specific specialty and constituent/state nursing associations may offer nurse mentorship programs or be looking for mentors for other nurses. Check with your specialty or constituent/state nursing association to see if they offer this option.
Informal Option: Build a relationship with someone you already know. Do you have a coworker 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.
“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.”
Do you have a nurse mentor, or are you a mentor to someone? How has nurse mentorship impacted your career? Tell us in the discussion or on Facebook.
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