The Importance of Mentorship for Hispanic and Latino/a Nurses
The right mentor provides experience, perspective, connections, and insights that can make all the difference in your nursing career. However, as some communities of color have found, including Hispanic or Latino/a nurses, it can be more challenging to find a sense of belonging in a nursing environment.
"I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a nurse, but I did not personally know any nurses that I could talk to," says Mayra G. Garcia, a pediatric clinical nurse specialist working at Children's Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
Garcia is not alone in this struggle. Mentorship is critical for fostering a sense of belonging.
On this page, we discuss the importance of mentorship in nursing, particularly for the next generation of Hispanic and Latino/a nurses.
Understanding the Hispanic and Latino/a Nurse Experience
Like some other communities of color, Hispanic and Latino/a nurses face several barriers to entering the nursing field, including:
- A higher proportion of first-generation college students than other racial or ethnic groups
- Lower family incomes
- Greater need for financial aid
- Less access to advice
- A greater likelihood of imposter syndrome
While it is difficult to enter the profession, Adrianna Nava, Ph.D., president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), notes that it is even more difficult to rise to leadership positions within it, especially for women nurses.
"It is well documented that barriers to leadership exist for women, but these barriers become even greater to overcome when an aspiring leader is a woman and a racial or ethnic minority," Nava explains. "Being able to see a Latina/o in a position of leadership empowers others to strive for loftier goals."
Encouraging Latino/a mentorship in nursing can help address these barriers. Reducing these barriers can lead to better healthcare outcomes as a more diverse workforce can offer better cultural competence in nursing care.
The Importance of Representation in Nursing
Being underrepresented in the workplace can be intimidating, whether you differ from your peers by age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or other factors. Many Hispanic nurses do not see people like themselves in nursing, especially in senior leadership positions. The lack of representation can stifle their ability to visualize their own potential.
"It is important for aspiring nurses to see nurses in leadership positions leading efforts in their communities, hospitals, and organizations, so that they too can be inspired and motivated to pursue a career in nursing," Garcia explains.
Representation leads to a feeling of purpose and possibility in any field. The lack of Latino/a professionals in these roles, however, leads to Latino/a nurses feeling like they don't belong, as Susana González, MHA, MSN, RN, CNML, describes.
"Impostor syndrome is recognized by many [people of color], especially [those] with a different language, and at times you just don't fit," González says.
Mentorship is one of the key ways to create a sense of belonging. However, Nava points out that because there is an underrepresentation of Latino/a nurses in the nursing profession, it can be difficult to find Latino/a role models or in leadership positions to mentor aspiring students in their local communities.
Stefanie Gatica, DNP, FNP-C, has been working as a nurse for 30 years in areas lacking Latino/a nurses in the healthcare space. Along with Nava, she also recognizes a significant need for more representation and mentorship in nursing since she experienced a lack of support in her workplace.
"I work in an area that does not have many Latinas working in healthcare; therefore, I, unfortunately, did not have [Latina nursing] support," Gatica says. "This is one of the main reasons why nursing needs to be more diversified, and those of us in the field need to become mentors for future nurses."
Seeing this need for representation and mentorship, NAHN supports Hispanic nursing mentorship by connecting aspiring and early career Latino/a nurses with experienced nurses.
How NAHN Supports Hispanic and Latino/a Nurses
Professional nursing organizations like NAHN work to fill the need for mentorship among Hispanic nurses. Besides formal mentoring opportunities provided by NAHN, this organization also offers leadership opportunities for early career nurses at the chapter and national levels.
To become a mentor or find a mentor, you can sign up with NAHN's formal mentoring program or participate in virtual or in-person networking events at local chapters, national conferences, or through discussion forums. NAHN also manages the "Hispanic Role Models in Health Care Careers" from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award Grant.
The association promotes Latino/a mentorship in nursing by providing various platforms and tools. Even if a member does not participate in a formal or long-term mentor relationship, they may have access to advisors for particular questions or concerns.
The Benefits of Mentorship for Hispanic and Latino/a Nurses
Latino/a mentorship benefits not only the mentored nurse and the nurse providing mentorship, but also patients and the healthcare system. Benefits to Hispanic and Latino/a mentorship in nursing include:
How to Find the Right Nursing Mentor
Mentorship in nursing is too important to leave to chance. First, consider what you need, such as advice about school, job hunting, selecting a specialty, or professional or career development. Look for a mentor who has experience in these areas.
When choosing a mentor, consider whether the person has:
- Experience relevant to your situation
- Time to advise
- Passion for nursing and for mentorship in nursing
- A role you would like to learn about
- A reliable and trustworthy character
Carli Zegers, Ph.D., NAHN national treasurer, advises aspiring mentees to feel empowered to advocate for their needs.
"Be ready to do the work," Zegers says. "Being a mentee is not passive but very active and should guide the agenda and needs, so it is important to be organized and take initiative."
When you are in a position to become a nurse mentor yourself, be ready to pass on the favor. Being a mentor can help you grow as an authority figure in the nursing profession, expand your network, and help build the culture of Hispanic and Latino/a mentorship in nursing, which benefits everybody.
Meet Our Contributors
Mayra Garcia, DNP, APRN, PCNS-BC, is a pediatric clinical nurse specialist at Children's Health. Garcia provides leadership expertise as the nursing clinical practice expert in her patient populations. Garcia's work has been presented at national and local conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. She is a DFW Great 100 Nurse, D Magazine Nurse Excellence Award Winner, Children's Health Advanced Practice Education and Advocacy Award Winner, and is a recipient of the NAHN 40 under 40 Award.
Adrianna Nava, Ph.D., serves the Latino/a community as president (2021-2024) of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. In this role, she focuses on building the leadership capacity of Latino/a nurses who continue to be underrepresented in healthcare leadership positions. Nava also serves as the chief nurse of quality and systems improvement at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.
Nava holds an MPA from Harvard University, a Ph.D. in nursing and health policy from the University of Massachusetts, an MSN in health leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing. She completed a predoctoral VA Quality Scholarship fellowship at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in 2019 and the U.S. Latino Leadership Fellowship from Harvard Kennedy School in 2020.
Susana González, MHA, MSN, RN, CNML, is a nurse educator for Home Care Agency and Nursing School in Chicago. She teaches with passion and purpose, and she mentors with her love of nursing. González advocates for public policy changes, especially for diversity and inclusion.
Stefanie Gatica, DNP, FNP-C, academic coordinator for Walden University's master of science in nursing program, has more than 30 years of experience in nursing. She has worked as a nurse practitioner in emergency room, pediatric, and dermatology settings. Gatica has presented at numerous local and regional conferences on various dermatological topics and provided multiple levels of training on aesthetic injectables.
Carli Zegers, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing and a nurse practitioner in the emergency department at Truman Medical Center. She earned her Ph.D. and FNP from the University of Nebraska Medical Center with an emphasis on health literacy, self-management, and underserved populations. Zegers serves on multiple national boards and is committed to diversity, health policy, and health communication.
Laila Abdalla earned her Ph.D. in English from McGill University. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses in English and successful writing at Central Washington University for over 21 years. Abdalla has devoted her teaching and leadership to matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Abdalla leads with equity in management and nonprofit volunteering, and she continues to develop her own understandings of these complex issues both professionally and in her lived experiences.
Laila Abdalla is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
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