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The Importance of Mentorship in Nursing

by Joelle Y. Jean, RN, FNP-BC
• 3 min read
The Importance of Mentorship in Nursing

Do you have a nurse mentor? If you do, consider yourself lucky. If you don't, think about looking for one.

There are countless benefits to having a nurse mentor. A major benefit: They can help shape your career path, whether you're a new nurse, advancing your career, or even changing specialties.

A nurse mentor can also help support you through challenges. Studies reveal new nurses, especially, face difficult times in their new roles. Challenges include:

Unsupportive work environments Dissatisfaction with their job Stress Burnout

These challenges cause high turnover rates or skillful nurses to leave the profession altogether. Having a great nurse mentor can prevent this. They can provide nurses with tools to tackle challenges while building confidence and resilience.

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How Does Mentorship Work in Nursing?

In its mentoring program toolkit, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (ANCC) defines mentoring as:

"A formalized process whereby a more knowledgeable and experienced person actuates a supportive role of overseeing and encouraging reflection and learning within a less experienced and knowledgeable person, so as to facilitate that person's career and personal development."

Some nurse mentor relationships develop naturally, but for others, finding one may take some time. A nurse mentor should be:

  • Trustworthy
  • Reliable
  • Encouraging
  • A great listener
  • A guide to your career goals
  • Available

Many hospitals and facilities have integrated nursing mentorship programs, especially for new nurse graduates. The goal of mentorship programs is to provide:

  • Clinical care support
  • Psychological and emotional support
  • Academic advice
  • Career development
  • Nurse leadership opportunities

There are many benefits to having in-house nursing mentorship programs. Mentorship in nursing has been found to:

What Are Some Barriers to Nurse Mentoring?

Nurses may face complications with mentors and may have to end the relationship. Reasons might be the mentee did not feel supported, or the mentor may not have the desired skill set. Some other barriers include:

  • Cultural difference or miscommunication
  • Unable to maintain the relationship
  • Lack of preparedness
  • Career changes

Why Is Nurse Mentorship Important?

Mentorship is important because it provides support, assistance, and guidance to nurses and nursing students. Nurse mentorship programs are critical; they can even be found globally. One study showed that low- and middle-income countries have the largest nurse mentoring programs.

There is an initiative for healthcare workers, especially nurses, to participate in mentorship programs. Why? Studies show, along with nursing responsibilities, nurses exercise high emotional labor.

Emotional labor is "work role" specific. This is when nurses have to manage their emotions while interacting with organizations to reach their professional goals. Having a nurse mentor can help provide suggestions on how to navigate this reality.

The mentor and mentee relationship is a two-way relationship. The role of the mentor is to act as a role model and:

Be up-to-date on current policies and procedures Maintain professional practice Provide advice for difficult situations Offer support to increase successful goals

A mentee can add value to the relationship by:

Asking questions Being proactive Keeping the line of communication open Asking for feedback

Jillian Kobel, a trauma nurse registrar, started a new nursing position in March 2020. She was connected with a nurse mentor and continues to have a meaningful relationship with her mentor.

"I started this job working remotely during COVID and was put in touch with a nurse registrar," Kobel said. "We had standing weekly meetings in the beginning and really connected. Now we talk all the time, and I run things by her frequently."

How Do I Find a Nursing Mentor?

There are many ways you can find a nurse mentor: Internally through a formal program provided by your facility, or externally, through taking advantage of nursing associations or nonprofit organizations.

You can also choose your own nursing mentor. You just have to ask. Although it can be intimidating, many experienced nurses are eager to mentor nurses and nursing students.

Some programs to find a nurse mentor include:

  1. American Nurses Association (ANA)
  2. National Mentoring Partnership
  3. Sigma Global Nursing Excellence
  4. Pass the Torch for Women
  5. American Association for Nurse Practitioners
  6. American Organization for Nursing Leadership

How Do I Become a Nurse Mentor?

Many national nursing organizations have nurse mentorship programs — with enrollment opening as soon as next month! Enrollment for the ANA mentorship program opens August 2.

ANCC has a free, structured virtual dean mentorship program called MentorLINK. The application deadline is August 31. The program brings experienced deans together with deans looking to be mentored.

The program has an application for dean mentees. After answering a few questions on the application, the mentees match with the right mentor. The fee for the mentee program is $549.

Tips for a Successful Mentorship in Nursing

What does a successful mentorship relationship look like? A successful mentorship relationship has:

Clear boundaries Clear communication and goals A path for growth A trusting and supportive relationship Problem-solving techniques A commitment to learning

The mentor and mentee relationship typically goes through four phases. The four phases are:

  1. Initiation: The mentor and mentee get to know each other and build a relationship as long as they are the right match.
  2. Negotiation: The mentor and mentee set achievable goals.
  3. Growth: The mentor and mentee work together to achieve these goals.
  4. Closure: The mentor and mentee close their relationship formally. At this stage, they can applaud their success.

Every nurse can benefit from a nurse mentor, especially one they can feel comfortable reaching out for advice. The relationship can be short- or long-term, whichever works best. It's essential for all nurse mentorship relationships to have open communication, structured virtual or in-person meetings, and establish measurable goals.

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