Working as a nurse is one of the most rewarding yet demanding and often overwhelming career paths in the professional world. In many cases, nurses rely on peers and external support systems for encouragement and advice — but some questions and challenges require more experienced insight. And that’s where a nurse mentor can be most beneficial.
Whether you’re a newly licensed nurse entering the job market for the first time, an established nursing professional looking to pivot your career into a new specialization or to take on a more leadership focused role, or you’re simply seeking wisdom from an industry veteran, every nurse can benefit from pairing up with a qualified mentor.
But how do you find the right mentor to help you hone your skills and navigate your career? Here are three things you should do:
Identify Your Needs and Goals
The first step in finding the right mentor relationship is clarifying what you want and need. For example, maybe you’re feeling stuck in your current role, and you’re ready to find a new opportunity with more responsibility, or perhaps you’re weighing the pros and cons of going back to school. Identifying your professional goals or challenges will help foster more productive conversations with your new mentor.
Start by answering the following questions:
- Where would you like to be in five or ten years?
- What do you feel is holding you back from achieving your career goals?
- What daily challenges or struggles are you facing?
- What do you consider the hardest part of your job?
- What do you want a mentor to help you achieve?
- Is the person you are considering as a mentor suited to help you achieve your goals?
Consider Your Preferred Learning Approach
Once you’ve determined what you need most from a mentor, your next step is to decide which learning approach is most appropriate for your needs.
Nurse mentors come in many different forms. For example, if you’ve recently graduated or you’re considering returning to school for an advanced certification or degree, you might want to consider working with a university advisor. These professionals can provide insight into potential programs, certificates and courses, and how you can use continuing education opportunities to advance your nursing career. Additionally, you can also consider shadowing someone who has already achieved your desired certification to learn first-hand about the career.
On the other hand, if you’re considering re-entering the job market or moving to a new organization, you might benefit most from reaching out to your network to possibly connect you with someone already working at an organization. Building a potential short-term mentor relationship may allow you to learn about the organization, culture or anything that you may consider before applying for a role there.
Additionally, there are nursing mentorship programs and leadership courses (sometimes even offered by your organization) that can help you with all of the above. These programs typically pair nurses with more experienced nursing professionals who have been vetted and, in some cases, specially trained.
Look for a Solution that Includes Eight Key Components
When evaluating a prospective mentor or mentorship program, there are a few things to look for. According to a study published by Nurse Education Today, there are eight components to an effective mentoring relationship:
- Open communication and accessibility
Mentors should be available for questions and committed to regular meetings that include open conversations with honest, supportive feedback.
- Goals and challenges
Mentees should feel empowered to set ambitious yet attainable goals that are both clear and time-bound. It’s also critical mentors can hold mentees accountable.
- Passion and inspiration
Mentors should ignite a spark of enthusiasm, creativity and confidence in the nurses they mentor.
- Caring personal relationship
Mentorships should be caring, supportive and nurturing. Mentors should consistently show interest in mentees’ lives and careers, and provide psychological support while still upholding healthy boundaries.
- Mutual respect and trust
A great mentor not only earns respect from the nurses they mentor but also provides respect in return. Mentors should also strive to foster a deep sense of trust.
- Exchange of knowledge
Mentors should help nurses expand their skillsets, including their ability to think critically, evaluate science and develop a natural curiosity.
- Independence and collaboration
It’s crucial that mentors treat mentees as colleagues and instill a sense of independence and leadership — especially when mentoring new nurses.
- Role modeling
Mentors should set an example by modeling interactions — like addressing patient comfort — and sharing how they overcame their own career challenges.
Before committing to a mentorship program, be sure to discuss these eight points to ensure mentors are most effective. If possible, talk to other nurses who have been through the program or worked with a specific mentor and ask about their experiences.
Being a nurse comes with plenty of challenges at various stages of your career. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you succeed. A nurse mentor can help you overcome existing hurdles, prepare for future obstacles and hone the technical and interpersonal skills you need to thrive and achieve your goals.