What kind of nurse do you want to be when you grow up? If you are still searching for the answer to this question, engaging in a nurse mentorship is a great way to establish your professional goals — and nail down the milestones that will help you get there.
You can benefit from mentorship at any point in your life or your nursing career journey. We spoke with Demi Davidge, MSN, RN, who shares the importance of nurse mentorships and provides helpful tips to make the most of your time.
“Nursing is an incredibly challenging and taxing career field,” Davidge says. “Mentorship in nursing is so important because you aren’t meant to navigate this career field or these challenges alone, and you shouldn’t have to.”
6 Tips for Impactful Nurse Mentorships
When you begin working with a nurse mentor, it may feel like you have a lot of ground to cover in a limited amount of time. Make the most of this time by setting your expectations early and putting in the effort to achieve your desired results.
1. Be Open and Ask for What You Need
Unlike a unit-based orientation which focuses on task-related skills, a nurse mentorship is customized to focus on professional development. Davidge notes that a nurse mentorship program is not one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to communicate openly with your mentor about your needs.
“If the pace of the mentorship is too fast and overwhelming, say so,” she says.
Perhaps you did not have an opportunity to work on delegation during your three shifts this week. Be open with your mentor, so you don’t move through the program too quickly.
2. Find a Friend in a Mentorship Too
Partnering up with another registered nurse (RN) who is in a mentorship program will help you feel less alone throughout the experience. Similar to buddying up with another new grad during orientation, a mentee partner will provide an additional layer of support.
As nurse mentees, you and your partner can compare experiences, talk about how compatible you are with your mentor, and keep each other motivated and accountable for the challenges ahead.
3. Find a Mentorship That Aligns With Your Goals
As Davidge mentions, mentorships are not a one-size-fits-all guarantee. Some mentorship programs are designed for certain time periods of your career, while others are designed to help advance your career.
“Consider what the mentorship program offers and ensure it aligns with the goals you have,” Davidge says.
For example, if you have only been a nurse for a few years, a mentorship focused on leadership and management may not be the best fit. When you browse mentorship program options, have a general idea of your long-term nursing career goals to help guide your decision-making.
4. Make the New Strategies a Habit
During a nursing mentorship, you will perform exercises to develop the nursing soft skills needed for your professional goals. When you incorporate these strategies into everyday practice, it’s important to maintain your own nursing style.
Davidge explains that the strategies you learn in a mentorship are for you to take and apply to your life and career in a way that works for you.
“It’s not about doing everything your mentor tells you to do,” Davidge says. “It’s about learning how to make changes within your own life that are sustainable.”
5. Go All In
Your mentorship program is an investment in yourself, so it’s up to you to put in the hard work to achieve results.
“Mentorship is all about the transformation that you make — it’s not a transformation that your mentor can make for you,” Davidge says. “You will get out of your mentorship experience exactly what you put into it.”
By maintaining an open mind and a desire to learn, both you and your mentor will get the most from the experience.
6. Find a Mentor Yourself
If your hospital does not offer a mentorship program, there are plenty of ways to locate a mentor yourself. Davidge recommends identifying a nurse leader or nurse you look up to and building an informal mentorship.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be in person to find a mentor. Social media is a great place to identify a nurse whose career aligns with your goals. Nurses are innately willing to help others, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a stranger online!
3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Mentorship
Engaging in a nurse mentorship is a great way to navigate your nursing career with the help of someone who has been in your position. Before you select a mentor, you should have an idea of your career goals.
Where do you want to be in five years as a nurse? Write out a list of the qualities you want to see in your future self and use this as a guide to search for a mentor.
How to Find the Best Mentor
Many hospitals offer formal mentorship programs, so discuss your professional development goals with your manager to get started. If this is not available, you can find a nurse mentor either in person or online.
If you prefer to work with a mentor in person, start by getting to know your coworkers on a personal level. Whether it’s a mother of three who seems to have work-life balance figured out or a unit educator with an advanced degree, identify a nurse who you look up to. Sharing a workplace in common is a natural way to foster a relationship with a mentor.
If you prefer to find a mentor online, take advantage of professional nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association, whose online mentorship program connects “early-career RNs” (licensed within the last four years) with experienced nurses.
“Online mentorships can provide more flexibility and allow you to connect with nurses beyond your geographic location,” Davidge notes.
Qualities to Look For in a Mentor
Davidge compares looking for a mentor to searching for a job.
“You are interviewing the mentor and their program just as much as they are interviewing you to be a part of it,” she says.
Ask questions to get to know your mentor on a personal level so that you can tell if you will get along. If your conversation feels awkward and forced, you may not be a good fit for each other.
How Nurse Mentors Can Support Their New Nurses
If you’re a veteran nurse looking to support your mentee best, Davidge has tips for this too.
According to Davidge, nurse mentors should be available to support mentees through challenges beyond clinical concerns, such as issues with workplace nurse bullying or how to build confidence as a new nurse. She says the best way to be a support for mentors is to put themselves in the shoes of a new nurse, which helps to anticipate when a mentee might feel overwhelmed and needs to manage stress.
“As you experience the roller coaster of emotions that often comes in the nursing career field, having a mentor can help you achieve your goals, stay accountable in your plans, and have a support system in times of need,” she says.