When a new or early-in-their-career nurse establishes a working relationship with an experienced nurse willing to share their time and knowledge, that connection can be career-changing and life-changing. Often these relationships are arranged through a nursing school, a nurses’ association, or an employer, in a formal mentoring relationship. But, just as often, an organic connection leads to an informal mentoring relationship with a teacher, a colleague, or a supervisor who steps in to be a teaching, guiding force in a nurse’s career.
At its best, nurse mentoring is about supporting nurses where they are, whether at the starting line or midway through the race, with the tools and resources to grow and perform well. Those tools could be related to personal concerns such as—
- Offering pointers on life-work balance
- Sharing tips for adjusting to a new schedule
- Being the “go-to” person to offer guidance on how to navigate challenging situations
Experienced nurses possess a wealth of knowledge that can benefit their colleagues in the form of—
- Passing along institutional knowledge
- Acting as a problem-solving soundboard or skill-building partner
- Sharing their longtime experiences with a specialty or insights into the travel nursing space
- Offering career advice about furthering education or seeking promotions
- Giving feedback on a career move to management or an administrative position
Of course, there’s the ever-important “cheerleading” aspect of a mentoring relationship. Knowing someone is in your corner, cheering you on, offering a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen to can be a sustaining, stabilizing force to a nurse at any point in their career. Nothing compares to sharing challenges, struggles, and especially crisis moments with someone who personally understands the stresses involved in nursing. Considering the toll that nursing can take on a person emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally, what nurse wouldn’t benefit from a mentor?
Consider these tips for making the most of a mentoring relationship—
1. Mentors should offer honest feedback
The most productive mentoring will go beyond pats on the back and pep talks. And suggestions and advice will not always fall into the pleasant-to-hear category. The best mentors recognize the place that constructive criticism and the “raw facts” have in a mentoring connection. While feedback should never be harsh or cruel, sometimes a mentor will have to “tell it like it is” when providing guidance.
2. Mentees should expect honest feedback
Who doesn’t love a supportive friend who’s always got your back? Of course, we both appreciate and need those kinds of relationships. But we must also appreciate and understand the need for relationships where honest, constructive dialogue happens consistently. Then, the mentoring connection should seamlessly move beyond that listening ear and a sympathetic shoulder to deliver wisdom and truth that may be hard to swallow or even uncomfortable to hear.
3. The relationship should be a priority
Whether the relationship is formal or informal, arranged by an outside source, or is organic, meaningful times of connection will be necessary to reap the benefits that mentoring can provide. So, be intentional about getting together. Explore the options that best fit your schedules and communication preferences. Supplement in-person times of connecting with texts and phone calls. Note specific topics to delve into, such as educational opportunities and potential career moves, revisit past discussions about the frustrating situation that is slowly improving, and how the family is handling your transition to a new work schedule.
Nurses mentoring nurses equal time well spent for all involved.