A nursing career is undoubtedly complex, and having a mentor through the various stages of your career is a key factor in leadership development. The value of mentoring − both individual and collective − in fostering academic success and clinical excellence cannot be undermined. It is for this reason that more nursing education institutions are factoring in formal mentorship programs as part of the curriculum.
A nurse who is mentored attains higher levels of competence in safe patient care, clinical skills and self-confidence and builds a deeper sense of commitment to the nursing profession. Mentorship proves valuable both for the novice nurse and more experienced nurses. The novice nurse can gain a greater understanding of professional ethics and work culture, and can learn critical thinking skills from the more experienced mentor. Nurses who are at higher levels in their career can benefit from the on-going support and leadership development opportunities that are afforded by a close relationship with a mentor. The establishment of a mentoring culture has all round positive benefits in the medical environment; with increase in recruitment and retention of competent nurses, and an increase in the professionalism and performance of the nurses. In fact having multiple mentors can enhance various facets of a nurse’s personality and skills, enabling them to reach greater levels of self-development within the profession.
The benefits of mentoring are very evident in research fields as well. Despite the fact that nursing has existed as a formal academic discipline for decades, in many countries there is still lack of proper infrastructure to facilitate nursing research. There is a dearth of career opportunities in the research sector, and in such cases the benefits of leadership and mentoring programs are even greater. In research circles, the lack of support and resources offered by mentors was actually found to be a barrier to completing scholarly research and theses.
So how do you find a mentor? If you are in a program which already has mentorship as a feature, then you will be paired up with someone who is similar to you in background and temperament. If not, you will have to reach out to someone and request them to handhold you through the next phase of your nursing career.
Each mentoring relationship is different from the next, and ideally you should be able to pick a mentor who can help you with your specific needs, and guide you through any challenges you are facing. This would depend on which level you have reached in your career development. It is also very important that you should have a good rapport with your mentor. The confidential and constructive criticism that you get from your mentor is what will help you grow as a professional. Make a list of potential mentors, and reach out to them directly, telling them why you would like to connect with them and what you hope to get out of the relationship. Ask them how available they can be, and how often you can check in with them. Those who are too rushed or lack the required patience would not meet your expectations.
Once you have connected with your mentor, always be respectful and ask plenty of questions. You can gain expertise that cannot be found in text books. And lastly, do remember to keep in touch with your mentor and let them know how your career path goes!