Mentoring is successful only when both the mentor and mentee contribute.
- Formal or informal mentorship can promote the longevity of mentees.
- Mentorship can create pride in mentees while simultaneously increasing the confidence of mentors.
- Mentorships drive the nursing profession forward by building self-confidence, which can help reduce attrition narrow the nursing shortage.
Preceptors are intended to contribute to a nurse’s orientation process so he or she can make a successful transition into an organization. However, preceptor programs aren’t enough to ensure nurse success or retention. Evidence about mentorships, however, shows mentees increasing their self-confidence, effectively adjusting into their new role, developing new skills and knowledge, and feeling better prepared.
The concept of formal mentoring originated from the business industry in the 1980s and rapidly grew in popularity in the 1990s. Informal mentoring has always been a concept in nursing, but as the profession evaluates and strategizes how to address the nursing shortage, formal mentoring programs are resurfacing within nursing schools, healthcare systems, and nursing units. (See Mentor vs. preceptor.)
Mentors provide support, guidance, and encouragement to student nurses, new graduates, and nurses making a specialty or practice transition. In return, they experience satisfaction, professional confidence, pride, and enthusiasm for nursing. This reciprocal relationship can yield a practice culture shift that improves retention. And evidence shows that increasing job satisfaction results in higher patient satisfaction and safety and improved quality outcomes. The following strategies can help ensure a successful mentorship.
As the mentor, acknowledge that you’re being observed: Your mentee is observing your presence, mannerisms, interactions, and demeanor. Also acknowledge the time needed to be a mentor. If your current personal and professional demands won’t allow you to be available to a potential mentee, be honest and suggest a better time or recommend someone else as a mentor.As amentee, acknowledge that you must play an active role and bring certain characteristics to the relationship. (See Mentor/mentee characteristics.)
Action and follow-up
Both the mentor and mentee must actively engage in allocating time and opportunities to meet. As the mentor, provide constructive feedback and refrain from micromanaging, dictating, and indulging in petty gossip. Remember to stay focused on the goal, which is to have a productive and fruitful meeting. As the mentee, come to each meeting prepared, organized, and ready to discuss goals, challenges, and resources. Depending on the specific mentoring relationship, an agenda is a helpful guide for staying focused and organized.
Meeting frequency and format usually are specific to individual mentorships and the mentee’s goals. Meetings can occur in person, over the phone, or via an online meeting platform, but typically the most effective communication occurs face-to-face. Some formal mentorships include a contract that outlines the mentee’s goals, meeting frequency, and timeframes.
Follow-up is essential. It reinforces active listening, commitment, and respect for each other’s time. For example, mentors can indicate an anticipated timeframe of completing a task or request. And mentees should communicate updates and when an extension is necessary.
Mentorship is voluntary, and gratitude is one of its rewards. As a mentee, show your gratitude for the time and expertise the mentor shared. Another reward of mentorship is the satisfaction of seeing your mentee reach his or her goals and knowing that you helped the mentee develop confidence and fulfill objectives. Even more rewarding is observing the mentee become a mentor.
As nurses, we impact not only our patients’ lives, but each other’s as well. Studies show that having appreciation and consistently displaying and recognizing gratitude can increase happiness and promote good health. So be kind, be authentic, be amazing, and practice gratitude.
Preserve the profession
Whether mentorships are formal or informal, they help foster and preserve the nursing profession through guidance, constructive feedback, and empathy. You can positively impact nursing by supporting your colleagues.
Kathleen Venant is a pediatrics dialysis unit and pediatrics surge pool nurse manager at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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