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Be a Mentor and Leader of the Next Generation of Nurses

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Think back to when you first began your journey towards a career in nursing. Whether you started out attending nursing school, volunteering at a local clinic, or were inspired by a nurse in your life, chances are that you turned to a more experienced nurse for information, guidance and support. Nurse mentors provide this same support for nurses just entering the field, nurses with little experience, or nurses who have just begun a new job.

What Does It Mean to Be a Nurse Mentor?

Nurse mentorships can begin spontaneously or in a more formal way. Many nursing job sites now offer mentorship programs. When nurses start a job at a hospital, clinic or other medical setting, they may have the opportunity to interview with a nurse mentor. If the new nurse joins the mentorship program, they will meet regularly for one-on-one sessions with the mentor and may even meet with other mentor-mentee pairs. Often, however, mentor-mentee relationships begin spontaneously as a new nurse turns to an experienced nurse for guidance.

Once matched with a new nurse, a nurse mentor will serve as role model and guide. Nursing mentor relationships may last for a few months while a new hire acclimates to his or her new responsibilities, or they can last for decades as both mentor and mentee progress through their careers. For the nurse mentor, this could mean the opportunity to help the mentee establish a successful nursing career full of meaningful experiences.

Nurse mentors often help mentees with career decisions, challenging cases or interpersonal problems. As a nurse mentor, you will often help new nurses and nursing students deal with conflicts. It is not uncommon for nurses to have a difference of opinion on how to help a patient. In such cases, a nurse mentor will need to have strong conflict resolution and critical thinking skills. Critical thinking allows a nurse to look at the facts and make an informed decision based on the information available, rather than on rumor, bias or emotion. This is extremely important in nursing, as nurse leaders must make decisions that affect patients’ lives every day.

How Are Nurse Mentors Important?

During the education and training processes, nurses study many medical texts and run through a range of practice scenarios. This is crucial to building a strong foundation of medical knowledge. However, there is a great deal about nursing that they cannot learn from a book or in a practice lab. This is why nurse mentors are so important.

Nurse mentors help mentees put all of the information learned in school into practice. For example, many new nurses will apply factual information to each case they encounter. However, nurse mentors can help mentees understand that different cases require specialized consideration. As new nurses learn to apply their profound knowledge in each unique context, nurse mentors systematically improve the new nurse’s experience and skills while also enhancing the quality of patient care.

Nurse mentors can also save employers thousands of dollars every year. According to recent figures, it costs employers approximately $42,000 to $64,000 to replace a nurse. There are many reasons why nurses may leave a position of employment, but if it has to do with a poor experience the new nurse is having at work, mentors can remedy problems and help the entire nursing team grow together. For example, workplace bullying is not uncommon, especially when senior staff members feel threatened by new hires. Mentors are in a position to recognize such problems and find a solution that is healthy for everyone involved.

How Can I Become a Nurse Mentor?

Nurse leaders must have strong skills when it comes to conflict resolution, critical thinking, medical care and patient-centered service. While many nurse leaders show a natural aptitude for leadership, the best way to hone these skills is in an experience-based educational program. Focused on Nursing Administration, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, for example, helps students develop the skills necessary to enhance career opportunities and move toward higher-paying positions of leadership.

Everything you will learn in the MSN Nursing Administration program is designed to prepare you for workforce-relevant challenges, including being a nurse mentor. Many graduates go on to fill advanced nursing roles where they guide the delivery of care for entire hospitals, clinics, community resources and corporations. Throughout their careers, MSN graduates have the opportunity to mentor new nurses and nursing students in a variety of settings and specialties.

Not only do nurse mentors have a profound impact on the nurses they mentor, but they have a strong influence on the patients that their nurse mentees treat. Serving as a nurse mentor is an opportunity to create ripple effects through the entire medical community and initiate positive change for thousands of people.

Learn more about the UAH online MSN — Nursing Administration program.


Minority Nurse: Mentoring Nurses Toward Success

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Mentoring: A Boon to Nurses, the Nursing Profession, and Patients, Too


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