Why Mentorship in Nursing Is Essential

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A nurse mentor is an experienced nurse who provides guidance, insight and support to a novice nurse. Mentorship in nursing benefits all parties involved — both mentee and mentor — as well as patients and the health care organization. Mentorship can take place formally or informally.

two nurses looking at clipboard

Nursing may be the right fit if you’re interested in a career where you can learn something new every day, and no two days are alike. It’s an exciting and meaningful, yet challenging, career that will keep you busy from the start of your shift to the end.

As a new nursing student, you’ll want to seek nursing mentorship during clinical rotations, as you’ll benefit from personalized guidance and support. Yet, even if you’re an experienced registered nurse (RN) with a few years or more of clinical work, finding a strong nurse mentor who can guide you in your ongoing professional growth is helpful. Mentorship in nursing benefits all involved — the mentor, mentee and the health care organization.

What Is a Nursing Mentor?

Before diving into the specifics of mentoring in nursing, you may wonder, “What is a nursing mentor, exactly?” A mentor is a seasoned professional who takes an inexperienced professional under their wing and provides guidance and support as they grow into their career. In nursing, a mentor is typically an experienced practitioner, such as a charge nurse or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), who provides formal or informal coaching, counseling and advocacy to a novice nurse.

Nursing mentorship involves a caring, trusting relationship that often develops over multiple years. Mentors usually focus on professional and career guidance but may also offer personal guidance and emotional support.

Benefits of Mentorship in Nursing

As previously mentioned, mentorship is hugely beneficial not only for the mentee but also for the mentor. Mentorship also benefits the health care organization as a whole, contributing to a stronger, more robust nursing team. This, in turn, can help patients by improving outcomes.

nurses walking in a hallway

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Benefits for the Health Care Organization

Health care organizations benefit from fostering a supportive workplace culture that offers opportunities for professional development; mentoring in nursing helps achieve this vision. It’s costly for health care organizations to experience high turnover rates.

In fact, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, the average cost of turnover for just one registered nurse is $52,350 and can be as high as $64,500. Having RN positions vacant is indeed costly, yet mentors in the workplace can help reduce turnover. One study found that 70% of mentees who worked with a mentor for one to two years said their mentor positively influenced their decision to stay in nursing.

Aside from RN retention, mentoring in nursing offers other benefits for health care organizations:

  • Positive organizational reputation
  • Organic succession planning
  • Cultivating future nurse leaders
  • Improving patient care and nurturing better patient outcomes
  • Strengthening recruitment tools

Benefits for the Mentee

ABSN student standing by whiteboard

Of course, mentorship in nursing is also highly beneficial for the mentee or mentoring recipient. A nurse mentor can be a positive, influential role model who provides invaluable career guidance, support and insight. A nursing mentor can also help the mentee by:

  • Advising on nursing specialties and roles
  • Helping the mentee navigate transitional phases with less stress
  • Expanding the mentee’s professional network
  • Nudging the mentee toward exploring career possibilities
  • Helping the mentee develop essential soft skills like problem-solving, professionalism and communication
  • Providing advice in navigating work-related conflicts

In short, nurses receiving mentorship may experience less job-related stress and feel less overwhelmed in their professional lives.

Benefits for the Mentor

A mentoring relationship often focuses on what mentors can do for mentees. Yet, it’s a two-way street; the nurse mentor also benefits from the relationship. For example, a mentor feeling a bit burned out from work may find that guiding a novice nurse helps them feel re-energized and reminds them of their work’s importance. Mentoring can renew one’s passion for the profession.

Some of the additional benefits for the mentor can include:

  • Explore new perspectives on emerging nursing trends
  • Make a meaningful contribution to the profession as a whole
  • Enjoy opportunities to cultivate a positive and supportive workplace
  • Refine communication skills and styles to account for cultural or generational differences
  • Consider policies and procedures from another point of view

How to Find a Nurse Mentor

There are two main ways to find a mentor: informally and formally. Each can be a valuable experience for the mentee, depending on the mentee’s personality and particular circumstances.

smiling nursing student

Informal Methods of Finding a Mentor

Informally, you can ask an experienced nurse if they would be interested in mentoring you. You could also consider online networking on sites like LinkedIn (check for groups designated for nursing staff) to find a potential mentor or ask someone at your job. For example, you might ask the charge nurse, nurse manager or human resources manager about mentorship.

If you’re still a nursing student, talk to nursing instructors during your clinical rotations about mentorship opportunities.

Formal Methods of Finding a Mentor

There are many formal mentorship programs in the nursing world, and these may be your best bet if you’re hesitant to take a “cold calling” approach. In fact, your health care organization may already have one in place. These programs match mentors with mentees, often based on considerations such as similarities in nursing specialties.

Many professional organizations also offer formal mentorship programs. Consider checking organizations such as:

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NDMU nursing student working with sim manikin

How to Become a Nursing Mentor

Before becoming a mentor, consider whether you possess the characteristics and qualities to do the job well. Some helpful traits and skills include:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Desire to nurture the next generation of nurses
  • Solid knowledge of nursing best practices
  • Good decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • Understanding of various nursing career pathways

If you believe you would excel as a nurse mentor, visit your organization’s HR department to inquire about internal mentorship programs and ask about signing up as a mentor. If your organization lacks such a program, the next step is to contact a local nursing school or connect with one of the professional organizations offering a formal mentorship program (see above).

You can be an effective mentor by understanding the parameters of a successful mentorship. These relationships are often characterized by:

  • Clear professional boundaries
  • Open communication
  • Active goal setting
  • Mutual trust and support
  • Mutual commitment to learning and professional growth

Begin Your Nursing Journey at Notre Dame of Maryland University

smiling nursing student

Are you considering transitioning to a nursing career but are unwilling to return to school for four more years? At Notre Dame of Maryland University, you can leverage your prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree toward our Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Our ABSN program will allow you to graduate in as few as 15 months.

Unlike many other ABSN programs, at NDMU, you can choose from online or in-person courses. While you work through our values-based curriculum, you’ll be fully supported by our dedicated nursing instructors and your Academic Success Coach.

Contact an admissions advisor at Notre Dame today to start working toward a rewarding nursing career.