The Importance of Finding a Nurse Mentor for Newly Graduate Nurses:

  • 18 July, 2022

If you are finishing your nursing program, you are entering a very exciting time in your life with several monumental events - graduation, taking (and passing!) the NCLEX, and starting your first job as a Registered Nurse! These three events typically all happen within a few months of each other, and it can feel a little overwhelming. The most stressful of the three for me was the new responsibility I had as a nurse. My nursing program had taught me so much, and I had a lot of "book knowledge" and skills, but now I had to put it all together, and people's lives were in my hands. Phew! That's a lot of responsibility! But I was so lucky to not have to bear that responsibility alone. I was fortunate to have worked on a Med-Surg unit as a nursing assistant and was able to start my first job as a nurse on the same unit. I had some fabulous nurses I had watched and learned from long before I graduated from nursing school. Each of them served as a true mentor to me, and I still have things they taught me echo in my head during certain situations.

You may feel like you've learned everything you could possibly learn during those many hours of studying, clinical rotations, and exams. But nursing is a field that requires lifetime learning! We often rely on nursing peers to ask questions, discuss client needs and treatment, or provide encouragement on the hard days. But sometimes that isn't enough. Who will you turn to when you've had a really stressful or traumatic experience at work? Who will you ask for career advice? Who will you be open and honest with about how you're feeling as you take on this new career? Who will you continue to learn from now that you're out of school? Nurses are all busy during a shift so if you rely only on that time during a shift to gleam knowledge from others it may not happen. One of the best ways you can learn the real skills for the day-to-day work of a nurse is through a nurse mentor.

The Importance of Finding a Nurse Mentor for Newly Graduate Nurses

1. What is a nurse mentor?

A nurse mentor is a nurse who has more experience than you and should show leadership and competence in their role. A nurse mentor should be the nurse you see in action who inspires you to be better.

Many hospitals now offer a formal nursing mentorship program for new graduates, and since all new nurses should go through an orientation with a preceptor, you may find your preceptor is the best mentor for you. But there are other, less formal ways to have a mentor. And if you have trouble pinpointing a good mentor, ask for help from your clinical educator, nurse manager, or former nursing instructors.

2. What to look for in a nurse mentor:

Even if your hospital has a mentorship program, you may want to seek out your own mentor. A good choice for a mentor might be a nurse from a clinical rotation that you had a good connection with, a friendly nursing instructor, or perhaps a co-worker at your new job. It might take some time for you to find the right person you really see as a good example, but here are some things too look for in a mentor.

The nurse mentor should:

Be a positive person! - You don't need one more person in your life complaining or commiserating about work. You need someone in your corner as your own personal cheerleader! Everyone should have someone reminding them "you can do this!"

Have good time management skills. - Can they manage a patient load without appearing hectic? Do they finish their work by the end of shift and keep medications and treatments on schedule?

Be a good communicator with peers, patients, and physicians. - Communicating competently with physicians can be intimidating to the new nurse but complete and concise communication can create trust in the nurse-physician relationship and improve patient care.

Be a nurse with plenty of experience. - The nurse may not be in the exact specialty as you are working in, but a similar area or experience with your area is helpful.

Be a person you feel comfortable with. - You should feel like you openly ask any question without feeling judged or express your concerns, frustrations, and successes. You should trust the relationship and feel safe sharing with them.

Be willing to be honest with you about their own challenges, lessons, and successes in nursing. - The best mentors won't pretend they are perfect; they will admit they've made mistakes and want to help you learn from their mistakes. ("Let me tell you about the med error I made once and the circumstances that caused it so you won't have the same issue.")

Manage their stress. - You want a mentor who can show you how to effectively manage the stress of being a nurse. They should be able to set boundaries between work and home and boundaries with patients. Boundaries can be hard sometimes and no one teaches that in school!

As you grow in your career, you may find you need different mentors to help you grow into a new role. You may want to develop your leadership skills to become a charge nurse, manager, or administrator. Or maybe you're ready to gain a new certification such as becoming a diabetes educator, wound care specialist, lactation consultant, or a nurse practitioner.

3. What to expect from a mentor:

If you are part of a hospital mentorship program, there may be a set program that's being followed, such as specific times for you to meet and goals for your relationship. But if you are in a more informal mentorship, you may want to set up a time once a week or once a month to meet for coffee or to go for a walk at the park. Don't plan for the meetings for your lunch break at work though - we all know breaktimes sometimes get adjusted and that means your lunch times may not match up. And besides, lunch breaks should be a chance for you to relax!

I'm not going to sugarcoat it, the first year as a nurse is HARD! But having a nurse mentor can make it much better. It can not only make you a more competent nurse but also improve your satisfaction in your career and possibly open up more opportunities for you in your future!

As you gain competence and confidence in your own skills and career, remember to offer your own time as a mentor. Seek out new nurses and find your own mentee! Give back to the profession of nursing!

Are you still in the beginning stages of your nursing career and needing to pass your nursing exam? Let EduMind help. Our NCLEX-RN® exam review course provides what you need to crush the NCLEX!
About the Author: Lana Wilkins, MSN, BSN, RN

Lana Wilkins is a Registered Nurse with over 16 years of professional nursing. She is a nursing educator, consultant, Subject Matter Expert, and writer with a passion for helping students and new nurses. She holds a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma and a M.S. in Nursing Education from Western Governors University. Outside of the world of nursing she can be found managing the chaos of 2 kids, a husband, and a cat, being crafty, or spending time with friends.

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