A nursing shortage on the horizon will often bring a glut of potential nursing students. The promise of job security makes nursing more appealing to those who might otherwise decide it’s not the job for them.
This presents a challenge to the current population of nurses because in addition to the full time job they are currently doing, they may be asked to mentor or precept a new nurse or nursing student.
It is in our best interest, as nurses, to provide a positive experience for the new nurses coming in and to give them a good start for what will hopefully turn out to be a lifelong career. So what are the qualities of a good mentorship?
In addition to knowledge and competence, the nurse mentor must be friendly, kind, patient, have a good sense of humor among other things. It seems that only “perfect” nurses can be good mentors.
According to this article, here are the traits that make someone a good mentor: …in addition to knowledge and competence, it is helpful for the mentor to have the following personal attributes or personality characteristics:
- good sense of humor,
- effective interpersonal skills,
- approachability, and
- professional development abilities.
This makes it seem like only the perfect nurse is qualified to be a mentor. Not all nurses have all of the qualities all the time. Most of us, in fact, would be glad to claim one or two of those traits on a good day. On a bad day, some of us score a big fat zero.
In asking students and novice nurses what is the biggest factor that determines whether the precepting relationship is a good or bad one, the answer is: “That the mentor loves their job and is passionate about nursing.”
So what do we do when we are given the opportunity to mentor a new nurse?
If your gut answer is not an automatic “yes!” then ask if you can think about it for a couple of days.
If you are having a bad day, you might want to wait until you’ve had time to recover and gain a better perspective. You might devote a little of your time to remembering the nurses that mentored and helped you early in your career- how they interacted with you and why your experience with them was beneficial.
Mentoring someone is a great way to “give back” to those nurses who were a force for good in your life.
An important quality of a good mentor is that they love their job and are able to pass the enthusiasm on.
If you feel like you are in a place where you are struggling and are too overwhelmed to be helpful, find a way to tell your supervisor that, and see if there is someone else who could do a better job.
If you do decide to mentor, try to ensure that the patient load allows time for teaching and elaboration, emphasizing to your boss that overloading a new nurse is a poor way to start a career.
It just may be that mentoring gives you a jolt of energy for a job you were losing interest in, or spark enthusiasm and deeper appreciation of the career you’ve chosen.
A defining factor of a good nurse mentor is, without question, that they love their job. A nurse who loves her job just can’t help sharing that passion and excitement.