The Nurse’s Role as a Mentor

March 18th, 2015 by

Nurse Mentor Staffing ratios look glum, but full nursing programs are an encouraging sight! In order to benefit from an influx of new nurses, we must take on yet another role: that of nurse mentor.

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:

  1. friendliness,
  2. good sense of humor,
  3. patience,
  4. effective interpersonal skills,
  5. approachability, and
  6. 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.


About the Author:

Sarah Heroman

Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.

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