Mentoring is often discussed within the realm of a more experienced individual who provides advice, coaching, counseling, and guidance to a less experienced individual. In the world of nursing, other forms of mentoring exist that can be equally beneficial. For example, mentoring for new graduate RNs and others in transition is considered a key component of a successful residency program, and the effects of mentoring in improving nurse satisfaction and reducing his or her intent to turnover has been noted (Jones, 2017).
Mentoring is identified as a core competency in the Nursing Professional Development Scope and Standards of Practice (Harper & Maloney, 2016). Components of the mentoring standard include “sharing knowledge and skills with others,” “fostering ongoing professional growth experiences,” and “interacting with others to enhance professional nursing, professional development practice, and role performance” (Harper & Maloney, 2016, p. 55). The mentoring of colleagues is also included as a leadership competency in the American Nurses Association Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2015). In the text Leadership in Nursing Professional Development, Reilly, Harper, and Smith (2016) included coaching and mentoring as an expectation for leadership practice.
In addition to formal mentoring roles, more informal situations also exist where mentoring positively influences an RN's personal growth and helps in planning his or her career trajectory. Mentoring among nursing professional development practitioners who may be close in age and experience takes on a different look as mentor and mentee come together in a purposeful relationship that focuses on identifying opportunities for career planning. As nurses increasingly focus on the 2010 Institute of Medicine report recommendation to increase the number of nurses on boards, this type of relationship takes on increasing importance and value.
Our Mentor–Mentee Experience
An informal mentoring relationship was initially created between the two authors of this article (Pamela Dickerson and Jean Shinners) in the early 2000s as Jean applied for an appraiser role with the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Primary Accreditation Program. What drew us together into a mentor relationship was that, as educators, we shared values that included our commitment to continuing education and professional development of all nurses. Having been involved with the Accreditation program since 1995, Pam was able to offer guidance, advice, and support as Jean transitioned from orientee to appraiser team member and, ultimately, to appraiser team leader.
In 2010, Pam encouraged Jean to consider applying to become an American Nurses Credentialing Center Accreditation commissioner. Pam's tenure on the Commission on Accreditation and her knowledge of Jean's knowledge, skills, and attributes enabled her to identify Jean's ability to complement the roles already present on the Commission. Jean, as mentee, asked questions to clarify the expected role and responsibilities, explored with Pam the merits and challenges associated with applying for this new opportunity, and made a personal commitment to expand her professional repertoire through this new venture. During discussion, we also shared the challenges and successes that affected our work with continuing education and supporting the professional development of our colleagues. We learned a lot during these conversations and also had a lot of fun with them!
Most recently, Pam has mentored Jean in the new role of associate editor for The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. With a strong background in practice, education, and research, Jean has been able to expand her expertise into the realm of publication—both in writing and in coaching and mentoring others in writing columns for the Journal.
Key lessons that Jean has identified in this mentoring relationship include taking responsibility and accountability for what you need to know to move forward; engaging in educational activities that provide the latest and greatest in continuing education in areas relevant to growth opportunities; and developing new skills in areas such as accreditation, interprofessional education, and publication. Another key point is honing the ability to look at material and information and considering whether it needs to be amplified (Do I have enough information to make a decision?), clarified (Am I sure that I understand the intent of the information?), or verified (Do I need a discussion to ensure my interpretation of what was intended?) and making sure that, in the process of identifying problems and recommending solutions, decisions are logical and defensible.
Key points for Pam as a mentor include recognizing, valuing, and offering to help in developing the knowledge, skills, and expertise of colleagues who show interest in and an acumen for an area of growth; keeping succession planning in mind when considering mentor–mentee relationships; and allowing the mentee freedom to “spread her wings” and try new things.
The type of mentoring relationship in which we have engaged for over almost 20 years has proven to be beneficial to both of us. Pam has had the ability to support and encourage Jean, while at the same time building her own knowledge and skills in new areas. Jean has learned new roles, engaged in unique opportunities to enhance her professional development, and contributed substantially to the field of nursing professional development. In addition, succession planning in both Accreditation Program leadership and editorial responsibilities for this column have been assured.
We would like to encourage all nurses who have the talents and skills to make a difference in the professional development of others to reach out and provide their support in the form of mentoring. We encourage potential mentees to identify individuals they admire—both locally and nationally—and contact them to share their thoughts, opinions, or experiences.
Where can you meet potential mentors? It may start where you work, in local professional organization meetings, at national conferences, or even by contacting the author of an article you have read that made a big impression—positive or negative. Dr. Marie Man-they has done amazing work with “Nursing Salons.” The premise of the group is to provide a stress-free place for nurses to engage in “thoughtful conversation about the nursing profession” ( https://mariesnursingsalon.wordpress.com/). Check out her work, and think about getting a group of nurses together to “talk nursing.” The opportunity of identifying a mentor may present itself.
- American Nurses Association. (2015). Nursing: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author.
- Harper, M. & Maloney, P. (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Association for Nursing Professional Development.
- Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
- Jones, S.J. (2017). Establishing a nurse mentor program to improve nurse satisfaction and intent to stay. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 33, 76–78. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000335 [CrossRef]
- Reilly, K., Harper, M. & Smith, C. (2016). Leadership in practice. In Smith, C. & Harper, M. (Eds.), Leadership in nursing professional development: An organizational and systems focus (pp. 36–55). Chicago, IL: Association for Nursing Professional Development.
- Zhang, Y., Qian, Y., Wu, J., Wen, F. & Zhang, Y. (2016). The effectiveness and implementation of mentoring program for newly graduated nurses: A systematic review. Nurse Education Today, 37, 136–144. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2015.11.027 [CrossRef]