Careers in Care Leadership: What Is a Nurse Mentor?

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: Nurse mentor explaining procedures to novice nurse

The practice of nurse mentorship is critical to the education and preparation of new nurses. The American Nurses Association and other professional nursing organizations advocate nurse mentorship for its effectiveness in preparing new nurses for the real world. A nurse mentorship program can be formal or informal. In both cases, its success depends on the relationships established between nurse mentors, who are experienced nurses, and mentees, who are new nurses.

What Does a Nurse Mentor Do?

After completing their academic work in an accredited nursing program and passing an exam to receive a state license to practice, nurses can begin their journey in the nursing field. But once they are in their real-world health care workplace, they are often struck by the pressures and intensity of the nursing profession. Nurse mentors are needed to provide guidance and share their clinical experiences to help new nurses gain confidence in their roles.

What is a nurse mentor? A nurse mentor is an experienced practitioner who volunteers to serve as a role model, advocate, and motivator to help a new nurse acclimate to the workplace. Experienced nurse practitioners serving as mentors provide formal and informal training, support, and counseling to new nurses within safe environments, inside and outside of clinical settings. Nurse mentors demonstrate compassion in their interactions and forge trust-based relationships with their mentees that can last from months to years. New nurses who rely on their mentors for guidance, wisdom, and knowledge sharing often see their mentors as role models, teachers, and friends.

Strategies nurse mentors can use to help develop the skills and confidence of new and inexperienced nurses include coaching, teaching, counseling, advocating, and providing support. Additional strategies include sharing success stories, assisting new nurses in social situations, and getting them to think critically and solve problems. There are also opportunities to show them informal traditions in the workplace. New nurses may not be aware of social norms in the nursing profession, and they may be uneasy about approaching fellow nurses, physicians, and other professionals. To ease their transitions, mentors can introduce their mentees to others when walking around the facility or in meetings. And nurse mentors can teach new nurses how to socialize at work.

The Qualities of an Effective Nurse Mentor

What makes a nurse mentor an effective leader? Mentor-mentee relationships rely on trust, so nurse mentors should know how to establish a rapport of trust between themselves and their mentees. To help ensure a good mentorship relationship, nurse mentors must possess ethical and moral integrity and demonstrate a willingness to share personal and professional stories, including failures. Additional qualities ideal for nurse mentors include the following:

● Organized Manager. A nurse mentorship, whether formal or informal, should be structured. A competent nurse mentor has strong time management skills to balance clinical responsibilities with scheduled meetings with their mentees to discuss various topics.
● Advanced Professional Development. A knowledgeable nurse mentor can speak to a wide range of topics, from nursing practice and work environment issues to career counseling and personal advice.
● Persistent. Practical follow-up skills enable nurse mentors to proactively and regularly check in on their mentees’ job satisfaction.
● Collaborative and Goal-Oriented. Both the mentor and mentee should be involved in the development of the mentoring plan, so the ability to establish a vision that sets goals is a crucial competency.
● Personable and Straightforward. Nurse mentors possess strong interpersonal skills and can communicate with clarity while demonstrating compassion and patience. They are active listeners with strong relationship-building, training, and teaching skills.
● Encouraging. Nurse mentors are empathetic, patient, and nonjudgmental. They are skilled in providing affirmation and giving and receiving feedback.
● Insightful. Nurse mentors understand the ins and outs of the health care system to provide new nurses with strategies for navigating it.

These qualities of a competent nurse mentor correlate with strong leadership skills. For the experienced nurse interested in honing the leadership skills essential for effective nurse mentorship, Regis College offers the online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

The program’s curriculum focuses on preparing nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver culturally competent and effective health care. Students learn leadership, communication, and analytical competencies and essential skills such as compassion and critical thinking, which can help them become influential nurse mentors.

The Demand for Qualified Nurse Mentors

The pressures of a hectic health care environment can be overwhelming, resulting in nurses feeling overworked and burned out. A Becker’s Hospital Review article reports that nearly half of nurses have thought about leaving their jobs in the last two years. Then, there’s the issue of the worldwide nursing shortage, as the field is stretched to its limits due to the baby boomer generation reaching their retirement years.

A 2017 National Council of State Boards of Nursing survey indicates that 51 is the average age of registered nurses, which means many experienced nurses will retire in the coming decades. As reported by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 1 million registered nurses will retire by 2030, taking with them critical nursing knowledge. But through nurse mentorship, experienced nurses have an opportunity to help address these challenges by helping to prepare novice nurses with essential knowledge and skills. By sharing their experiences and expertise, nurse mentors pass along critical competencies to help new nurses thrive in efficiently delivering effective patient care.

Gain the Leadership Skills to Be a Mentor

Mentorship can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to give back to the profession, and provides opportunities to acquire a greater perspective on nursing. Explore how Regis College’s online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program prepares students with the leadership qualities, knowledge, and skills needed to provide quality nurse mentoring and establish nurse mentorship programs in their hospitals and other organizations.

Recommended Readings

The Importance of Developing Culturally Competent Health Care
The Benefits of a Nurse Mentorship Program for New Nurses
Nursing in the Workforce: The Importance of Nurse Burnout Prevention


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
American Nurses Association, Workforce
American Nurses Association Massachusetts, Mentoring Definitions
American Nurse Today, “Mentoring 101: What You Need to Know About Nurturing New Nurses”
American Nurse Today, “Nurse Mentorships: A Two-Way Street”
Becker’s Hospital Review, “49% of Nurses Have Considered Leaving the Profession in the Last 2 years, Study Finds”
The Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing, “10 Qualities of a Good Nurse Mentor”
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, National Nursing Workforce Study
Nurse Education in Practice, “Supporting Nurse Mentor Development: An Exploration of Developmental Constellations in Nursing Mentorship Practice.”
Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, “Mentoring for Success”
Regis College, Online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (Nurse Education)
StatPearls, “Nursing Shortage”