For nurses at all points of their careers, a mentor is an invaluable resource. Whether they are aspiring to take on a new role, grow in their current role, or become a stronger leader, nurses can turn to their mentors for experience-based guidance and honest advice.
In 2014, Stanford Health Care (SHC) restructured its Shared Leadership Councils (SLC) and its Nurse Mentoring Program in order to more effectively provide mentoring pathways and formal mentors to nurses at all levels across the organization. This program focuses on pairing clinical nurses with experienced nurse leaders who can guide them along the way.
We recently spoke to SHC’s Chief Nursing Officer and Vice-President of Patient Care Services, Dale Beatty, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, and Magnet Program Director Anita Girard, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. Both play key roles in the nurse mentorship program – Dr. Beatty oversees it as the Chief Nursing Officer, while Dr. Girard was instrumental in the development and restructuring of these programs, and continues to be a leader in the program today.
“The underlying objective of the program is to create a robust and healthy environment where people can develop,” Dr. Beatty said, also noting that the Magnet® designation of Stanford Health Care fosters that type of environment.
The Importance of Mentorship
A major element of mentorship, Dr. Beatty said, is to help people grow more in their current role, whether that means helping them get certified, join new committees, or grow as a leader in general. Mentorship is more than just counsel from an experienced nurse to a newer nurse; it’s creating an environment that inspires individuals to advance their careers and match their interests with the organization’s needs.
SHC’s mentorship program, along with its new shared governance structure, fine-tuned this approach, and in a two-year period, had 16 mentees from the SLC structure promoted to Assistant Nurse Managers, increased the certification rate to 54 percent and the BSN rate to 88 percent, and saw many other mentees go on to receive internal promotions.
Many nurses also relied on their mentors to help guide them toward the right nursing specialization, since the sheer number of options can often be overwhelming. As Dr. Girard points out, the mentors have the important job of describing each pathway to their mentees and helping them utilize their skill sets to choose the right career pathways.
However, mentorship programs are not only beneficial to the mentees, but to the mentors as well. “Real nurse leaders want to mentor other people,” Dr. Beatty said, “They pass it on because they realize the criticality of the development of future nurses.”
Mentoring a fellow nurse takes leadership skills and experience, of course, but also much more. According to Dr. Beatty, there are basic core values that mentors need to have: honesty, integrity, trust, and confidentiality. A mentee should be able to trust their mentor enough to be vulnerable with them, and the mentor should foster that environment of safety and trust. Additionally, a passion for the profession is a necessary trait, and that will bring a natural connectedness between mentor and mentee, Dr. Girard said.
How to Find a Mentor
For student nurses and recent graduate nurses, a mentor is a resource that could help guide them to their future careers and shape them along the way, but figuring out where to find one is the first step. A great place to start, Dr. Girard said, is to visit websites for state nursing associations and student nursing associations. Additionally, getting involved in professional organizations can help, since these are usually full of nurse leaders that could be potential mentors.
One final piece of advice Dr. Girard shared is to never forget to have fun along the way. “The work we do is hard and heavy, but it can be extremely rewarding and fun,” Dr. Girard said. “And there are people around you that will develop and support you in mentorship programs.”
To find potential mentorship opportunities through your state’s nursing association, visit the American Nurses Association website.