Do You Need a Nurse Mentor?

Do You Need a Nurse Mentor?

As a hard-working and successful nursing professional examining your career, you might reflect on your nurse mentor. The person who inspired, guided, advised, and kept you on the straight and narrow path, and ask yourself if you’ve ever been one yourself.

Was there someone who took you under their wing? Was there an individual who counseled you on your choice of master’s degree program? Did a colleague serve as an example of the kind of nurse you aspired to be? And if you’re a new nurse and can’t make heads or tails of this new career, where have you turned for guidance?do-you-need-a-nurse-mentor

Sometimes, a mentor appears when you least expect it, and sometimes, you proactively go out and find one. Either way, the mentoring relationship can be life-changing, which sets you on the course of greater success, satisfaction, and confidence.

Mentors are Everywhere

Mentors are everywhere and can be sources of great inspiration who utilize their personal and professional experience as examples for others.

However, mentors are distinct from preceptors. A preceptor is a nurse you’re paired with to learn the ropes of a particular position or unit. Being precepted means that you’re being shown the ropes of where things are and how things are done. Mentors offer broader professional guidance; although they may be employed by the same institution where you work, that isn’t always the case.

According to Johnson and Johnson, where they match nurse mentees and mentors in hopes that these relationships will empower them to reach greater heights in their careers, “When you’re thinking about a potential mentor, you’ll obviously want someone you like and look up to. But it can be even better if they have skills that apply to your own career goals.”

And for the mentor, J&J states, “Sharing your experience with a new nurse can make all the difference to their career and help create a new generation of confident and well-prepared nurses.”

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is also a strong proponent of mentoring, outlining the many benefits of this special relationship for both the mentee and the mentor. Benefits may include:

  • Receiving honest feedback from a seasoned professional and role model.
  • Learning from generational differences.
  • Giving back to the next generation of nurses.
  • Gaining insight into a particular specialty or career path.

 Finding a Mentor

Some institutions have official mentoring programs. While this may be rare, there are pros and cons to this type of situation. The required documentation can sometimes be so burdensome that it detracts from the creativity the pair could otherwise cultivate if left to their own devices.

Johnson and Johnson’s Nurse Innovation Fellowship matches teams of nurse fellows with successful nurse experts to solve real-world problems using human-centered design thinking principles. J&J’s Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge provides nurse innovators with grants and mentorship to bring their ideas to fruition.

The ANA offers a mentoring program that matches volunteer mentors with new nurse mentees seeking guidance and support as they launch their careers.

If joining an official mentoring program isn’t available to you or your cup of tea, there are plenty of ways to find one on your own.

There may be a nurse in your life whom you admire and would give anything to follow in their footsteps. You may be inspired by their work, accomplishments, and successes, or simply for the kind of person they are.

Aside from people you know, there’s also the riskier option: approaching someone you don’t know. You may encounter someone you admire at a conference, on LinkedIn, or through networking. While it may feel scarier to ask a stranger to be your mentor, taking that risk could lead to amazing things.

If you choose to approach someone about being your mentor, keep several things in mind:

  • Make sure they know that you greatly value their time and expertise
  • Come to them with a specific problem or issue that you’d like to tackle
  • Outline your initial goals for the relationship
  • Offer for the mentoring relationship to be time-limited (e.g., perhaps 3-6 months)

When you set parameters from the outset, the mentor knows you respect their time and expertise. And there’s always the possibility that the relationship may last much longer than initially proposed, including budding into a lifelong friendship.

The Magic of Mentoring

Mentoring can be magical for both the mentee and the mentor. Camaraderie, inspiration, friendship, professional connection, and mutual learning can all result.

While the relationship is by and large about the mentee learning from the mentor, there can be plenty in it for the mentor, too. After all, the mentee is human with their own experiences, skills, and knowledge, and the mentor may come out of the relationship equally enriched.

Every relationship has risks, advantages, and potential downsides, but the mentor-mentee relationship can be a highly inspiring experience for all involved.

If you’re interested in taking your nursing career to the next level, becoming professionally re-inspired, or launching a special project, engaging the support and guidance of a mentor may be just what the nurse ordered.

Culturally Competent Nursing Mentorship

Culturally Competent Nursing Mentorship

Culturally competent nursing mentorship for nursing students, nurses, or faculty often remains challenging when the mentor needs to reflect on the mentee. Understanding diversity in higher education and the strategies to improve culturally competent guidance is looked at through the lens of mentoring.

Brief History

The term ‘mentor’ was adopted from Mentor, a Greek mythological figure in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Mentor was placed in charge of Odyssey’s son, Telemachus. Their mythological relationship consisted of Mentor imparting wisdom, guiding, and sharing knowledge with Telemachus. In modern times the word mentor has come to mean a very experienced and trusted advisor. A mentee is the term for the person in the position of receiving the mentor’s training, guidance, advice, or wisdom (Grant & Hazel, 1993).

Nursing Mentorship

Becoming a nurse, advancing a nursing degree, or being a nursing professor all require skills and knowledge to be learned. A part of that learning comes from mentor-mentee relationships. Ideally, each nursing student or new faculty should have an available mentor sensitive to the mentee’s needs. Mentors that reflect or identify with their mentees would be optimal (Schuler, 2021). However, in the absence of availability, the mentor must practice culturally competent mentorship. The importance of the mentorship role becomes evident when the mentee does not reach their full potential or partake in opportunities within the profession.

U.S. Census Statistics and Nursing Numbers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2020), 57.8% of the American population is White, forming the majority; Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority comprising 18.7%; Black or African Americans are the largest racial minority making up 12.1% of the population. Also noted on the census was an increase in multicultural populations. Additionally, according to the National Council of the Board of Nursing statistics (2021), ethnic/racial minorities represent 19.2% of the RN workforce. According to the numbers that represent the U.S. population and the population of the nursing workforce, there is a representation of minority nurses ranging from the bedside to academia.

However, the reality of these numbers is striking. Due to the lower numbers of minorities in the nursing field, mentors must commit themselves to cultivate culturally appropriate mentoring relationships. Working within the framework of who is represented then requires solutions to effective and appropriate mentoring. Employing creative and Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) mentoring styles is mandatory for successful mentor-mentee relationships.

Mentoring advances the science of nursing; it helps develop and move forward the discipline along with its leaders and educators. However, cultural awareness and carefully suited mentoring styles to accommodate minoritized mentees are imperative for successful outcomes. Diversity is defined as different or varied. Whether the diversity is cultural, racial, religious, gender, class, or sexual orientation of a mentee, it must be acknowledged and understood by the mentor to help build a stronger mentoring relationship. This will add to the mentee’s development and foster meaningful results (Dirks, 2021).


Some causes of the underrepresentation of minorities in nursing have been noted as lack of opportunity, educational finances, emotional and social support from the discipline, and lack of diversified mentors (Firth, 2021). However, when focusing on the need for diversified mentorship in the formation of nursing students, new nurses, RN to BSN students, and new nursing faculty, there are many obstacles for the mentor.

Some examples of challenges a mentor may face include assessing a mentee’s motivation, having the proper time to mentor, setting reasonable goals, and the mentor’s ability to properly assess the mentee’s knowledge, skills, or background. One prominent challenge in mentee assessment is correctly identifying diversity to incorporate appropriate mentoring into the relationship. Schuler (2021) states that nurse mentees recognize support and are thankful for shared insights from culturally competent mentors.


While acknowledging the low numbers of minority students, nurses, and faculty, how then will professors of any ethnic, racial, religious, or any diverse background be a mentor to their diverse minoritized students or new faculty? The answer is already in practice.

The very steps that the professors teach their nursing students to form nurse-patient relationships regarding cultural diversity. The movement to include culturally competent care in nursing is currently operational in practice and academia. Nursing professors teach their students to be culturally competent as it is woven throughout EBP curricula (Hung et al., 2019). Students are taught the values and how to incorporate, accommodate, and respect culture into their healthcare-providing practices. This level of teaching students culturally competent care must be transferred and utilized with mentor-mentee relationships between professors and students, nurse administrators and new nurses, and professors and new faculty.

First and foremost, the mentor must self-reflect on their thoughts and feelings. They must recognize any biases and explore how this will affect the mentoring relationship, therefore working to acknowledge and eliminate them honestly. Secondly, they must get to know their mentees through inquiry. Asking mentees to share their backgrounds and how they prefer to learn is an act of openness and accommodation.

Thirdly, the mentor must create an atmosphere of judgment-free mentoring to allow the mentee to receive the advice in their way.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the mentor and mentee must commit to being open, honest, and respectful in their roles. Without their commitment, the relationship is not built on a trusted foundation, and all that follows may be tainted. The lack of diverse nursing mentors may or may not be able to be wholly addressed by looking purely at the census numbers.

As nursing advances, there is a recommendation to include and support minoritized nurses in all roles of the profession. Regardless, whoever is in the role of mentor, must accept the current challenges and comply with the prerequisite to pledge to deliver EBP culturally competent guidance using the above-mentioned mentoring strategies.


Dirks, J., L. (2021). Alternate approaches to mentoring. Critical Care Nurses, 41(1), 9-16.

Firth, S. (2021, August 12). Why are they so few people of color in nursing? Washington Correspondent, Medpage Today.

Grant, M., & Hazel, J. (1993). Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology. Springfield: Merriam-Webster.

Hung, H., Y., Wanf, Y., W., Feng, J., Y., Wang, C., J., Lin, E., C., L., & Chang, Y., J. (2019). Evidenced-based practice curriculum development for undergraduate nursing students:The preliminary results of an action research study in Taiwan. Journal of Nursing Research, 27(4), 30. doi: 10.1097/jnr.0000000000000298

Schuler, E. (2021). Evaluation of an evidence-based practice mentorship programme in a paediatric quaternary care setting. Journal of Research in Nursing, 26(1-2),149-165.

Becoming a Mentee: Tips on How to Establish a Mentee-Mentor Relationship

Becoming a Mentee: Tips on How to Establish a Mentee-Mentor Relationship

Experts agree that mentoring is vital to your professional and personal development as a nurse. Good mentoring can lead to getting into—and through—nursing school, getting a great job, and getting into graduate school. However, as a minority nursing student or nurse, you may have little experience being a mentee and have many questions. Questions like: How do you approach a person you would like to have as a mentor? Do you only need one mentor? How do you know if you have a good mentor? Some minority nursing students and nurses have had mentors of the same culture or ethnicity as you and you may feel uncomfortable asking a nurse, instructor, or professor from an ethnicity or culture different from yours to be your mentor. The following tips may help you find a mentor and set the foundation for a rewarding mentee-mentor experience.

How do I know if I need a mentor?

All of us need a mentor. A mentor is an experienced person that advises you as you work to accomplish a goal or guides you through your education or career. As a nurse, there are many benefits to having a mentor. One benefit of having a nurse mentor is having someone who is impartial and can listen to you and give you direction. When your mentor shares their knowledge and experiences with you, you gain knowledge and insight. Thus, you can make choices, decide to gather more information, or even seek the advice of another mentor. Another benefit of having a mentor is often they will extend their network to you to help you. Many nurse mentors are willing to introduce you to other nurses that may be of assistance to you. For example, your mentor is a cardiology nurse and you are interested in going back to school to become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP). If your mentor knows one, they may often put you in touch with the AGNP because they cannot answer the types of questions you have about becoming one.

Many nursing students and nurses have more than one nurse mentor. You can have an all-round mentor, an education mentor, and one that is career specific, one that is research specific, and one that is a mentor in your practice specialty. You can have as many mentors as you need. It is better to find a mentor early in your nursing education or soon after you graduate because mentors are excellent recommendation writers for jobs or school because your mentor has listened to you talk about your aspirations and goals and can write about what they know about you.

The person I would like as my mentor is of an ethnicity or culture different from mine. Can that work?

Absolutely! In nursing, it can be very hard to find a mentor that is of your ethnicity or culture. It is perfectly fine to ask what has been their experience mentoring a person from a background different from theirs, what they learned, and what the challenges were. Keep in mind that you are deciding if this nurse will be a good mentor for you so ask what you need to know so you can make an informed decision.

How do I approach someone I would like to have as a mentor?

Before you approach your prospective mentor, think about or write down why you would like to have them as your mentor. It does not have to be elaborate. It could be that you aspire to be like them and you want to get their advice. It could be that you are interested in the type of nursing practice or research they do, and you want to shadow or work with them. Whatever your reason is, make sure you can concretely express it. Your potential mentor wants to know how they can help you. Remember, mentors are agreeing to share their time with you and they do not want to waste your time either.

Next, you should contact them by sending an email or calling them. When you contact them, you should let them know what you want and why. After an email response or call, you should ask to meet with them to begin the mentor-mentee relationship. This meeting can be over the phone if meeting face-to-face is not possible. This meeting is important for the two of you to get to know each other.

They have agreed to be my mentor! How do I prepare for our first meeting?

There are three goals for your first meeting. One is to have your mentor get to know you; the second is for you to get to know your mentor; and the third is to define your mentee-mentor relationship. In some cases, where a deadline or project is involved, a timeline may be necessary—and that is your fourth goal. There is no way for you to know everything about your mentor and for them to know you in one meeting. The important topics should include: where you are from, why you chose nursing, your goals and aspirations, and why you believe your mentor can help you. You should ask those same questions and add a question about why they choose their nursing career path, and their current goals and aspirations. Having this conversation is an excellent way for you and your mentor to connect and begin to build the foundation of a good mentee-mentor relationship.

Defining the mentee-mentor relationship should be the focal point of the first meeting because it establishes the foundation of your interactions. It defines what you want from the relationship and leads to the discussion on how to make your mentee-mentor relationship work for you both. There are three areas to cover in defining the relationship; the first is deciding whether the mentee-mentor relationship is formal or informal. An informal relationship does not require much work. Usually a verbal agreement to stay in touch with some regularity and the person agreeing to be your mentor is enough for an informal mentee-mentor relationship. A formal mentorship is usually in writing because it usually entails a project or deadline. Mentee-mentor relationships can go from being informal to formal and from formal to informal. Communication between the two of you is essential to navigating that part of the relationship.

Second, you need to decide how often you are going to meet. In informal relationships, this could be as needed or once a month. In a formal relationship, the frequency of meetings is often defined by what the project or deadline is.

Third, you must decide what type of meetings you are going to have and how long will they be. Again, in an informal relationship that may not be necessary as you will not be meeting frequently, and you can set the length of the meeting as it fits you and your mentor’s schedule. In the case of a formal relationship where regular meetings are necessary, the length of the meetings are important so that the appropriate amount of time can be set aside. In a formal mentoring relationship, an agenda or key discussion items are sent to your mentor in advance of the meeting. The agenda helps keeps you both on target.

In the case of most formal relationships, a documented timeline (i.e., a beginning and end) of the relationship or project is established. In establishing a timeline, you incorporate meeting dates, dates when you will send something to your mentor, and the timeframe when you should expect their feedback. When you do this step early in the relationship, it tends to keep everyone on task and on target. Of course, things happen, but it is important that each of you honor your formal agreement and renegotiate timelines as needed.

What do I do if my mentor is not a good fit for me?

Do not worry. Sometimes, the mentee-mentor match up does not work out as planned due to timing, different approaches, communication, and personality, among other things. Being an expert nurse, professor, or nurse researcher may not always mean that they will be a good mentor for you. If after your initial meeting or even after multiple meetings you find that you and your mentor are not a good fit, then the professional way to handle it is to end it. In the case of informal relationships, it is easier since there is no agreement for regular contact. However, it is best to thank your mentor for their time when you end the mentee-mentor relationship. In the case of a formal mentee-mentor relationship, a call, email, or letter is the most professional method to end it. Again, if you have spent time with your mentor, you should thank them for their time and what you state after that should be very professional, honest, and give at least one reason you no longer want to have a mentee-mentor relationship with that person. Keep in mind that if this is a person working in your career field that you do not want to “burn bridges,” so a scathing email or letter is not professional. When in doubt about what you have written, ask another trusted mentor or colleague.

How do I know I have found a good mentor? give us seven key qualities of an effective or good mentor. The seven key qualities are:

  • Ability and willingness to communicate what they know. A good mentor is able to make complex concepts and issues easy (or easier) to understand. A good mentor is open to sharing all the “secrets” of success with you in an effort to help you succeed. You just have to be open to listening and learning.
  • Preparedness. As a mentee, you should have an agenda or at least tell your mentor what you would like to discuss before you meet so that your mentor can be prepared. A prepared mentor has given thought to your questions or topic and is ready to have an efficient and directed conversation with you.
  • Approachability, availability, and the ability to listen. As part of the first meeting, you as the mentee have set up dates and times with your mentor and your mentor should keep those commitments and be ready to listen.
  • Honesty with diplomacy. A good mentor is going to be honest about whatever you are discussing. Being honest with you should be done in a professional and tactful manner, especially if your mentor is giving you feedback or critique.
  • Inquisitiveness. Your mentor may know a lot, but that does not mean they know everything. A good mentor is willing to learn new things about you and new topics. In essence, a good mentor is a lifelong learner.
  • Objectivity and fairness. A good mentor is looking forward to helping you succeed and that is it. There are no favors involved. Most often, your mentor may give you networking suggestions or offer to give you the name of a person who may be able to give additional support or a “foot in the door.” However, an expectation of a job or anything else because of the mentee-mentor relationship is not part of a mentee-mentor relationship. In the case where you and your mentor are working on a project, publication, or other work related items, the way your mentor will be acknowledged should be finalized before the project begins. For example, if you are a nursing student working on a research project you should know if you would be listed on a conference abstract or publication. If you are leading the project, you should ask your mentor how they would like to be recognized on the project.
  • Compassion and genuineness. Essentially, your mentor should be a good person. Being honest, fair, and objective does not equal mean and cold. A good mentor listens when you are having difficulties and is happy when you succeed. A mentee-mentor relationship is not a friendship; you may not be Facebook friends or follow each other on Instagram. However, a good mentee-mentorship relationship comes awful close to a good friendship and over time, who knows?

Taking the first step to establish a mentee-mentor relationship is usually on the mentee. Like any relationship, a good mentee-mentor relationship takes planning and having clear expectations and goals for the relationship. For minority nursing students and nurses, finding the right mentor and having a productive mentee-mentor relationship can be a daunting task when you have not had previous mentee experience and there are very few minority nurses to select as mentors. However, understanding how to establish the mentee-mentor relationship may make it less daunting and even more fruitful to enhancing your nursing career.