From a student nurse deciding on a career path to a seasoned nurse looking to advance into administration, each step along a nurse’s career is filled with questions. Fortunately, mentors in the nursing industry are becoming a more visible presence.
The Nurse Mentorship Program at Stanford Health Care is one such valued and valuable mentoring program. Introduced in 2004 for graduate nurses, the program now encompasses a range of nurses in different areas of their careers.
Minority Nurse spoke with associate chief nursing officer for inpatient services and magnet program director at Stanford Health Care at Stanford University Anita Girard and with Stanford’s program manager of nursing excellence Kevin Tsui about the distinct benefits of this kind of program.
Girard and Tsui say many nurses seek mentoring for varied reasons. They might seek leadership advice or they might want guidance for switching specialties. Still others may be looking for assistance with specific tasks such as writing or giving a top-notch presentation at a conference.
Any nurse can gain from a mentoring relationship, says Girard, but a specific benefit is one that will help a nurse professionally and personally. “The biggest benefit is the networking nurses have being in a mentoring program,” she says. “Mentoring opens you up to a whole new world.”
Tsui agrees and notes the satisfaction nurses reap from establishing a firm footing in their careers and having someone who can help guide them. The resulting good feelings lead to happier nurses, and the benefits stretch far. “Those mentoring connections streamline goals, build positivity and retention, and nurses feel a sense of control,” he says.
Nurses, says Girard, can feel siloed. Despite being in the same profession, nurses have varying specialties and may not have opportunities to hear from nurses in different areas. Mentoring includes both the one-on-one discussions and the larger access to others in the industry that becomes available. “Mentoring gets you out of that box,” says Girard.
So how does a mentoring relationship benefit the nurses and their organizations? According to Tsui, “It’s crucial. By sharing an organization’s mission, vision, and values, it makes transparent the format for mentoring,” he says.
Nurses in a mentoring relationship within the same organization are working within the same culture, so are able to set clear goals and create objectives that are going to be important to the nurse’s career within that organization and in the larger industry. Often, says Girard, mentors will give guidance based on what they already know about the organization. They will be able to help a nurse put priorities in order for certification, advancement, skills development, and personal improvement.
Mentors are also able to be objective about a nurse’s path, so they can help nurses align their goals and use their own knowledge to help a nurse achieve those goals, says Tsui.
A mentoring relationship is definitely a give and take, says Girard. “You really need to make an effort to understand why you want to get into a mentoring relationship in the first place,” she says. And mentees need to make a solid commitment and understand that any mentoring activity needs to be given top priority, she says.
Mentees are responsible for reaching out, setting up clear timelines, and even using tools to streamline online tasks such as emails and calendar appointments. Any communication should have an agenda with clear and succinct ideas and questions. By doing this, the mentee shows the mentor clear goals and intentions mean they have a goal for mentoring and that it will be productive.
Tsui says that sometimes mentees are not clear about the process and expect the mentor to initiate or complete tasks for them. Instead they need to keep in mind they need to be committed to change and driven to use the guidance of the mentor to advance their goals.
At Stanford Health Care, the mentoring program satisfies a magnet hospital requirement, but the benefits have been extensive. “We are driven to excellence,” says Girard. “It is a journey of innovation and inquiry and what we can do to make things better.”