The Power of Mentoring

Catherine Burger, MSOL, RN, NEA-BC | Updated/Verified: Feb 16, 2024

The concept of mentoring is embedded into the DNA of nurses. Even the process of becoming a nurse requires those people in our lives to provide advice (counselors), guidance (nursing instructors), and coaching (clinical instructors). Once we become nurses, we are (or should be) assigned to a preceptor, who is supposed to be a mentor but, at minimum, should be offering the new nurse the best methods and processes for the practice of nursing.

It Is Through Mentoring That We Become Nurses

As our nursing practice evolves, many of us become influenced by progressive nursing leaders that we encounter in our departments or through committee work. We begin to feel the need to make an impact bigger than our patients and peers. We feel called to affect positive changes for the entire team, the organization, and even the nursing profession. As we make the life-changing leap into a nursing leadership role, we expect that there will be nurse leaders available to provide advice and guidance and to coach us on the best way to practice leadership. However, strong mentors for nurse leaders are challenging to find.

Even though mentoring is in our DNA, somewhere between the "nurses eat their young" and the culture of "knowledge is power; if I share my knowledge, I'm losing my power" mentality, nurses lose sight of the importance of giving back to those who need to learn and grow. Nurses have forgotten the power that mentoring brings to one another and the profession as a whole. Sadly, many leaders and organizations view mentoring only as a last-ditch effort to coach a leader not meeting expectations.

These short-sighted leaders do not understand that numerous studies support the concept that employees mentored in their roles are less likely to leave, more engaged at work, and more willing to share their knowledge than employees left to their own devices and pathways. More than 70% of today's Fortune 500 companies offer formal mentoring programs to their employees.

According to Ann Tardy at LifeMoxie Mentoring & Leadership, organizations that embed mentoring into foundations such as recruiting, onboarding, development, and succession planning will drive their goals to success. "There is no Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda from Star Wars to show up." Companies must provide space for knowledgeable mentors to share their how-to's and connections to pave the road for newer leaders.

The nursing profession must evolve at the same rate as healthcare, if not faster. Capturing the insight from seasoned nurses as the silver tsunami of retirement washes them all away is best done through a mentoring process. Whether through a formal program designed and implemented by an organization or informally through a personal connection, the nursing profession cannot afford to lose the collective wisdom that has been so bravely earned.


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