Not all mentors are the same, not all mentees are the same. A good fit for one nurse may not be for the next. Finding a good mentor is so essential to a successful and smooth introduction to your new job. It is so important to find your mentor not only at the beginning of your nursing career, but to have one throughout. So what are some qualities of a good nursing mentor?
A Strong Skill Base & Clinical Background
A good mentor must have a strong skill base that he or she is confident in. He or she should be proficient in basic skills such as placing IVs, Foley catheters, and/or nasogastric tubes. A strong clinical background is also essential. This comes with experience. With experience, a nurse can easily recognize the subtle decompensation of a patient.
Plenty of Experience
It is so important that a nurse mentor have a few years of clinical nursing experience behind him or her. It takes this time to evolve and mature as a nurse. It is unfair to a fairly new nurse to be tasked with acting as preceptor and equally unfair to the trainee.
A Good Multitasker
A mentor must be able to do the job and teach it at the same time. Nurses are often tasked with time sensitive duties from phone calls to new orders, rounds, or labs. A good mentor can multitask while remembering to clarify for the mentee. Multitasking is an art that takes time to fine tune.
All the knowledge, skill, and experience is of no use if your mentor is unable to share this with you in a pedagogic manner. Your mentor may be a rock star nurse, but keep in mind it does not always translate to a rock star teacher. Teaching is a skill in and of itself.
A good mentor will allow you as much time as you need to find your way, find your confidence, and work out the bumps along the way. They should not be rigid in their expectations of you as we all learn and grow individually.
A Personality Fit
Your prospective mentor may have all the aforementioned skill and experience, but for some reason you are not connecting. You need to be able to trust your mentor to guide and support you. A mentor should only give you constructive criticism. If, after giving it some time, you find that it would be to your benefit to find a new preceptor, sit down with your manager and have an honest conversation. Be professional, but firm in your desire to work with another person.
The nursing shortage has unfortunately left units with no choice but to sometimes force nurses that lack experience or desire with the job of mentoring new nurses and employees. A brand new nurse may find it difficult to speak up if the mentor is not fulfilling their roll. Remember, you have the right to a proper orientation to your new unit. It will benefit not only you, but your colleagues and patients as well.
Lori is a travel nurse that has made her way to Sweden. She is also a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.