Mentoring: To be or not to be
Results of mentor assessments
The results of the mentor assessment were enlightening. On the one hand, it indicated I am 95% ready to be mentored. This I suspected. I have been on the lookout for a mentor but I often feel reluctant and hesitant to ask anyone to commit to such a task. Personally, I would enjoy the wisdom of an older woman in my life, especially since the deaths of my mother and mother in law. I have missed having older women in my life, who are secure in who they are and what they have been through. Harris and DeSimone (1998) propose that mentors can address life and career development (Vance, 2005).
Often women of the same age can be quite competitive. This is not what I am looking for at all. Grossman and Valiga (2009) write that often the mentor serves as a mixture of “good parent” and “good friend” by providing counsel during stressful moments, encouragement during challenges, and assistance with the development of professional skills (p.169). Optimally, they serve as exemplary role models and provide honest feedback (Grossman & Valiga, 2005).
The second part of the survey detailed my personal characteristics and what I am looking for in a mentor relationship. This portion of the survey indicated I value partnerships over competition and am overwhelmingly trusting. I like to question more than being told and my teaching style is also largely learner-centered. I am very tolerant but tend toward enjoying social interaction.
Having a mentor is not having someone to hold my hand as I negotiate the future. I perceive them more as a comrade in arms. Vance (2005) reflects that teaching and learning go together hand in hand and mentoring is also relational. Further, she purports that the mentor inspires, guides, models, encourages, facilitates, and nurtures (Vance, 2005). Mentoring often is reciprocal, with the mentee also committing to mentor others (Vance, 2005). What a beautiful picture.
Importance of mentors
Zilembo and Monterosso (2008) report that our current nursing shortage is global; this shortage combined with an aging nursing force and work recruitment and retention difficulties make it imperative that we proactively begin to recruit and mentor. Recently, as I reflected on my RN-BSN program, I felt that additional guidance would have been so helpful as I searched for and applied to graduate schools. This is an area that I would love to propose to explore in a PhD program. Do our RN-BSN students get the additional guidance and encouragement they need to enter graduate school?
It appears that undergraduate advisors help steer students but second degree nursing students’ or generational students who opt to enter accelerated programs or RN-BSN programs often are not afforded this guidance. These students frequently work full-time, in conjunction with raising families. Though they may be distracted by familial or financial obligations, they may be more inclined to pursue masters or doctoral degrees, if identified and encouraged. They generally have the bedside experience. Methods of identification and guidance could easily be implemented into the academic environment. This early identification could provide mentors to students interested in continuing their education. What are we doing to capture these motivated students? Are there methods of identification in place? In order to continue to ‘grow’ the profession, the best and brightest need to be gleaned from every level of the nursing educational environment. This activity needs to be purposeful. Chance and individually motivated students will not address this looming shortage. Nursing needs to proactively recruit, support, mentor and educate with an eye on the future.
The literature supports the benefits of mentors. Dattilo, Brewer, and Streit (2009) note that new educators need an orientation to the educational environment and after they are acclimated, they need a mentor to help them with their professional goals. Sauter, Johnson, and Gillespie (2009) also report on the need for these same measures. Zilembo and Monterosso (2008) further expound upon the benefits of knowledgeable preceptors who demonstrate leadership skills. And finally, Murphy (2007) proposes that partnering with other faculty can help the novice nurse educator attain success. The literature overwhelmingly points to the benefits of mentors.
In addition to the benefits of mentors, Vance (2005) points to Erikson’s theory of human development and the stage called generativity to demonstrate that the concept is supported by theory. Jung also purports that the first part of life is spent on an outward journey and the second half of life is spent on an inner journey (Wiggs, 2010). Further Wiggs (2010) quotes Schachter-Shalomi and Miller (1995) as noting:
Many of us are rich without knowing it, because we have not permitted ourselves to examine and take delight in the successes that we planted in the past. When we harvest our lives, we receive return on our investment in the form of inner riches. We see that our work wasn’t in vain; that our relationships have brought forth rich fruit; that our struggles for meaning and value have been worthwhile; and that even our failures, stumbling, and ill-conceived actions unwittingly have led to unexpected successes and to wisdom that is beyond any price tag. (pp. 53–54)
Steps to find and become a mentor
Consequently, it is my goal to continue to look for a mentor and I believe that God will provide. While this may sound simplistic, the literature supports the need for the relationship to be the right fit, so I will be patient (Vance, 2005). Grossman and Valiga (2009) suggest that nurses who wish to find a mentor should reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses and examine their vision, goals, abilities, character and persistence. This I have done. They note that the individuals should be willing to take responsibility, respect confidences, provide feedback, accept constructive criticism and move through the logical phases of a mentoring relationship (Grossman & Valiga, 2009). I am ready for these steps.
In the mean time, I will continue to help those who ask me for assistance and direction for their plans with school. I will continue to apply myself at work and at school to increase my leadership potential and abilities. I will forge ahead with the plans I have made and follow God’s lead. Lastly, I will continue to enjoy my peer pals, guides and sponsors and try to continue to be the same to those in need (Grossman & Valiga, 2009).
Dattilo, J., Brewer, M. K., & Streit, L. (2009). Voices of experience: Reflections of nurse educators. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 40(8), 367-370.
Grossman, S. C., & Valiga, T. M. (2009). The new leadership challenge: Creating the future of nursing (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.
Murphy, J. (2007). Role transition: Using partnerships and cognitive apprenticeship to become a nurse educator. In Moyer, F. (Ed.), Nursing education: Foundations for practice excellence (pp. 265-281).
Sauter, M. K., Johnson, D. R., & Gillespie, N. N. (2009). Educational program evaluation. In D. M. Billings &J. A. Halstead (Eds.), Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (3rd ed., pp. 467-511). St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders Elsevier.
Vance, C. (2005). Chapter 7: Leader as mentor. In H. R. Feldman & M. J. Greenberg (Eds.), Educating nurses for leadership (pp. 80-97). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
Wiggs, C. M. (2010). Creating the self: Exploring the life journey of late-midlife women. Journal of Women & Aging, 22, 218-233. doi:10.1080/08952841.2010.495574
Zilembo, M., & Monterosso, L. (2008). Nursing students' perceptions of desirable leadership qualities in nurse preceptors: A descriptive survey. Contemporary Nurse, 27(2), 194-206.