What does it mean to be a mentor? Is it showing someone the ropes - where to find the 2-inch silk tape, how to get in touch with pharmacy for an urgent medication, when to change a central line dressing? Does being a mentor mean acting as preceptor and taking assignments with a new nurse or new-to-the-unit nurse? Does mentoring end when that nurse’s orientation is over?
I’ve worked with many different preceptors over the years - colleagues who did indeed show me the ropes, take assignments alongside me, and then take their own assignments when I was ready to function more independently. When I think of a mentor, though, only a few nurses stand out in my mind. These were the nurses who were always teaching, whether that was their intention or not. It wasn’t always the “what” of their teaching, it was the “how” most often. Their actions and examples made more of an impression on me than any task they would teach.
The nurses that I consider my mentors are professional, caring, and assertive. They work well with other nurses and members of the healthcare team. While they respect policy and procedures, they are also critical thinkers who are open to change. In addition, these nurses are eager to increase their own education and seek out new learning experiences for themselves as well as those around them.
What characteristics of a mentor are most important to you?