Mentorship for Nurses

Mentorship for Nurses

Mentorship programs are becoming more popular throughout all industries, including healthcare and nursing. In a 2017 study published in Nurse Today, nurses who had a mentor experienced higher levels of confidence and better professional and personal development than those who did not. Mentorship programs are designed to encourage growth and integrate novice nurses into their career and the organization. 

Not only do these mentorship programs benefit the mentee, but the mentor also benefits by requiring them to sharpen their skills and serve as leaders or educators. All nursing organizations should consider the implementation of a mentorship program to further the professional development of all their staff nurses. 

What is a mentor? 

A mentorship is a synergistic relationship between a novice nurse, or the mentee, and an experienced nurse, or the mentor. The mentor’s role is to provide regular guidance in a one-on-one setting where the mentee feels it is safe to ask questions and learn. 

A preceptor on the other hand is an experienced nurse that is preassigned for a limited amount of time, generally an orientation period, who prepares the novice nurse for independent work. Preceptorship programs are intended to create a successful transition into the organization for the novice nurse, however, they are often not enough to ensure nurse success, job satisfaction, or employee retention.  

The concept of formal nurse mentoring programs didn’t start to form until the 1990s with preceptors being the only options for training and little focus on personal or professional development. The current nursing shortage and global pandemic has made mentorships especially popular in nursing organizations with an emphasis on this professional development and nurses’ mental health. Mentorships within nursing programs promote personal and professional development, job satisfaction, and retention through supportive relationships with colleagues. These supportive relationships have been shown to improve mental health and promote positive emotions and thoughts about nursing throughout all populations of nurses and healthcare workers.  

Why is a mentor important? 

Mentoring has proven to be invaluable in nursing and healthcare in general. The saying “nurses eat their young” is no longer an effective strategy to teach new nurses and has recently been discouraged in most nursing settings because of increased turnover and worsened patient outcomes when used. Nurses in settings without formal mentoring programs experience higher rates of compassion fatigue, bullying, burnout, anxiety, and nurse turnover. 

Not only does mentoring affect the nurses, it affects the patients as well. Nurses who feel more confident and have higher levels of job satisfaction also report better patient outcomes. Not only were general outcomes more positive, patients reported better experiences emotionally and stated they were provided with better education by their nurses than those with nurses who did not have a mentor. Mentorship programs for nurses is a great way to aid with the main goal of high quality patient outcomes as well as maintain job satisfaction or prevent turnover rates among staff nurses.  

What is a mentorship program? 

Mentorship programs can vary drastically between each other in their components, but many will be similar. Mentors and mentees generally will fill out questionnaires prior to being matched to each other based on these answers. These matches focus on the mentee’s goals and the mentor’s skills to create positive relationships that will drive the most positive outcomes. Following this match, there will be a series of meetings, usually once a month for 30-60 minutes where the mentor and mentee discuss things like patients, career and professional development, and the mentee’s goals and progress toward them. 

This same process usually continues for six to 12 months, depending on the mentor’s and mentee’s needs as well as the organization’s policies. For more in depth programs, these meetings may have a set framework with frequent check-ins throughout the entirety of the relationship. 

How do I find a mentor? 

Some organizations still do not have formal mentorship programs, however, there are ways nurses can find their own mentor. Some of the following can be used as examples

  • Preceptor- This is the nurse that served as preceptor, providing training during unit orientation. While this relationship is not designed as a mentorship, it can develop into one. Once a novice nurse has moved off of orientation, their preceptor can remain in a mentor role and continue to help during the transition period. This can be an easier transition for a lot of newer nurses, especially if the relationship was a good one during the orientation period. 

  • Charge nurses- All hospital units and healthcare organizations will have nurses with a wide range of experience levels. The more experienced nurses and those in leadership roles will often enjoy serving as educators and mentors for the younger and less experienced nurses. These nurses can generally be great resources when transitioning into a new role and especially as mentors. 

  • Paid mentorships-  Some experienced nurses have created a business similar to life coaching, but as a nurse mentor. Sometimes this option can be preferred because of the accountability that a contract will provide, as well as the separation from the place of employment. This mentor can be somewhat more of a third party, offering advice concerning patient cases and general career development. 

  • Professors- Previous professors or clinical instructors can and will often want to serve as mentors for their students as they transition into their careers. Professors can be valuable mentors because of their experience with teaching and encouraging students. 

  • Local or national organizations- Organizations such as the American Nurses Association have local chapters with meetings, seminars, conferences, etc. Nurses from all over the area will come for these meetings and provide networking opportunities for new nurses. Some organizations will have formal mentorship programs for their members that new nurses can participate in as well. 

Most nurses love to teach and help new nurses learn and grow. Finding someone to be a formal or informal mentor can help to improve nursing skills, promote professional and personal growth, increase job satisfaction, prevent burnout and compassion fatigue, and improve nursing retention and patient outcomes. Mentorship programs are a great way to start the journey to becoming a successful nurse and overcome the “nurses eat their young” mindset for a better future. 



Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C

Alison Shely is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogger, and healthcare worker wellness. She has been in nursing since 2014, working in intensive care, women’s health, and primary care as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. She has written for a variety of publications including and is also the winner of the 2020 Shift Report writing contest for Next Level Nursing. Her specialty topics include mental health, health and wellness, yoga philosophy and practice, and community health. She also serves as a health coach and mentor to other nurses and healthcare workers concerning healthy lifestyles and mental health.

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