Applying to a nursing school for your undergraduate degree can be an overwhelming experience.
Often, this intensity is further heightened when you finally get your acceptance letters. The pressure to do well is immense because the nursing knowledge you acquire as an undergraduate will form the basis of the care you provide to people for the rest of your career. One of the most effective strategies for managing stress in your nursing program is to find a mentor.
Why Do You Need a Mentor?
Nurses who act as mentors can help guide and encourage you through your educational journey. The support they provide will frequently make the difference between failure and success for many nursing students. Nurse mentors typically have years of professional experience that they’re eager to share in order to facilitate your progress and deepen your development as a nurse. In addition, researchers have noted that students with mentors have more focus and confidence.
Nursing mentors can also include upperclassmen. They’ve already gone through many of the experiences you’re now facing and can offer invaluable support and guidance — from offering great advice on study tips, time management, and course selection to acting as sounding boards as you work through difficult decisions.
How Can You Find a Mentor in Nursing School?
Students often find mentors organically. That is, they may connect with a particular nursing professor, who then assumes the role of mentor without necessarily being officially designated as such. Be on the lookout for instructors who are engaging and accessible. Going to office hours is an excellent way to get to know your instructors and determine if any of them would be a good match. Once you find someone you connect with, ask her if she is willing to serve as a mentor, either formally or informally. If she agrees, try to set up regular check-ins to build the relationship and learn from her expertise. And if she declines, thank her for considering it, and keep looking!
Many universities also offer formal peer mentoring programs, in which they connect new students with those in upper-level divisions. Often, the programs are supported by a faculty advisor and offer organized events to help foster the mentoring relationship. Occasionally, they will include alumni who have returned to mentor new students; these events have the added benefit of providing additional networking opportunities for all participants.
Peer mentoring also occurs in other informal settings hosted by university organizations, such as student nurses’ associations. Students at all educational levels attend these gatherings and provide one another with guidance and encouragement. These events foster a strong sense of community and encourage nursing students to cultivate lasting professional relationships.
Outside of the university community, students who participate in extracurricular activities or attend professional meetings and networking events may also discover rich opportunities to find mentors. Nurses who attend these meetings tend to be deeply committed to their profession and are typically open to mentoring.
What Is the Mentor Relationship Like?
A nursing mentor/mentee relationship is very dynamic. As with any relationship, though, it takes effort from both parties — and you get out of it what you put into it. For the best results, make sure expectations (such as how often you will meet and what you hope to accomplish) are clear.
Both mentor and mentee need to be open to being challenged and actively involved in the relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to pick your mentor’s brain. Mentors have a wealth of information and life experiences to share — you just have to be receptive to what they’re offering. Be respectful of your mentor’s time, and be present — just as you would want your own future mentee to be.
One of the most valuable steps you can take as an undergraduate nursing student is to find a mentor who will guide you in your collegiate journey. The benefits are numerous, and the relationship is one you’re likely to value for years to come.
Baxley, S., Ibitayo, K., & Bond, M. (2013, December 19). Mentoring Nurses for Success: A Global View. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from Virginia Henderson Global Nursing e-Repository.