4 Reasons Nurses Need Mentors

Nursing mentorship is needed throughout your career. Discover four reasons why you need a mentor and how to find the one for you.


  • Workforce Development Columnist
    Specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement. Has 25 years experience.

I remember my first nursing mentor like it was yesterday. Her name was Della. She was my preceptor during my preceptorship at the end of nursing school. She was smart, sassy, and offered so much practical knowledge that nursing school didn't provide. After I graduated, I went to work alongside Della and others that I knew from clinicals. As my career progressed, I found other nurse mentors, like Lisa in the NICU and Paula in hospice. Even after 20+ years as a nurse, I still need a mentor. When I changed my specialty from leadership to writing, I found a coach and later connected to a few different writing groups and networks.

Nurse mentorship is a collaborative relationship. Sometimes we choose our mentors, and other times, they choose us. Mentors are role models who teach us not only about nursing care, but about customer service, teamwork, and our career potential. Many hospitals and nursing facilities have mentorship programs where they partner new nurses with tenured staff. However, some of the greatest mentoring relationships come from reaching out in times of need for support, guidance, or education.

Why Do I Need a Mentor?

Burnout is Real

The stress of direct patient care can be significant. Nurse burnout is a mental, emotional, and physical state created by long-term overwork. Burnout continues because of a lack of support and job fulfillment. Mentors can help fill this void.

Common signs of nurse burnout include:

  • Lack of personal and professional accomplishment
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Job-related skepticism or cynicism

Mentors can recognize the signs of burnout in their mentees. They can offer suggestions of ways to combat nurse burnout and help you create healthy coping mechanisms.

Confidence is Needed

Whether you're a new grad or just new to a unit, having someone to turn to for help and guidance can help with your overall career success. A mentor will have your back at all times. They can help you hone your skills and lend a hand when it's needed. Having someone in your corner helps to boost your confidence levels so that you can be successful in your career.

Everyone Grows

Mentorship isn't a one-way street. Nurses who mentor others will learn from experiences and grow in their professional development. Many nurse mentors discover their love of education or leadership as they help guide and coach others. While mentees learn much from the collaborative mentor relationship, mentors also grow in their confidence and skills.

Career Growth

Mentors can help when you're looking for a new job or researching a unique nursing specialty. Connecting with other healthcare professionals on Linked-In or even through social media platforms such as facebook or YouTube can help provide a glimpse into various nursing specialties that you may have never considered. If you're looking for a new job, reach out to others in the role who may be able to offer guidance and strategies for finding your first job in the new niche.

Finding the Right Mentor for You

Not everyone is lucky enough to find a Della, Lisa, or Paula. Sometimes, you have to search for a mentor who is willing to give you the time, feedback, and support that you need. Formal nurse mentorship programs aren't as standard as they should be in most nursing settings. So, you may need to get creative when looking for a nurse mentor. Here are a few ways you can find the collaborative relationship you're looking for and need for career success.

Participate in a Formal Mentorship Program

If your facility offers a mentorship program - sign up! You may be given a chance to select a mentor you're comfortable with, or you may be assigned a mentor that the program administrator thinks will be a good fit. Formal programs often have contracts that both the mentee and mentor sign. You may also be asked to create goals of your mentorship relationship to ensure that you stay on track during the program as a team or partnership.

Connect with a Colleague

If your facility doesn't have a formal program, look around while you're at work for a mentor. Is there a coworker who you look up to or someone that already gives you support? If so, ask them if they would be your mentor. Once they agree, set up times to meet to discuss your progress on the unit and review your career goals.

Find a Mentor On-line

You can search for nurses on facebook or Linked-In. Many professional organizations offer membership networking benefits like mentorship programs. Search for someone who has similar interests and professional goals. You can also hire a nurse coach to help you along the way. Professional nurse coaches may offer group and one-on-one sessions, resume help, and specialty programs like how to makeover your LinkedIn profile.

Tell Us About Your Mentor

Do you have any great stories about your nurse mentors? We would love to hear them. Leave a comment below with stories about nurses who have either formally or informally mentored you throughout your career.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word.

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CheesePotato, BSN, RN

22 Articles; 254 Posts

Specializes in Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma.

I could write for hours and days about my mentor.  

I didn't go into nursing looking for a mentor or thinking I needed one.  I am typically pretty aloof--like a cat.  I mean, yeah, sure, I'll come around eventually, but otherwise I just hide under the bed and hiss and maybe, just maybe, if you really irk me, I'll crap in your shoes.  

My mentorship was something that formed of its own volition.  I was, quite literally, taken under wing by a travel nurse that ended up signing on in the operating room I worked at.  We'll call her OGPotato.  She was and is an incredible person.  I quite literally owe my entire nursing career to her. 

But what I remember of her then was she was intimidating AF.  She was a powerhouse.  And yet she was hilarious.  We met and bonded over a discussion about cake decorating while hanging bags of blood in a heart gone south.   She was the first person to ask how I was doing and actually mean it.  The importance of this cannot be overstated--the OR is a notoriously oddly inhospitable place for newbies and even more so back then.   New nurses had to earn their stripes before anyone would even so much as acknowledge their existence.  

Being seen made me want to keep showing up.  Knowing that I would get to bump into her and maybe share in a story or a laugh with her gave me something to look forward to.  Having someone to tell my stories and actually understand what in the hell I was talking about acknowledged my struggles, my triumphs, and my growth.  

She taught me so much in a way that made me laugh and never made me feel stupid.  And yet there were actual moments she looked me dead in the eye and said, "Well that was stupid." I needed those moments.  They let me learn and came from someone I respected and trusted. 

OG was the voice in my ear telling me "Yes, you can" in moments of crippling doubt.  She showed me what great nurses are through her actions and integrity. One day, if I play my cards right, I may get to be half the nurse she is.  


Specializes in PCCN. Has 20 years experience.

I like being the "on call spur of the moment " mentor. I am happy to guide others , especially new people . It's nice when my co workers know they can come to me with any question, and know it's not a "dumb question" or they are not "bothering " me. 

I volunteer to precept, help guide techs wanting to go to nursing school( that's a hard one cause I don't want to point them in this direction due to the volatility of nursing right now, but I still try to be positive with them))

But I'm still available. I will never forget my preceptor and how she still mentored me even after orientation was over.