How can mentors help nursing students attain their career goals?

Imagine a world without mentors. Young people would have to find their way without any advice, assistance, or guidance. Every time they came across an obstacle, they would have to reinvent the wheel, coming up …


Imagine a world without mentors. Young people would have to find their way without any advice, assistance, or guidance. Every time they came across an obstacle, they would have to reinvent the wheel, coming up with solutions to problems that people have solved again and again in the past.

Mentors play a vital role in shaping the lives of young nurses. Whether we are talking about personal, educational, or career goals, a mentor not only helps avoid pitfalls but also provides advice on the best routes to achieve whatever goals are in place.

As you train to become a nurse practitioner, you need to understand what mentorship is and why you should seek out the guidance and advice of a mentor. Most nursing colleges and universities in America have a mentorship program for their students.

Universities understand the value of mentorship in nursing and take active steps to place their students with older, more experienced practitioners who provide guidance and make sure that students can successfully navigate whatever pitfalls they face as they train in their selected field. Texas Woman’s University, for example, goes to great lengths to ensure that students know the benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship, how to choose a mentor, and how to cultivate a relationship that produces ideal results. TWU ensures students achieve success by putting them in touch with experienced leaders in their field. This, in turn, provides them with the necessary resources to become successful nurses.

As you begin your training to become a nurse practitioner, it is important to understand why you should seek out a mentor, what kind of relationship you will have with them, and what benefits you can expect through your training and even when you begin your career.

What is nurse practitioner mentorship?

Simply put, it is a professional relationship between a young nurse, either in training or beginning their career, and an older nurse, a more experienced one who has been through the rigors and can provide advice and guidance to make things easier and put life in perspective.

The mentor plays a critical role in supporting the mentee as they develop their skills and understand the career landscape. It is a one-on-one relationship, where the mentee is free to speak about their problems, ask questions and seek advice whenever they encounter challenges affecting their studies or career.

Mentor-mentee relationships in nursing are not strictly defined. Each young person has unique challenges, and that is what dictates how the two interact. Besides providing guidance, the mentor creates a safe space where the nurse student can talk about their lives within the profession, and seek advice as needed.

Mentees need to take the relationship seriously. Cultivated properly, these relationships often result in well-molded young people who are well-trained and ready for the job market and also lead to internships and new opportunities. To further illustrate the value of the mentor-mentee relationship, and how students can flourish under the best guidance, let us look at the benefits for education and personal and career lives.

How do mentors help nurse students achieve their educational goals?

Many aspiring nurses meet a mentor when they enroll in university. Some universities have placement programs, and each student is attached to an older and more experienced professional who can help them navigate nursing school and graduate with credentials that make job placement easier.

For those who are taking online courses, the mentor is equally as accessible. Mentors teach time management and the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Also, they discuss how best they can help to organize their mentee’s schedules to make the most of the available mentor-mentee time and maximize their student’s chances of success.

The mentor is trained to see signs of stress and anxiety and intervene where necessary. They can, for example, see if a student is showing signs of using drugs or drinking more than they should. If they feel they are not in a position to help, they can refer the student to more experienced professionals, such as student services and well-being centers that universities carefully cultivate to ensure the success of their students.

Mentors help students choose subjects

One of the many initial talking points a mentor will discuss with their mentee is what they hope to do in the future as regards their career. What type of nurse would they like to be? Would they, for example, want to become pediatric nurses, or would they like to focus on family medicine and pharmaceutical policy? Do they feel passionate about helping elderly people who suffer from chronic conditions and need constant care? Depending on what the student wants, the mentee helps them choose courses that help them attain their goals.

They guide students to resources

Resources, be they textbooks, notes, or academic papers, can help students increase their knowledge and get better grades. Because of their experience, most mentors know where these resources can be found, and it is their responsibility to guide their mentees toward them.

They discuss whatever difficulties the student may be facing in class

It is normal for every student to have difficulties with one or two courses during their time in nursing school. They may struggle with the assignment or the content of a module.

The mentor provides advice and tips on how the student nurse can overcome these challenges. They also discuss how to live balanced lives as students and the value of good nutrition, rest, and exercise.

They help with clinical placement

Clinical placement is a vital part of nursing training. In most colleges and universities, students are placed in hospitals and clinics where they can experience healthcare in practical rather than theoretical terms. It can be a challenging time, and the mentor’s role is to provide advice and guidance to the students on how best they can cope with this part of their training.

They may talk to them about simple things like the value of professionalism, the importance of obeying instructions and being observant, or more serious subjects like how they can cope in the face of sickness, suffering, and even death.

They help explore career options for graduating nurses

A good mentor knows their mentee, and they understand in what sort of environment they are likely to thrive. As graduation nears and the mentee starts to think about employment, the mentor provides useful advice on how they can secure jobs that will help them grow and gain experience.

They can talk to them about different work settings and the challenges that newly-employed nurses are likely to face. Many mentors are older and already have established networks that they can use to secure employment for those under their care.

How do mentors help nurse students achieve their personal goals?

The personal lives of trainee nurses can determine whether or not they are successful in their training and careers. If one doesn’t have support from family, for example, they may feel alone and lonely as they navigate their course. If a trainee nurse is having problems with a partner or a spouse, it can affect how well they do in class.

It is the role of the mentor to explore these issues and help the student nurse put them in perspective so they can focus on their studies and careers. They offer advice based on their own life experiences and knowledge.

It is important to mention that, especially when it comes to personal problems, the mentor can only provide guidance. It is up to the mentee whether or not they will take the advice they have been given. Below are some of the issues that mentors explore with their charges:

They talk about home life and how it affects their ability to study

Everyone’s home life is unique. Some people are lucky to come from wonderful, supportive families that are with them as they study to be nurses.

Others aren’t so fortunate; they have to deal with complicated relationships with parents and siblings, addiction and illness in the home, and many other problems that have the potential to disrupt their young lives.

The mentor discusses these problems with their mentee and offers advice and encouragement on how best they can focus on their studies without distractions.

They discuss issues of peer pressure

Ask many people about the worst thing they did in their youth, and they will tell you that were it not for the friends they had, they would never have done it.

Peer pressure is a fact of life, and very few of us can resist it. Often it causes young people to lose focus, and they end up failing where they should have succeeded.

One of the mentor’s primary roles is to constantly remind the student why they are in nursing school and what is expected of them by the wider world. They help keep them focused and away from bad company that can affect the outcome of their studies.

Mentors can help mentees navigate personal relationships

Many young students lose focus because they are in unhealthy relationships that do not support their career and professional growth. For example, an otherwise smart young woman may be forced to drop out of nursing school because she becomes pregnant, or a young man may have to put his studies on hold because they are in the family way. These are distractions, and they can have very serious consequences for young people who would otherwise have finished their studies and gone on to do well in their professions.

It is the job of the mentor to provide advice to their mentee about relationships and priorities. During their time in nursing school, their focus should be on graduating successfully and finding a good job they enjoy doing.

How do mentors help nurse students achieve their career goals?

Getting the right nursing training is just the first step. After that, nurse graduates have to find fulfilling jobs where they can put into practice what they learned while earning enough to sustain themselves. A mentor plays a critical role at this time. They can help their mentee get started in their career. Below are some of the things they may do to help them take this important first step:

They point mentees toward job opportunities

If they know of employers that are hiring new graduates, they will tell their mentees and encourage them to apply. They can also put them in touch with hospitals and clinics that can give them their first jobs.

They introduce mentees to professional networks

Mentors are older and have already formed or are members of professional networks that can help their mentees. They introduce them to others in the profession who can help them secure employment.

They help out their mentees with resumes

Granted, the mentee’s resume doesn’t have much at this point in their careers, but the mentor will help them write up personal profiles to secure employment. They can be used as references because they are in an excellent position to give prospective employers some background on their mentees.

They help mentees prepare for interviews

Going for a professional interview for the first time can be scary. If you have a mentor, they can talk you through initial contact with potential employers. Talk to them about what you can expect, how to conduct yourself during an interview, and even what sorts of questions you should ask prospective employers.

They advise about professional conduct

A nurse may be highly qualified, but if they are not professional, their careers will not go very far. The mentor provides advice to their charge about how the clinical environment works and how they should behave if they want to earn trust and respect.

They may also talk to them about things like the chain of command and what to do if they want to be allocated additional responsibilities that will make them stand out as good, responsible nurses.

How does a nursing student identify a good mentor?

If you are not automatically placed with a mentor when you enroll in nursing school, you can find one for yourself. To do that, you need to know how to identify a good nurse mentor, and here are some of the qualities you can look for:

  • They should be successful in their careers. You don’t want to take advice from someone who has failed, so identify someone whose professional life you admire.
  • A good mentor is a good listener, and they will make their mentees feel free enough to talk about themselves and their circumstances.
  • Good mentors are not shy about giving advice and will step in if they notice that things are not going according to plan.
  • They tend to be stable people keen to set an example for others. Mentors care about what others think of them and will not do things that risk ruining their reputations.
  • A good mentor has plenty of resources to which they can refer their mentees to. They keep up with the latest in nursing and pass on what they learn to their mentees.
  • Mentors ought to be members of professional nurse networks where they meet others in the profession, exchange opinions and ideas, and learn from one another. They should be willing to introduce their charges to these networks so they can meet other nurses and explore new opportunities.


Mentorship in nursing plays an integral part in shaping the lives of young people when they are in training and afterward when they are newly-employed nurses. A good mentor has the potential to help them succeed at the highest levels.

Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, it is important to protect the relationship so that you can both get the most out of it.

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