This month marks the 20th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, which seems like the perfect occasion to address how important mentorship is for nursing professionals.

I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor as I began my academic career. The University of South Florida’s Dean Patricia Burns, Ph.D. was a powerhouse packed in a power suit. We were kindred spirits, both imbued with a natural curiosity and eagerness to learn. When Dr. Burns recognized my budding interest in simulation, she selected me to carve a niche for this innovative technology in USF’s nursing program. She named me Director of Virtual Simulation for Experiential Learning, a role that put me on the leading edge of a growing education technology field.

When I expressed an interest in expanding my knowledge, Dr. Burns recommended I earn my Ph.D. Over the years, we maintained a strong relationship. I called often to seek advice or discuss a new use for simulation. She continued to follow my career and regularly provided her sage wisdom when I needed it most.

She embodied all the characteristics of a quality mentor – she took an interest in my success and fostered it, supported it, encouraged it, and gave me the tools to succeed.

This is not just my personal story; it’s fact. According to Mentoring.org, the nonprofit organization behind National Mentoring Month, a mentor helps you feel empowered, encouraged, and understood – a role that goes beyond that of simply being your personal cheerleader. Luckily, mentorship is deeply rooted in the nursing profession. Opportunities arise to forge mentorship bonds throughout our careers “in the form of preregistration nurse education, preceptorship, staff development, or clinical supervision.”

Dr. Burns served as my model for mentorship, and her influence made me the mentor I am for the next generation. More importantly, I understand the value of representation, which is why some of my most memorable mentorship experiences have been with Latina students. There aren’t a lot of Latinas with Ph.D. in nursing, so for them to see a strong, Puerto Rican female in a position of influence is significant in terms of mentoring and being a positive role model.

5  Important Mentor Qualities

The New Year is a perfect time to begin a new mentoring relationship, whether it be a formal or informal arrangement. Both can be equally rewarding experiences for both the mentor and mentee. As young instructors or eager nursing students search for their ideal mentorship match, here are five important qualities to be an excellent mentor:

  1. A good mentor should not only support their mentee but provide constructive feedback as well.
  2. You should be able to tell your mentee what they need to know in a positive way, so that they can grow.
  3. Introduce your mentee to people with whom they can build strong connections, both academically and professionally.
  4. Work at being nonjudgmental and offer a diversity of perspectives to your mentee.
  5. Ultimately, a good mentor will always have their mentee’s best interest at stake.

Research says “if strong, healthy bonds and relationships are built while in the learning process…these mentees will likely be the sought-after mentors of tomorrow.”

That’s You

You are the mentors future nurses need to see – strong, capable, diverse nurse educators with an unwavering passion and dedication for your profession. During National Mentoring Month, I strongly encourage you to take on a mentee. It’s time to pay it forward to all those wonderful nurses – like Dr. Burns – who supported and encouraged us to be who we are today.