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Some preceptors on my unit are training to be mentors and I am unfamiliar with the role mentors should play. What are some examples of mentor roles?

Mentors are an integral part of healthcare organizations committed to developing highly-skilled, customer-focused staff, and to developing a continuous supply of skilled leaders committed to quality, compassionate care. Mentorships are about helping nurses cultivate their careers, gently pushing them into challenging situations slightly beyond their present abilities, and enabling them to discover new strengths and insights.

Mentors help and inspire mentees—they embrace their presence and wondrous possibilities. They help shape critical-thinking and decision-making skills by sharing their experiences. They write letters of support, provide invaluable counsel, and introduce the mentee to a wider network of nurses, frequently recommending them for projects, committees, advancements, and honors.

Mentors also do the following: 

  • Provide leadership, guidance, and emotional support
  • Encourage and facilitate stress management
  • Give and receive constructive criticism and feedback on strengths and weakness with suggestions for improvement
  • Teach how to handle new responsibilities and take acceptable risks
  • Provide professional and career-counseling information

By acting as a source of intellectual stimulation and encouragement, mentors teach mentees to trust their own abilities and skills. They urge their mentee to search out and seek professional avenues he or she might not have known about or would have taken much longer to discover otherwise.

-- Diana Swihart, PhD, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC

(December 2009)