Tips for Mentoring New Nurses

Mentors can be a lifeline for a long, successful career in nursing. They help guide the next generation of nurses — to settle into new roles, gain new skills, take on new challenges or advance their careers. Mentoring can provide direction for horizontal growth from one area to another, or vertical growth into a more advanced role. A true mentorship relationship is often reciprocal, helping both the mentor and mentee professionally and personally. 

What Is Mentoring?

When you think of the word "mentor," you may imagine someone older providing guidance to someone younger. True mentorship is about experience, namely someone who is more knowledgeable helping someone with less experience and knowledge. Mentors can be younger or older than the mentee, at the same location, or in different locations. Some may even be from different practice specialty. They may be new or have years of experience, either in a one-on-one relationship or as a group effort.

Other than technical, medical-related skills, a mentorship may focus on time management skills, for example, or specific goals such as public speaking, research or writing. A truly successful mentorship, however, goes beyond skills-based learning to grow the mentee professionally. A mentor can provide advice for important professional decisions, help build professional networks and provide guidance through ethical issues.

What Happens Without Mentoring?

New nurses may often feel overwhelmed, unprepared or underprepared for the responsibilities of their role without a mentor. Mentorship, either formally or informally, can help new nurses gain confidence and refine their professional skills. Think about your first days as a new nurse: learning a new system, a new workplace atmosphere, ways to juggle patients and job assignments on your team. Trying to remember all the lessons and apply them can be daunting. A good mentor can help prepare new nurses for a successful start.

Today, there is great effort to help nurses stay resilient. Nursing is a physically and emotionally taxing career field and can lead to high turnover and burnout. Having a mentor in your corner can help alleviate some of the growing pains, preventing excess stress and desperation.

What Are Some Practical Tips for New Mentors?

Examine why you want to be a mentor. You may choose to take on this role for many reasons: paying forward your own experience, learning more about yourself, being refreshed by a different perspective or fostering someone's career development. While motivations differ, providing a positive and nurturing relationship is a critical component.

Provide effective feedback. Be sure to offer specific suggestions without overly praising or being too harsh. Give both positive and constructive feedback. Aim for your comments to be about the person's work, instead of about the person. Try "I" statements instead of "you" statements.

Positive Feedback

Constructive Feedback

"I noticed you are really doing better with ______________."


I try to think about _________."


"I like the way you ___________."


"I have found it helpful to __________."


"I see that you did a great job with _________"

"I think you could consider __________ next time."

How Can Earning a BSN Help Mentors Improve Their Skills?

Organizations want good mentors who can train their employees well and provide better results for patients. While an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) provides you with the basic skills and knowledge to work as a nurse, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program provides you with information about professional skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking and leadership. These professional skills can help you become a better mentor, which in turn helps your mentees to become more confident, competent, and compassionate nurses.

Many healthcare organizations are shifting to BSN-prepared nurses to fill mentorship or preceptorship roles. This helps them align with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) position that endorses the minimum BSN education requirement for RNs. Data suggests that patient outcomes, safety and quality of care improve with BSN-prepared nurses, leading to lower patient mortality rates, fewer medical errors and higher patient satisfaction. Strategically placing BSNs in mentorship roles helps organizations demonstrate their commitment to quality patient care.

Mentors are not only vital to train nurses, but also to help recruit and retain nurses. Nursing has become more demanding, patients more critical, and healthcare systems more complex and diverse. As a mentor, you have the added responsibility of supporting your mentees. The best way to improve your mentees is to work on yourself first, and a BSN education provides an avenue toward self-improvement.

Learn more about UNM's online RN to BSN program.


NCBI: Mentoring the Next Generation of Authors

Journal for Nurses in Professional Development: Establishing a Nurse Mentor Program to Improve Nurse Satisfaction and Intent to Stay

American Nurse Today: Mentorship Programs and Novice Nursing Faculty

NCBI: How Can Nurses Stay Resilient and Engaged During a Long and Ever-Changing Career Path? Nurse Burnout

NCBI: Mentoring the Next Generation of Authors

AACN: Academic Progression in Nursing: Moving Together Toward a Highly Educated Nursing Workforce

Patient Safety Communication Among Differently Educated Nurses: Converging and Diverging Meaning Systems

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