How Do I Mentor?

The following is the second in a three-part series on mentorship in nursing and health professions education. As faculty turnover increases due to retirement and other factors, many young professors need help making the transition from clinical practice to a life in academia. Mentorship is key to helping the next generation of educators get acclimated to their new role. Click these links to view part one and part three.

The goal of mentoring is growth of the mentee both personally and professionally. The focus often includes successful integration of the mentee into the organizational community. The process of mentoring typically involves a number of skills, used simultaneously, and implemented with an attitude of flexibility.

In developing mentoring abilities, consider three components: connect, create, and continue. Connecting with the mentor is the vital first step and serves as the foundation for all parts of the mentoring process. Creating a plan that is flexible, yet provides accountability, often serves as the key to success. Finally, continuing the relationship beyond the formal mentorship can bring about growth that serves the mentee for many years.


The mentor must first identify ways to build a relationship, and subsequently trust, with the mentee. This should be done both formally and informally. Since no two people are alike, the process of building this relationship will vary based on those involved. However, the core of a successful mentoring relationship is demonstrating value to each other to develop a mutual sense of trust. The end result is growth and development for both mentor and mentee.


Create a plan that is doable, challenging, and flexible. The mentor and mentee should meet live (e.g., phone, video chat, or in person) at least once a month for an hour. This facilitates connection and allows for both parties to hear inflection and see emotion. While some are good at communicating emotion in writing, many are not.

Next, create activities and goals that are both interesting and meaningful. An interesting goal would be to have the mentor and mentee challenge each other to a 10-Day/10-Minute Life Quest (10×10). For 10 days straight, each person spends 10 minutes a day reading/researching a field other than their own professional domain. For instance, a nurse educator may want to read in the areas of finance, astronomy, chemical engineering, and so forth. After the 10-day challenge, plan a monthly meeting to come together to share ideas and discoveries. This type of activity is not only interesting; it can promote development of critical thinking.

Another meaningful activity involves having the mentee create three new test items to bring to the monthly meeting for a critique. This activity is a good way to explore the unit’s test item writing policy and/or the evidence base related to assessment. Creating these test items is also useful because the mentee could potentially use the test items in a course currently being taught.


As the plan is developed, consider ways to revisit and celebrate past success, overcome weakness, and create benchmarks in the development of the mentee. Even as the formal part of the mentoring relationship finalizes, consider continuing informally. Remember the benefits to both mentor and mentee in this relationship. These benefits can continue if the relationship is nurtured. Celebrating success and supporting each other in difficult times brings opportunities for career advancement and continued personal development.