When you work as a travel nurse and only spend a few weeks or months at a time in one place, you probably think that having a nurse mentor is impossible. After all, how can you build a solid professional relationship with someone when you barely have time to get past the “getting to know you” stage before you have to move on?
Yet research shows that mentors are beneficial to nurses no matter what career stage you happen to be in, and whether or not you plan to stay in the same place for very long. A nurse mentor can provide professional advice and insight, and offer support and encouragement when you need it the most.
In fact, some might argue that travel nurses need mentors even more than anyone else, because travel nurses are often so focused on the minutiae of individual placements that they lose sight of their overall career trajectory. It’s difficult to think strategically about where you want to be in a year, never mind five or ten years from now, when you are trying to get the lay of the land of a new facility, and manage the immediate tasks that require your attention.
A mentor can help provide that perspective, and guide a traveling nurse toward decisions that will benefit his or her career in the long term — and avoid mistakes that could lead to career setbacks. Many nurses point to the logistical issues inherent in finding a mentor when you move around all the time. While it might be a bit harder to find a mentor when you’re a travel nurse, it’s possible when you have a plan.
Step 1: Define What You’re Looking For
Not all nurse mentors are created equal, and a relationship that works for one nurse may not be ideal for another. Before you begin looking for a mentor, think about what you want to get from the relationship.
Are you looking for a sounding board, and someone who can help you work through problems? Do you want someone who can help you develop your career path? Do you want to job shadow? Are you looking for someone to help you network? Defining your expectations before you reach out can help you identify the right mentors, and ensures that you’ll get the greatest benefit from the arrangement.
Step 2: Evaluate Yourself
One of the greatest advantages of having a mentor is that he or she can help you build skills that you don’t already have, and provide a different perspective on issues that you will face as a nurse. Take time to assess your own strengths, weaknesses, goals, and areas that you need or want to develop, so you can identify a potential mentor who can point you in the right direction.
Ideally, the person will already have the skills or position you want, and can offer insights that will help you grow as a nurse. For example, if you’re studying to become a clinical nurse leader, someone in that role can help you understand the position better.
Step 3: Identify Potential Mentors
Once you know what you’re looking for in a mentor, it becomes easier to identify the potential candidates, especially when you look beyond your hospital placements. Some potential sources of mentors include:
- Your placement agency. Some agencies offer formal mentorship programs for their nurses.
- Your nursing school. Reconnect with your nurse educators and instructors.
- There is no rule stating that mentors must be older or have more experience. Someone who is at a similar point in his or her career may have had different experiences or have different approaches that you can learn from. Even connecting with another travel nurse to share advice and insights into your chosen path can help your performance and keep you on track.
- Senior leadership. When you first begin a new assignment, don’t be afraid to reach out to a senior member of the team to ask for help and guidance. Even if you don’t have a formal mentoring relationship, you can learn a lot from leaders in different facilities.
- Outside of nursing. The field of nursing is rapidly becoming an interdisciplinary one, and you can learn a lot from mentors in communication, leadership, and other fields. Don’t hesitate to look outside of nursing for a mentor who can help you grow and develop.
- Your Peers. Collaborating with your fellow Travel Nurses and building personal relationships can expand your group of nurse mentors.
A great mentor will help you move beyond where you are comfortable, and help you on your path to career success. It’s up to you to reach out, foster the relationship, and follow through with his or her suggestions, but when you do, you’ll be more confident in your career, no matter where it takes you.
Where do you find your nurse mentors? Do you have a positive experience that you would like to share? Post in the Comments Below.