As new generations of nurses step forward to lead, the need for mentorship may have never been higher.
Mary Bondmass, PhD, RN, CNE, NHS, has worked in nursing for more than three decades, beginning in the a cardiac intensive care unit, before transitioning into academics as a teacher and administrator at Georgetown University. She now serves as director of faculty development at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, helping to shape the next generations of nurses and nursing instructors, and connecting colleagues with professional development and educational opportunities through the AACN.
Q: Why is mentoring important to the development of both faculty and students?
A: Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to observe many inspiring role models and have been blessed with several excellent mentors. Both faculty and student need role models and mentors for their development; moreover, they may be needed at various times during one’s career. Times of career transition are often when one is most likely in need of and would benefit most from having the guidance that only a mentor can provide. As a student, one needs guidance to be socialized to the actual nursing role; as faculty, we need guidance on the role of an academic. While all nurses are, or should be, educated in the clinical aspects of the profession, there is little room in our undergraduate curricula to truly socialize the student or the faculty to the new roles they find themselves in at various times in their careers. This on-the-job learning underscores the need for a mentoring relationship.
Q: How does AACN help faculty find mentors and grow as mentors themselves?
A: AACN directly facilitates finding mentors for those in academic roles and also provides a broad menu of opportunities for leadership development, which is essential to preparing future mentors. Two examples of AACN’s programs involved directly with finding mentors include the New Dean Mentoring Program and the Leadership for Academic Nursing Program. AACN also offers programing for all levels of nursing leadership from faculty in the classroom through the executive level leadership in colleges and universities. Examples include our faculty development webinars and regional conferences (i.e. Executive Development Series), and the AACN/Wharton Executive Leadership Program.
Q: Is there a particular mentor you’d like to single out for praise or thanks?
A: I attribute a great deal of my career success to those who came before me and influenced me, and I would offer a collective thanks to those nursing colleagues that I have either met or observed over the past 30 years. If I had to pick one person who influenced me most in terms of being mentored and in teaching me how to mentor to others, it would be Barbara VanCura, MEd. I worked with Barbara during my graduate practicum at Northwestern in Chicago. Barbara was a truly gifted and skilled nurse and educator. She demonstrated such incredible patience and kindness with me even though I know I was one of those know-it-all graduate students! I not only garnered knowledge and skill from her, but also professional values and respect for others. I believe it was her role modeling that influenced me most positively in my career, and hopefully I have passed some of that positive influence on to others that I have since mentored.
Q: Has the work of mentors grown in importance in nursing education?
A: The work of mentors has always been important within nursing education. But as nursing has evolved, so too has the formal role of mentor and the need for individuals with lived experiences to guide future leaders of the profession. While schools of nursing continue to open and expand their curricula, many of today’s academic leaders are retiring, and a younger, more diverse cohort is emerging. These less experienced colleagues may be excellent practitioners, but may not have developed the non-clinical acumen needed to survive in the increasingly complex higher education setting. Mentors are needed to attract and retain this newer pool of educators in the academic environment, and play a special role in helping to attract more diverse students and faculty into nursing.
Q: What are the things you believe nursing faculty can particularly improve upon to grow as mentors?
A: First, I would offer you start your leadership development earlier and make mentoring a personal, professional career expectation. All nurses, especially nurse faculty, need to be skilled in leadership, even if you do not have your sights set on being chair or dean. Additionally, I believe all nurses, and nurse faculty in particular, may need to keep in mind they are now the role models for new nurses entering the profession or those new to academia. We perhaps need to be reminded of how powerful our influence can be. Each of us has the power to literally influence the attitude and entire career plans of others by our actions and advice. Think back to your first nursing position and how you may have been inspired by some more experienced nurses. I know I was! Or perhaps your experiences as a new graduate were not all that positive. If that was the case, reflect and learn from that experience on how not to treat our new colleagues in practice or academia. Breaking the cycle of incivility that sometimes affects our profession can only be achieved one nurse at a time, and I believe it is the individual responsibility of each nursing professional to demonstrate civil behavior to others. In developing our own emotional intelligence and conveying civility among our colleagues, we develop as role models and mentors.