My Experience with Mentoring and Role Models in Nursing
Angela Adjetey, RN, MPH, MA, FAACM
Graduate Student at Vanderbilt University,
School of Nursing, MSN, Health Systems Management
Clinical Nurse Specialist Women’s Oncology Unit,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Special Author for DiversityNursing.com
I recently attended a conference where the topic of mentoring aspiring nurse leaders was discussed. The message of the presentation was that it is personally and professionally important to have both mentors and role models for all aspects of life. I realized I had successfully incorporated excellent mentors and role models into my professional development as well as my growth as a person. Choosing a mentor has always been part of my professional career plan. Marilyn K. Bedell (2005), states that nurses need guidance and help to grow and to develop new cognitive, clinical, and technical skills. She noted that many nurses in leadership positions are concerned about the development of novice nurses and those in the process of making career transitions. She emphasized it is critical for nurses in leadership positions to learn about mentoring and its use as a tool to develop the next generation of nurse leaders.
Mentoring is a science and an art. Through mentoring nurses are guided, taught, and influenced in their chosen profession. It is a relationship between a novice and an experienced professional. The experienced professional teaches professional survival skills and methods through guidance, counseling, and critiquing the novice, while encouraging specialization and advancement in the profession. The role of a mentor is to develop the unique abilities of the protégé. The mentor helps the protégé feel safe and comfortable while asking questions, seeking advice, or talking through a situation. Role modeling as opposed to mentorship is often a one-way relationship. There is no commitment from the role model to guide and counsel. It tends to be a passive process in which a person watches and then copies the model. Role modeling relies on imitation and does not encourage the development of the unique qualities of the individual. No formal discussions occur to verify why the role model performed a certain way in a specific situation (Bedell, 2005).
My first experience with role modeling and mentoring occurred when I was a young girl. My parents helped 2 missionaries run a clinic in Ghana, West Africa. When I grew up, I wanted to be like my mother and the 2 ladies who provided care at this clinic. My first encounter with mentoring was in 1996. I attended a meeting of the Black Nurses Association of Charlottesville, Virginia, a chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. I was invited by David Simmons, RN, MSN, who nurtured me as a student nurse and showed me the impact a nurse leader can have on a person. I wanted to be like him and was motivated to develop the skills he demonstrated. He showed me all the characteristics I consider helpful throughout my career. His desire to help me was evident. He demonstrated effective coaching, provided me with advice, and demonstrated how networking can improve my nursing and leadership skills.
In 2004, I was selected as a participant to attend the Oncology Nursing Society/ National Cancer Institute sponsored Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Institute for nurse educators, academic staff and clinicians from institutions which historically serve black and minority patients. I met Dr. Sandra Millon-Underwood, RN, PhD, FAAN professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) at this event. She motivated me to be a mentor for other nurses as well as an advance practice nurse. I modeled my career path based on the experience I had with her during my time at the institute. She is the reason why I became an advance practice nurse. Dr. Million-Underwood’s work with nursing research, cancer prevention and control, cultural diversity in health care, her perspective of health care systems, and serving as the founding Director of the UWM House of Peace Community Nursing Center attracted me to cancer care, public health, and health systems management.
Other nursing leaders I consider role models include the Director of Acute Care services, Mary Dowling, and Nancy Kline, Director of Nursing Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Both Mary and Nancy have been instrumental to my advancement in nursing.
Sabeeha Rehman (FACHE) is my mentor and I am her protégé. She is the President and founding member of the New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association, and served as a hospital executive in New York, New Jersey, and Saudi Arabia. I met Sabeeha through the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) mentor/protégé program as a member of the ACHE and Healthcare Leaders of New York. She created a safe mentoring environment where I feel free to be honest. She meets with me as often as she can and is always available to me. She also shares her experiences with me. We remain interested in each others work and advancement, and celebrate one another’s successes both professionally and personally. She also shares my interest in patient safety, staff development, and quality assurance and improvement which has supported my current professional endeavors.
Alice Gianella, RN, MA, the Director of Nursing Continuing Education at MSKCC, is another nurse I consider my mentor. Alice spends time with me and provides me with insights into my nursing career whenever needed. Mary M., Gullatte, PhD, RN, APRN, BC, AOCN, FAAMA Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Emory University Hospital Midtown is another mentor of mine. Mary actually came to see me during my first podium presentation. She provided me with the moral support I needed during this experience. She listens to me in a nonjudgmental manner allowing me to achieve insights into my developmental goals. My involvement with organizations such as AONE and the Oncology Nursing Society has provided role models to emulate in my continued development. I attended the AONE Aspiring Nurse Leader Institute and learned a great deal about nursing leadership. Being part of the Fellows of the ONS Leadership Development Institute (LDI) also served as a road map to my mentoring and role modeling experience, and a guide to leadership.
Most importantly, I have been my own advocate in seeking guidance from all my mentors and role models. I realize, in addition to the nursing theories which guide our practice, role models and mentors have a great impact on how we view our professional development and continued advancement.
I realize mentors, organizational involvement, and role models have greatly impacted my career as a nurse. Without the influence of all individuals mentioned in this article, I would not have achieved most of what I have done in my career.
Bedell, K. M. (2005). Mentoring: Promoting the development of nurses. In M. M. Gullatte (Ed.), Nursing management: Principles and practice (pp. 349-352). Pittsburg, PA: Oncology Nursing Society.