Mentoring is the process in which a less experienced professional gains wisdom and expertise from the more experienced colleague or associate. A new graduate, a staff nurse seeking an administrative role, a graduate student connecting with researchers, and a new educator expanding into academics, all seek a more knowledgeable peer to coach them personally and professionally. The relationship is conscious, purposeful, and typically extends over a number of years. The mentee or neophyte receives advice, instruction, guidance, and assistance through significant points in their career (Grossman & Valiga, 2009, p. 168).
The process for mentoring is much like discipleship that is used to foster spiritual growth. The disciple relationship can be facilitated through a church program whereby a more mature spiritual believer is matched with a new or growing Christian. Another aspect can be when a mature Christian looks to gain specific development or leadership skills through the guidance of another, more experienced Christian. An example is a Christian who wants to teach or facilitate Bible studies or go on a mission trip.
Underlying discipleship is the need for followers of Christ to purposely come alongside one another and walk together on a journey of faith. The gaining of wisdom, knowledge, and skills occurs through an intentional relationship rooted in interaction, Bible study, and prayer.
The journey of faith in professional nursing can be facilitated through a combination of discipleship and mentorship. Christian nursing mentorship focuses on both faith and professional development. As in mentoring, the Christian nurse mentor commits himself or herself to helping the neophyte develop a clear professional identity through fostering growth both personally and professionally, supporting and facilitating the realization of dreams, and acting as an energizer and a sounding board (Grossman & Valiga, p. 169).
Mentorship integrated with discipleship occurs through a caring relationship of interaction and commitment. Throughout his letters to the early Christian churches, the Apostle Paul mentored, discipled, and at times even parented the 1st Century believers. An example is his relationship with the converts in Thessalonica, whom he describes as “becoming dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Paul, through time and toil, developed a close relationship with these emerging believers. Paul spoke the truth as he helped the believers integrate faith and life, encouraging them to live lives worthy of God's calling (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Mentorship is more than sharing professional knowledge and experience, there also is the importance of sharing our lives (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Sharing one's faith story of how God is orchestrating our career through personal challenges, disappointments, and/or failures is one way the mentee can gain professional insight from his or her mentor. Wisdom and expertise comes in how our faith is challenged as we live it out personally and professionally. Mentorship coupled with discipleship takes an authentic commitment from both the mentor and the mentee, with fellowship, God's Word in the Bible, and prayer girding the process and the relationship.
A challenge to any discussion on mentoring or discipleship is connecting mentors and mentees. Here are a few helpful tips:
Mentors: Network with young budding professionals. Take time to connect at work with new graduates, as well as at conferences, continuing education classes, and with students coming to your facility. Nurses new to our profession bring an excitement and freshness that foster amazing opportunities for both the mentor and mentee!
Mentees: Ask! Consider your professional plan or options then connect with nurses, administrators, researchers, or educators who represent your potential career goal. NCF has a simple mentoring guide at http://ncf-jcn.org/resources/mentor/ncf-mentor-guide. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's Emerging Scholars Network at http://esn.intervarsity.org/ also offers helpful ideas for mentor/mentee relationships.
This “ripple effect” of entrusting what we have learned to faithful nurses so that they also may teach others (2 Timothy 2:2) is a reminder of how mentorship coupled with discipleship combines the richness of our developing faith with the expertise of experienced nurses to equip future nurses.
Grossman, S. C., & Valiga, T. M. (2009). The new leadership challenge: Creating the future of nursing (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Davis.