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HealthJuly 06, 2021

Consider becoming a nursing student mentor

By: Pam Embler, MSN, PhD, RN
It's that time of year. Nursing students are graduating from their respective programs and for some, the NCLEX® is on the horizon. Others look to graduate school, and some are content with their most recent accomplishment.

As nursing faculty, wherever your students are, I encourage you to think about how you can become a nursing mentor and inspire them towards a new goal. This goal could be nursing practice-related or nursing academic-related.

A nursing mentor's impact

When I returned to school to obtain my BSN, I considered that to be my “terminal degree”. I had no further aspirations and with a growing family, I had no time, or so I thought, for another degree. I was not “settling” for a BSN, I was being realistic in my own abilities and vision of what I could offer the profession.

That was true until I completed my capstone project under the direction of a very invested nursing faculty mentor. She encouraged me to consider graduate school, specifically to become a nurse educator. Why not I thought, if I could successfully complete a 100-page capstone, I could complete a thesis. So, I did!

Again, nearing the end of my master’s program, I found myself in the very capable hands of yet another great nursing faculty mentor who motivated me to keep going for “the” terminal degree of Ph.D. If I could successfully complete a few hundred-page theses, I could complete a several-hundred-page dissertation. So, I did!

In both instances, doubt never entered my mind. The faith my mentors had in my ability became faith in myself and the examples of excellence emboldened me.

Taking inspiration from historical nurse leaders

As we share parting words of encouragement, best wishes, and prods to matriculate to the next level, let us not miss an opportunity to become a nursing faculty mentor to a student. We can first look to our historical nursing leaders for wisdom and inspiration.

Reform can be accomplished only when attitudes are changed.
Lillian Wald

In 1893, Lillian Wald was a medical student in New York City. During her training and well visit, she encounters a sick mother. Lillian sees the gestalt. Here is a young mother working to recover in a rundown tenement. There is little access to fresh air and healthy food — very simple basics we take for granted today. What does Lillian do? She leaves medical school to become a nurse because she believes that as a nurse, she came to make a greater impact. That impact has had far-reaching implications to what we know now as public health nursing. Imagine a world where Lillian stayed in medical school.

Nurses are best positioned to be the major players in the shifting focus of health care where the focus is on the prevention of illnesses, promotion of health, and coordination of care. After all, nurses have been active in this role without naming or measuring their activities for decades.

Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better?
Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale understood that health policy was key to improving the health of poor Londoners and the British military. Today nurses are needed more than ever to create persuasive cases and influence better health policies at every level of governance. Recent events have forced a focus on transforming health care in innovative ways that provide for better outcomes while reducing health care costs. Nursing has an extraordinary opportunity to provide proactive and visionary leadership.

Words of wisdom for your nursing students

These are several of my favorite “bursts of encouragement and knowledge” that I share with students over the course of their education journey. I will share these as part of unit overviews, as part of email signatures, or on the closing slide of a presentation. More often than not, it sparks conversations and planning future goals.

  • “The undertaking of a new action brings new strength.” – Richard L. Evans
  • “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” – Alan Turning
  • “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie
  • “The invisible world is always where the visible originates.” - Dr. Henry Cloud
  • “The reality of the life we see and live on the outside is one that emerges from the inside, from our hearts, minds, and souls. It is our internal life that creates our external one. So, to find our lives we must find what lies below the surface of our skin. We must look at, listen to, discover, and be mindful of our internal life — of such things as our talents, feelings, desires, and dreams.” – Dr. Henry Cloud
  • “Nursing is not a profession of mediocrity” – Pam Embler

You can never ever underestimate the impact of each and every opportunity we faculty have upon our students. Think about how you can become a nursing student mentor, the importance of that role, and the wisdom and advice you’d impart.

Pam Embler, MSN, PhD, RN
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
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