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I recently had the pleasure of sharing dinner with a student protege of mine who is now a valued professional colleague. I happened to mention that it was time for me to write my editorial for this issue, but I was struggling to find a relevant topic. My colleague, May, immediately responded that I should write about mentorship and tell "our story." And then, amazingly, she gave a long list of how my mentoring her as an undergraduate student led her to pursue graduate education, which led her to our current professional relationship as colleagues at the hospital where I consult. What was exciting was to also hear how May unknowingly became a mentor and role model to colleagues in her former critical care practice setting.
My colleague shared that when she first started working on her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, some of her peers were very critical. They would essentially question the benefits of a higher education in the field of nursing when it comes to salary and the workload of bedside nurses. Fortunately, she was not deterred, and she diligently worked toward her goal, even excelling scholastically as a student. After receiving her BSN degree, my colleague decided to continue her education to pursue her masters of science in nursing (MSN) degree with a focus on nursing administration, where she again excelled scholastically as a student.
At this point, her peers were beginning to see themselves the benefits of higher education. Many began to go back to school to pursue higher education. They would often seek out May to tell her what they were doing and would seek her approval and advice. Initially, this puzzled her as she was "just their peer." Soon, however, she realized that despite the skepticism, they had been watching her-and her determination and enthusiasm for attaining her educational goals became an inspiration to her colleagues. As a result, many of the staff at the critical care unit where she was employed through her student years are pursuing higher education.
In addition to the benefits to this critical care unit, May (then one of my masters students) chose to have me serve as her research mentor for a practicum experience. For two semesters, May worked with me and two other nurses to design a study focused on pancreatic cancer survivors. She did extensive work, and as a result, we were able to get funding from the local Sigma Theta Tau chapter to support our study. After her graduation, she continued her relationship with this group of patients and is still actively involved as the primary data collector in the ongoing study. In fact, she contributed a recent column in Gastroenterology Nursing based on her experiences with the pancreatic support group she is involved with.
The story is not over, however. Recently, at the hospital where I consult as a clinical nurse specialist and researcher, my nursing director decided that both she and I needed assistance in getting many of our key projects implemented. The interview team interviewed several outstanding candidates, several with doctoral preparation, but guess who won the job? My mentee, May!! We are now "partners" in the clinical setting, and it is a delight to continue our mentoring relationship as colleagues in the same department.
If you had asked me all those many years ago whether I could have predicted how our relationship would progress, I would have never been able to guess!! What started initially as a faculty-to-student relationship blossomed into a long-term mentorship that has impacted many other nursing colleagues along the way. Do not ever underestimate the importance of the relationships you engage in or the role model that you are simply because of who you are and what you do. May had no idea others were watching her. I had no idea our academic relationship would spur May on to grow and stretch in her nursing role so that she is now my partner in impacting nursing practice through mentoring nursing colleagues to be involved in evidence-based practice and research.
When I hear May talk about how my encouragement inspired her, I am very humbled. I am also very thankful that she chose to share with me how my mentorship impacted her. Sometimes we will never know how we have inspired others, but when someone thanks us for that mentorship, we find that all that we are as nurses is validated.
Take time to thank those who inspire you and share with them how they have impacted your practice and life. Never underestimate the influence you have, either as a formal or informal mentor and role model to others. You never know how much influence you really have on others!!
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