1. Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR

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Do you have a mentor? Someone asked me the other day how it is that I've arrived where I am professionally, and as I started to answer her, I realized that it's all about mentoring. I realized that having been mentored by incredibly generous nurses has made all the difference in my professional accomplishments. When I was in nursing school (way back in the mid 1960s, at Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing), I was mentored by Jean Cleary, a fantastic faculty member who helped me to see that nurse faculty were real people and that higher education was attainable. In my first job, my mentor was my head nurse Jayne McCarthy, an expert labor and delivery nurse. I've always felt that I became a really good labor and delivery nurse because of the lessons Jayne taught me about how to be thinking of 10 things at once, and accomplishing all of them well (now, of course, the term is "multitasking"!). It was 10 years after my diploma school that I went back to school for a degree (still not completely sure that I needed a degree), and at Stony Brook University found another mentor in Dr. Carole Blair. Carole was the first doctorally prepared nurse I had ever met. At first, the doctoral degree didn't make sense to me, but because of Carole, I realized the power of a doctorate and the incredible things a nurse could do because of the knowledge that degree conferred. At Stony Brook I also was mentored by Madeline Zunno. What a woman. I had never met anyone like her before. Madeline was not only the kindest, but one of the most thoughtful and intelligent faculty members I had ever met. She taught me to love and respect the clients who needed my help the most and to always give because I had been given so much. Then I went to NYU. Can you imagine? It was 1978, and I was at NYU, with Martha Rogers as one of my teachers. NYU was the place where my entire way of thinking changed, and where I was mentored by people I never would have encountered anywhere else. Dr. Mary Kohnke comes to mind first. Dr. Kohnke was one of the finest teachers I have ever had. She constantly challenged us to think. I'll never forget it. She frightened me at first, for I was a small-town Long Island girl who rarely ventured beyond my boundaries physically or intellectually. Mary Kohnke would have none of that. She paced up and down the aisles in her NYU classroom, challenging us to come up with what's now called "out-of-the-box" solutions. Why should nurses be employees of hospitals? Devise a plan in which nurses have more autonomy over their practice. How exactly is nursing different from medicine? How will you contribute to the scientific basis for nursing practice? Mary Kohnke taught me to challenge every single thing I had believed in as a nurse, to rethink, and to decide exactly what I believed in and why. Now that's a great teacher. In my first teaching job, at Molloy College, Carol Clifford and Maryjane Guilfoyle taught me the ropes and showed me how to be a good teacher. They demonstrated in everything they did their love of their students, their desire to make these young men and women great nurses, and their love of education and lifelong learning. How fortunate I was to have them as mentors. When I left Molloy, I had no idea what would happen to me next. Then just when I least expected it, I found Dr. Karla Damus, a nurse with a PhD in epidemiology (I'm not sure I knew what "epidemiology" was at that time), who interviewed me for a job at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Ob/Gyn department, helping to run a research project. I didn't know a thing about research, but the job required a lot of Ob knowledge (which I had) and a lot of teaching experience (which I also had). I took the job, and 20 years later we're still there. It was Karla who mentored me into doctoral study. It was she who taught me how to do research. It was she who taught me how to write a scientific paper. It was she who helped me with my dissertation research despite her health problems at the time. It was she who has encouraged me to do more, be more, become more. Karla is never without an idea for a new way to stretch, a new way to learn something that will help mothers and babies, a new project that I will learn from. My career over the past 20 years would never have been what it has become without Karla. The only way I can thank her is to continue to mentor others. I've tried to do that faithfully.


Mentors. I hope you have one, and if you are a bit older, I hope you are one. If you're an experienced nurse, then you could do the following. Tomorrow, look at the new nurses around you and decide which ones you will mentor. Help them to be more, do more, and become more. The rewards are limitless.


What are you doing to help a younger nurse in her career?