Becoming a nurse educator means not only having strong experience and education in nursing practice in general but also experience via specialist degrees such as MSNs. Although nurses gain incredible knowledge through education, they also stand to benefit hugely from pairing with mentors who can guide them through the varied world of healthcare education.
While some nurses might already possess the skills and confidence to empower others through teaching, the better prepared they are, the more effective they will be at designing and delivering fantastic education plans for future students.
In many cases, mentoring can help to boost confidence and competence even further—and in this guide, we’ll explore how mentor relationships support people studying to become nurse educators in their own right, and why this is important to the future of healthcare.
Students receive expert guidance
The most obvious benefit of a nurse educator student receiving help from a mentor is that they’ll get expert advice from someone who’s been in their shoes and who has built a healthy career in the industry. It’s true that some nurse educator students might find the transition between traditional nursing and learning how to educate other nurses something of a culture shock at first. A mentor paired with a student can help to ease the transition.
They can prepare nurse educators with knowledge of not only what to expect from their courses, but also what happens when they enter the workforce for real. The knowledge that they can rely on guidance from someone with plenty of practical experience provides valuable reassurance to students. For nurse educator students, there’s no one better than an experienced practitioner to help them learn and guide them through the early stages of their careers.
Of course, students will also find support from module instructors and tutors as part of their ongoing education. The Online MSN – Nurse Educator program at the University of Indianapolis provides students with a reputable, accredited education, supported by guidance from tutors with exceptional experience. Topping up on this tutoring with a mentorship can help educator students develop more skills and gain more confidence over time, too.
They can enhance their teaching skills
Nurse educator mentors can help students develop teaching skills of their own by sharing what worked for them when they first started studying, alongside curriculum and teaching choices that continue to bring the best out of current students. In fact, mentoring can give educator students the chance to sit in on live classes to observe how their mentor(s) present lessons and encourage learning.
This experience gives educator students the chance to learn more about how to tailor curricula to the ultimate aims of a nursing program, and how to inspire various students who might learn in different ways and styles.
Of course, it’s important for educator students to not immediately assume the teaching styles of their mentors are the be-all and end-all. After all, it’s more important they find their own styles and rhythms before they start teaching on their own. Crucially, mentorship helps to give educator students extra insight into how the educator system works and how certain teaching styles work in practice. They can then choose to follow their mentors’ leads and adapt what they’ve learned into their own unique style.
Mentoring builds confidence
As mentioned, it’s not always granted that an educator student will adopt their mentors’ teaching styles wholesale, but what they can and will gain is extra confidence in how to carry out lesson plans and engage with different types of students. Educator students can open up to mentors about areas of their study they might be finding difficult and ask questions about how certain principles and ideas work in practice once they graduate and start teaching in a live classroom.
A balanced and open mentor will gladly offer students insights into what to expect but will at the same time measure expectations. A mentor’s experience isn’t necessarily going to be exactly the same as that of a student, particularly as technology and nursing expectations are always changing.
Students who might be worried about how to approach their own classrooms for the first time could need guidance and support in how to speak publicly. Alternatively, they could ask mentors for guidance on how to develop effective teaching plans and how to assess students fairly across the board.
Mentors can also help students see the potential within themselves—they’ll be able to see certain traits and behaviors in their mentees that they can encourage. Mentors are also in a great position to help advise students how to gain confidence in specific teaching situations, and what to do when approaching challenges. For example, a mentor might be able to provide insight into how to handle assessments and what to do if their student nurses struggle to hit the mark. Mentoring gives educator students an extra pillar of confidence to fall back on if they start to struggle with the material received.
Opens networking opportunities
Beyond learning how to teach other nurses, student educators will need to think carefully about where they wish to work, and how they intend to find opportunities where they can apply their experience and knowledge in the long run.
Mentors with industry experience not only have practical experience they can use to inspire educator students but also industry connections—meaning that if their mentees are looking for routes into hospital education, they might be able to recommend or refer to them.
Mentoring offers several great networking opportunities. Networking through mentors—in meeting other healthcare professionals and educators with experience in the industry—allows students to make connections far and wide. These can be highly beneficial in the long run when students eventually graduate and want to start working at reputable hospitals and clinics.
Networking also adds to students’ educational experiences. By meeting other people who work in nursing education and beyond, they gain insight into how different departments, professionals, and sectors work. This can be vital in both setting expectations for what lies ahead and in gaining an appreciation for the hard work of others in healthcare.
Mentors who help students to network, in fact, can help to set up further mentorships. Students who meet other healthcare professionals might wish to shadow other educators over time to gain a more balanced overview of different teaching styles and practices, for example. Alternatively, a nursing educator student might take networking opportunities to look at other specialties to consider and break into once they graduate from their MSN. Regardless, networking can help to provide the foundation of a strong career in nursing education—meaning it’s worth students seizing such opportunities with both hands wherever possible.
They can build role-model relationships
Educator students often see their mentors as role models—particularly if their teaching styles, personalities, and experiences align with their own. A good role model is a mentor who’s willing to listen to their student mentees, and who presents their teaching experiences and strategies as subjective ways to deliver learning. They don’t assume their word is the absolute truth, however, they have enough experience and practice to know what works well and to guide student mentees to find their own teaching styles.
Students can use their mentors as role models when it comes to teaching attitudes, styles, and techniques—but at the same time, they must also take an objective approach to learning, and think critically when working alongside their mentors.
It’s healthy for students to ask their mentors questions and even to question how they do things so they can demonstrate outcomes wherever possible. It’s also not unheard of, again, for educator students to network with multiple professionals who can offer a balanced picture of what to expect in the long run.
While seeing a mentor as a role model is often recommended, students must remember to follow their own gut instincts and carve out their own learning and teaching styles. What works wholesale for one educator (i.e., a mentor) isn’t always going to work for others 100% of the time.
Mentoring encourages reflective practice
As mentors frequently guide students outside of the classroom, they’re in a great position to offer external insight to help their mentees reflect on what they’re learning, and how they’re handling the modules they’re working through. For example, if an educator student struggles with a particular assignment or needs help engaging with certain material, they can ask for support from both tutors and mentors to assist in their appreciation of the topics at hand. In particular, mentors can ask their mentees questions about how they feel they’re performing and why they chose to act in a specific way during an assignment. Mentors can help their students reflect on why they made certain decisions, and consider what they could do differently next time.
Mentors and tutors can work together to help develop reflective practice plans for their students. While tutors can lay the groundwork and the curricula, mentors can apply their own experiences to certain cases and can show their students how they might approach specific problems and situations. They can also draw on real cases they come across every day and inspire students to find their own ways around complex issues. Students can then take mentors’ proposed solutions as inspiration and build on them in their own way the next time they head to class.
Mentors are well-placed to offer advice on reflective practice as they’ve been in students’ positions before. Experienced and successful mentors can recognize certain behaviors and choices and therefore advise their mentees on the best ways to healthily move forward. It’s sometimes the responsibility of tutors and colleges, for example, to find mentors for students who offer positive insight into nursing education—and who they can pair up with specific students who share similar learning styles. This ensures mentors can help to tailor advice that genuinely supports their mentees. Again, students can find other mentors to help build a more balanced experience, too.
Students learn to focus on personal growth and wellbeing
While it’s not the job of a mentor to answer the questions set by students’ coursework, they can help students to build on personal strengths and to consider their overall wellbeing. Again, mentors have frequently been in the shoes of those they’re supporting.
That means that while technology and nursing might have changed broadly since they themselves started learning, they still have insight into the emotional and psychological experiences mentees are going through. That doesn’t mean all students experience the same things the same way—but mentors can help to lay out ways for mentees to push through difficult spots and support themselves better.
For example, a mentor might be able to help their students by providing timetable-building support. To help them organize their thoughts and manage their work more effectively, a mentor could suggest techniques for setting up study and for gaining experience. A mentor can also help an educator student appreciate their strengths and weaknesses, and can help them learn when to take breaks, when to give themselves credit, and when opportunities are worth following up on. A student who graduates in nursing education with a healthy sense of personal growth and overall well-being is better placed to offer confident, engaging teaching plans to future students.
Do all nurse educator students need mentors?
Mentorships in nurse education aren’t crucial. However, many people find pairing with experienced tutors extremely insightful. When considering mentoring, students can feel free to look for different qualities in nursing mentors to better fit their learning styles and needs.
For many nurses, mentors provide support and guidance in what’s effectively a whole new world of nursing. They can set certain expectations, help students look within themselves, and support them through specific areas of coursework and study.
Of course, it’s the choice of a student as to whether or not they’d like to take on a mentor, however, in most cases, doing so is highly recommended. In some cases, taking on multiple mentorships can even be beneficial. Regardless, mentorships can help students transition smoothly into exciting new challenges in their careers.