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A website for young nurses and the young at heart in Aotearoa


Obtaining a mentor can be a great way to get support for building your career. We are hoping to build up a database of people willing to act as mentors for you, but in the meantime, here is a bit of information on mentoring and mentorship.


Mentorship involves a one-to-one relationship in which a mentor invests time, knowledge and effort to assist the mentee to achieve his or her potential both personally and professionally. Mentorship is a voluntary and usually long-term relationship. The mentor is generally more experienced and knowledgeable in the particular area a mentee wishes to develop, and may be older and more senior than the mentee, although this is not essential. Mentorship is not about assessing the competence of a clinician, fixing an identified problem or supervision processes, but is focused on socialisation of the mentee to the profession, and fostering their growth and development. 


Attributes of the mentoring relationship include empowerment, respect, mutual sharing, role-modelling, constructive feedback, support and encouragement. Although mentorship aims to enhance the personal and professional learning, growth, and advancement of the mentee, it is intended to be beneficial to both the mentor and mentee. Although mentorship is sometimes used interchangeably with preceptorship and/or supervision, it is important to remember that mentorship is a voluntary relationship, entered into by agreement with a mentor and that no payment is made.


NZNO encourages members to consider establishing mentorship relationships as a means of supporting nurses in the workplace to achieve their aspirations, contribute to workforce retention and stability, and ultimately improve health outcomes.


Role of the mentee

Often it is the mentee who initiates the mentoring relationship. Nurses who wish to identify opportunities for career advancement or to enhance professional development may find a mentorship relationship particularly beneficial.  Acquiring a mentor can help provide the additional support and guidance needed to achieve personal and career goals. The following benefits associated with participation in mentorship have been identified for mentees:

  • increased feelings of competence and confidence in practice;
  • decreased stress;
  • increased job satisfaction;
  • expanded networks;
  • leadership development.

A systematic review by Sambunjak, Straus and Marusic found that it is important for mentees to both take the initiative in cultivating the relationship with their mentor, and be committed to the success of the mentorship relationship. In addition, Sambunjak et al. recommend that mentees be:

  • proactive;
  • willing to learn;
  • prepared for meetings; and
  • prepared to respond honestly to feedback.

Self-reflection is also encouraged.  The mentee should be prepared to be open and honest, and contribute to a trusting and collegial relationship with their mentor. Mentee’s should be respectful of their mentor’s efforts and mindful of their other commitments.


Role of the mentor

The individual should hold a range of personal, relational and professional skills in order to be able to undertake the role of mentor. A mentor may be an expert or leader within their field however this is not essential and some have found that a mentor’s ability to guide a person is more important than their leadership or expertise. Sambunjak et al.’s review identified the key attributes of a mentor and these include:

  • Honesty
  • Sincerity
  • An active listener
  • Non-judgemental
  • Responsive
  • Accessible
  • Dedicated to developing the relationship with the mentee
  • Able to assist mentees to define and reach goals
  • Knowledgeable and experienced
  • Reliable
  • Well-respected in their field
  • Compatible with their mentee in terms of practice style, vision and personality


Being a mentor can have significant benefits including:

  • enhanced self-fulfillment;
  • increased job satisfaction;
  • greater feelings of value;
  • improved interpersonal skills;
  • improved job performance;
  • increased learning, personal growth and leadership skills;
  • access to new knowledge, different perspectives and newer generational issues;
  • potential for career advancement.


Nurses who wish to share their knowledge and expertise with other nurses may find volunteering to be a mentor a satisfying way to achieve their goals.


Establishing a mentorship relationship

The context of the mentoring relationship will depend on whether it is a formal or informal mentorship relationship. Most New Zealand organisations have formal preceptor programmes and associated training, but mentorship in the way we refer to it in this document is likely to be a less formal and less structured relationship.


Elements to consider when establishing a mentorship relationship are:

  • compatibility between a mentor and mentee;
  • communication styles;
  • boundaries or limits to the relationship;
  • dealing with disagreements;
  • options for ‘opting out’ if either party has difficulty with the relationship.

When choosing a mentor, a mentee may look for someone who knows them already and has observed them grow professionally. A mentorship relationship may flow naturally from a relationship in which one person is already supporting and guiding the other. A mentor may identify someone in their workplace and approach them regarding the potential of establishing a mentorship relationship. Choosing to work with a potential mentor on a project or committee may help to confirm compatibility between mentor and mentee. It is important to discuss expectations, learning styles, and limits or boundaries around the relationship.


Outcomes of effective mentorship

Mentorship is intended to be beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.

Sambunjak et al. suggest that a mentoring relationship be based on the following values:

>   honesty;

>   trust;

>   mutual respect;

>   open communication;

>   confidentiality.

Effective mentorship is likely to positively affect the professional and personal lives of both the mentor and mentee. Over time, as the mentee progresses in his/her career, the relationship may evolve into that of a peer-relationship. It is also natural that the relationship may come to an end. Both the mentor and mentee should remain mindful that over-dependence doesn’t occur and be willing to address any conflict or challenges as they arise.


Further information

Further information can be found in the following publication available from the NZNO library:

>    Donner, G., & Wheeler, M. (2007). A guide to coaching and mentoring in nursing. Geneva: International Council of Nurses.


Canadian Nurses Association. (2004). Achieving excellence in clinical practice: a guide to preceptorship and mentoring. Ottawa: Canadian Nurses Association; Donner, G., & Wheeler, M. (2007). A guide to coaching and mentoring in nursing. Geneva: International Council of Nurses.

Gopee, N. (2008). Mentoring and supervision in healthcare. London: Sage Publications; Canadian Nurses Association. (2004). Achieving excellence in clinical practice: a guide to preceptorship and mentoring. Ottawa: Canadian Nurses Association; Donner, G., & Wheeler, M. (2007). A guide to coaching and mentoring in nursing. Geneva: International Council of Nurses.

Simpson, M., & Beynon, C. (2005). Caring, connecting, empowering: a resource guide for implementing nursing mentorship in public health units in Ontario. Ontario: Public Health Education, Research and Development.

Dorion, N. (2011). Nursing mentorship programs: Creating a culture of mentorship. SRNA Newsbulletin, 13(1), 27-27; ; Canadian Nurses Association. (2004). Achieving excellence in clinical practice: a guide to preceptorship and mentoring. Ottawa: Canadian Nurses Association.

Sambunjak, D., Straus, S., & Marusic, A. (2009). A systematic review of qualitative research on the meaning and characteristics of mentoring in academic medicine. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25(1), 72-8.