The Value of a Mentor

Assistant Professor David Woodruff, MSN, RN-BC, CNS, CNE, currently teaches Pathophysiology I & II at Chamberlain’s Cleveland campus.

The most effective way to reach your potential as a nurse is to be mentored and to mentor. Mentoring is a form of influence that involves orientation, career advancement, problem solving, coaching and support. Successful people describe a mentor as someone who had a significant and positive impact on them. Mentors often act as a role model, friend, guide or coach.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I started teaching. In order to teach a concept, you have to have a much deeper understanding of it, and by teaching I learned about my weak areas and was able to strengthen them. Being mentored has helped me in many ways to become a better nurse, and being a mentor has allowed me to be able to pass on the wisdom that I so freely received. No matter where you are in your career, the value of a mentor is that they can help you be able to reach a higher level of potential.

Many famous people have had mentors, including:

  • Robin Williams, who was mentored by Jonathan Winters
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was mentored by Joe Weider
  • James Earl Jones, who was mentored by his literature professor, Donald Crouch
  • Jay Leno, who was mentored by Johnny Carson
  • Dr. Ruth, who was mentored by Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan
  • Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, who was mentored by Dr. Arthur Walker, her Stanford physics professor


Make a commitment to your career that you will seek out mentors and become a mentor to those who are not as far down the path as you are. The first step is to look around you for people who might serve as a good mentor. It might be that you want to look outside of nursing. I have had mentors who are business people, clergy and even marketing experts.

Although mentors are commonly people who are further along in the profession than you are, the John Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson, was mentored by his mother, Sonya. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you can learn powerful lessons from.

Here are some guidelines to use when choosing a mentor. Mentors should be nurturing, positive and trustworthy. In addition, look for someone who has achieved a higher level of success than you have. Choose someone who is friendly and has your best interest at heart.

Keep in mind that your mentor will get as much out of the experience as you will. By mentoring, the mentor gets the opportunity to teach, which reinforces concepts and helps them to identify areas where they need additional work, and it provides positive feedback on the accomplishments that they have already made. By being mentored, you will have the opportunity to share in the wisdom and experience of someone who is more knowledgeable than you, and you will be able to gain insight from reflecting on your own experiences with the mentor.


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