Mentoring Nurses for Leadership Development

Nursing education extends beyond the classroom and into the field, where experienced nurses serve as mentors to guide and support those starting their professional journey. To keep this knowledge transfer going, healthcare organizations must be interested in developing leadership skills within their teams.

Recognizing the importance of leadership development, Radford University’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program provides the building blocks for future leadership. Through comprehensive coursework, nurses advance both their bedside skills and collaborative capabilities. For example, the RN Nursing Leadership and Management course explores various leadership styles, change management techniques and legal and ethical issues related to managing healthcare organizations.

Does Nursing Require the Transfer of Knowledge and Institutional Wisdom?

Nurse leaders who can transfer their knowledge and institutional wisdom to less experienced nurses ensure that newer generations receive valuable insights and skills. Mentorship is crucial for maintaining high standards of patient care, effectively navigating the ins and outs of complex healthcare environments and fostering continuous improvement within the profession.

Mentorship relationships are particularly important following COVID-19. Maryann Alexander, Chief Officer of Nursing Regulation at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), says that new nurse graduates’ practice readiness and proficiency are lower because they missed out on full clinical experiences during the pandemic. She told Becker’s Hospital Review that pairing a skilled preceptor with a new nurse can substantially boost patient safety and job satisfaction. Plus, mentors can inspire and encourage mentees, potentially guiding them toward new career pathways, like healthcare leadership.

“Hospitals with established programs that address the transition from education to practice (often called transition or residency programs) with a strong preceptorship/mentoring component had higher retention rates,” Alexander says, referring to findings from NCSBN data. “These new graduates made fewer errors, experienced less stress and had increased job satisfaction.”

How Do New Nurses Benefit From Mentoring?

According to Nursing World, mentoring is a one-on-one relationship that may last weeks or months but can sometimes last for years. While mentorship benefits both the mentor and mentee, it is particularly impactful for new nurses.

Mentees may experience:

  • Less stress
  • More career satisfaction
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • Expanded professional network
  • New insight into a nursing role
  • Ongoing constructive feedback and support

Types of Nurse Mentorship Roles

Becoming a nurse leader takes time, but experienced nurses typically assume one of three roles inside a coaching culture to ensure incoming colleagues have the knowledge to succeed:


Coaches focus on developing nurses’ practical skills so they can better manage their day-to-day responsibilities and strengthen job performance. They aim to expand a nurse’s skill set and mindset, building resiliency, clinical know-how and leadership traits.


Instead of homing in on skills development, mentors look at the bigger picture of a nurse’s career. “Mentors build trusting relationships with mentees and may serve as a sounding board in challenging or difficult situations encountered during growth and development,” notes nurse Sarah Handzel, writing for Wolters Kluwer. They can offer feedback on career changes and suggest strategies to achieve a greater work-life balance.


Unlike coaches and mentors, sponsors are even more forward-thinking. With a keen awareness of a nurse’s skill sets and goals, sponsors can identify job opportunities a future nurse leader might consider. “In many cases, sponsors can help open doors a future leader may not even know about,” states Handzel. This includes “helping nurse leaders from underrepresented groups, such as women or people of color, gain visibility and the respect of others within the organizations.”

What Skills Do Nursing Mentors Need?

Nursing mentors often benefit from having specific skills to enhance relationship development and facilitate learning among new nurses:

  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Active listening skills
  • Broad nursing and organizational knowledge

Developing leadership skills in nurses is integral to maintaining a robust and adaptive healthcare workforce. Through mentorship programs and supporting learning cultures in organizations, experienced nurses can pass on their knowledge and expertise to the next generation. With an RN to BSN earned online from Radford University, graduates are ready to learn how to receive and provide mentoring and development opportunities in their nursing careers.

Learn more about Radford University’s online RN to BSN program.

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