This edition of Standards in Focus highlights the Standards of Practice and Conduct that speak to mentorship to help you reflect on and apply them in practice.
Several of the Standards speak to formal and informal mentorship expectations, while others speak to seeking mentorship and support from colleagues. 1
Category seven (VII) of the Standards is focused on leadership and states that licensed practical nurses apply leadership competencies in their practice, whether or not they practice in formal leadership positions. Standards related to mentorship state the following.
As an LPN, you must:
- Exercise professional judgment and critical thinking when assuming a charge role — and when supporting, supervising, and delegating to other health care providers, family members, and students — to ensure care is client-centred, is provided as per the plan of care, and is provided in accordance with institutional policies, protocols, and guidelines. (Standard 57)
- As a role model, resource, and mentor to those who are learning within the practice environment. (Standard 59)
- Advocate for and contribute to practice environments which support the mental, physical, and psychological well-being of other registrants and all members of the health care team. (Standard 60)
- Collaborate with colleagues to evaluate the quality of your practice and that of the health care team. (Standard 66)
Category five (V) of the Standards is focused on collaborative care and states that licensed practical nurses practise in partnership with clients and a team of health care providers using a participatory, collaborative, and coordinated approach. Standards related to mentorship state the following.
As an LPN, you must:
- Seek information and advice, when necessary, from authorized individuals who are competent to provide that information or advice. (Standard 45)
Mentorship in Nursing Practice
Mentoring may be informal or casual and includes offering advice, guidance, and support to others. Mentoring may also occur through more formal relationships, such as a structured, employer-based mentoring program.
A mentoring relationship is an open, supportive relationship between two participants. The relationship need not be limited by age, experience, education, or role. 2 A mentoring relationship may occur at any point in a nurse’s career. As nurses transition through the career stages of novice, competent, proficient, and expert 3 they may have various roles in mentorship relationships.
A novice or beginner LPN generally has less than two years of experience. This stage may also include an experienced LPN who is new to a practice environment. Standard 59 identifies that all LPNs will act as role models for novice LPNs in the practice environment. All LPNs have a role to play in the novice LPN’s development. At this stage, a novice LPN requires more support. The mentor promotes critical thinking, guides the mentee to follow policies and procedures, and provides direction to work independently. The duration of this stage varies, depending on the needs of the novice LPN. At this stage, a mentor may work closely with the novice nurse during the first weeks of employment. A novice nurse may also ask their mentor to oversee the performance of clinical procedures that the novice is performing for the first time.
A nurse is generally considered competent after practicing two to three years in the same environment. Standard 45 identifies that all LPNs will seek information and advice, when necessary, from authorized individuals who are competent to provide that information or advice. All nurses in the practice environment continue to be role models for LPNs as they become competent. At this stage, the mentee and mentor transition to colleagues. The mentor remains available and accessible to the mentee to address questions and concerns. A mentor may also give practical advice to the mentee, such as how to manage complex clinical situations.
A proficient nurse generally has three to five years of experience in the same practice area. Standard 66 identifies that the nurse collaborates with colleagues to evaluate the quality of their practice and that of the health care team. Proficient nurses continue to benefit from mentorship, but they also take on a more significant role in offering mentorship to others. At this stage, LPNs are expected to provide support, guidance, and role modelling to colleagues, unregulated health care providers, or any other health care team members regardless of their professional designation.
An expert nurse typically has over five years’ experience in the same practice area. Standard 57 identifies that the LPN exercises professional judgment and critical thinking when supporting other health care providers and students. Standard 60 specifies that the LPN supports the mental, physical, and psychological well-being of other LPNs and members of the health care team. An expert LPN can support LPNs and other health care team members through mentorship. At this stage, the expert nurse can use mentoring to facilitate best clinical practices and promote professional growth in fellow nurses and other members of the health care team. Therefore, a mentor must remain current with clinical policies and practices to best guide the mentee. 4 At this stage, an expert LPN in a formal leadership position also identifies leadership qualities in other nurses and informally mentors these nurses to take on formal and informal leadership positions.
Benefits of Mentorship
Mentoring aids in empowering both the mentee and the mentor and leads to professional and personal development.
The mentor receives satisfaction from helping a colleague develop self-confidence. They also can be acknowledged for their expertise while also developing their own leadership abilities.
The mentee benefits from the encouragement, networking, and confidence that is developed through the mentoring relationship, often leading to improved job satisfaction. 5
Many nurses will recall their own experiences as novice nurses or being new to a practice environment. They will understand how difficult it can be to transition into new roles without support from those more experienced. Through mentorship and support from colleagues, these transitions are made easier.
- Reflect on a time when you changed your nursing position or changed to a new practice environment. Did a colleague mentor you? If so, how did being mentored make the transition easier for you? Have you mentored a new employee at your worksite? If you were not mentored, reflect on how a mentorship might have impacted your transition. How do the Standards apply to the situation you reflected on?
- Think about those nurses and other members of the health care team who are new to your current practice environment. In what ways do you support their learning and development? Do you undertake actions such as informal mentorship, guidance, and role modelling? Do you see an opportunity to offer more support or to role model in a different way? How do the Standards apply in this situation?
- Reflect on your current practice and your vision for the future. Is there someone who inspires you or can act as a guide for you to achieve your vision? How might you establish a mentoring relationship? How do the Standards apply to this situation?
An LPN can benefit from participating in mentoring relationships throughout their career. Taking on both the role of mentor and mentee is a fundamental action that helps the LPN to meet the Standards of Practice and Conduct of the profession. Having the opportunity and privilege to educate and learn from peers can result in exponential professional and personal growth. 6
If an LPN determines that they would benefit from a formal mentoring relationship the LPN should talk to their employer to see if formal programs are in place. If the LPN identifies that they might benefit from guidance and support from a colleague, please reach out and ask them.
Continuously seek out opportunities to support others who are learning in your practice environment while remembering that colleagues newer to the profession will be looking to the experienced nurses as an example of what safe, compassionate, competent, and ethical care looks like in practice.
For further reading about mentorship in nursing, please see: https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/mentorship-in-nursing/
- CLPNM. (2021). Standards of Practice and Conduct. (Revised) Effective from December 1, 2021.
- Mijares, A., & Radovich, P. Mentorship in nursing: An interview with Connie Vance. Nursing Economic$. 2014; 32(2), 276-281. doi: 10.1097/NUR.0000000000000558
- Benner, P. Using the Dryfus model of skill acquisition to describe and interpret skill acquisition in nursing practice and education. Bulletin of Science Technology & Society. 2004; 24 (3), 188–199.
- Takvorian, L. CNNT Case Study: Importance of Mentoring in Nursing Education. National Kidney Foundation. 2015. https://www.kidney.org/content/cnnt-case-study-importance-mentoring
- Ericksen, K. Mentorship in nursing: The case for inspiring and guiding the next generation of nurses. 2018. https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/mentorship-in-nursing/
- Dominguez, B. The who, what, where, when and why of mentorship. Association of California Nurse Leaders. 2019.