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Teaching, precepting, mentoring, guiding, or instructing are all used interchangeably when describing the role that one takes to teach another in any setting. Effective and passionate role models, who are willing to guide another to learn in the work or school environment, are pivotal to the success of an organization.

Mentoring or teaching in the academic nursing setting serves to promote the advancement of nurses in both clinical and academic work environments.  Precepting in nursing, which most often occurs in the clinical setting, promotes the use of role modeling and shadowing to build specific skill-sets required for the specialized field of nursing. Guiding and instructing in the nursing academic and work settings consist of mentoring, precepting, role modeling, and input from staff in administrative positions.

Nurses Teaching Nurses

            As an operating room nurse, I was blessed to have a wonderful nurse preceptor. She was extremely generous with the knowledge that she had gained over a very long nursing career. Her willingness to spell out each procedure using visual diagrams and thorough explanations helped me to excel. She taught me the surgical procedures, the instruments to be used, the technique to follow, the descriptions of the temperaments of the surgeons for whom I would work, and the way to deal with difficult personalities of the environment. She approached each surgical case with a tenacity of spirit and a drive to provide the very best possible care for each patient…every time. To this day, she embodies the truly compassionate art associated with nurses teaching nurses.

            I have been blessed with learning the challenging and unique aspects of nursing from some incredible nurses. I have also learned valuable lessons from those who gave credence to the adage that nurses eat their young.  Despite the challenges of navigating the stress associated with those lessons, I have continually modeled the positive behavior of strong nursing preceptors to contribute to the profession. Part of being a strong nursing preceptor or educator is having the ability to recognize the talent around us. When I was working as a clinical educator, I knew that there was a plethora of talent around me. There was a proverbial treasure trove of experience and untapped potential everywhere I went. It was my job to provide education and guidance while ensuring that competencies were met. However, I also felt that it was my responsibility to tap into the potential around me. I encouraged nurses to develop short presentations to share with the staff on topics that impacted their work environments and patient populations. The unofficial program was called simply, “Nurses Teaching Nurses.” Who better to speak to the department about significant issues and patient concerns, than the nurses who had to deal with it every day?

            We have so very much to learn from one another. It is so important that we are open to sharing our experiences and to be willing to teach others. Not only does the simple act of sharing what we know serve to help the patients that we serve; it improves the work environment.

When Should We Seek Guidance?

            Asking for help and guidance is an important component of learning. The relationship between the student and the faculty member or clinical preceptor should find its foundation in open communication and mutual respect. The faculty member, academic administration, clinical preceptors, and leaders are required to facilitate a learning environment that promotes a just culture, is conducive to learning, and aids students achieve desired didactic and clinical outcomes.1 Likewise, the nursing profession is required to abide by professional standards and a code of ethics. These standards and codes of ethics serve as a guiding force throughout the nursing career. In all of the interactions, nurses have while caring for patients and representing an institution.

What About Mentoring?

Students require strong mentoring to understand his or her potential role as a nurse. Further, faculty members, mentors, and preceptors also require mentoring to be effective leaders in the classroom and clinical areas. Providing active mentorship during the novice educator’s transitioning phase is a helpful strategy that is useful for enhancing effective transitioning for the new educator.2 Therefore, effective mentoring programs provide a strategy for improving retention in nursing.2 Further, equal importance is placed upon the facilitation of positive mentor/preceptor-to-student relationships while they transition into the role.

The National League for Nursing (NLN) created an excellence model to identify eight core elements necessary to attain and maintain excellence in the nursing profession. Additionally, the NLN stressed that the nurses need to understand the principles that are fundamental to their profession, use technology to manage and find information, and be leaders and agents for change.3

The American Association for the Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicated that the United States faces a major nursing shortage and increased workforce opportunities in the next eight years.4  In 2011, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) (formerly the Institute of Medicine (IOM)) recommended that all nurses have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) by the year 2020.5​  The NAM’s recommendations create an emergent need to increase the nursing faculty and staff nursing workforce. Nursing is one of the many vocations in which a growing need for improvement of workforce retention exists. 

In the wake of a nursing faculty shortage, there is a need to retain current faculty and recruit new faculty. Academic institutions and health care facilities are responsible for the retention of nursing faculty. An important component of maintaining work environments conducive to retention of the nursing faculty workforce is associated with the provision of adequate mentorship. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) indicated that the primary problems facing healthcare are: financial constraints, healthcare workforce shortages, the changing needs of an aging population, which have prompted a national dialogue on the need for new healthcare models to meet the healthcare demands of the 21st century, facilitation of working nurses’ abilities to participate in continuing education programs and increasing healthcare information technology demands.  Medical schools, institutions, practitioners, and students will be required to create strategies for coping with the increased volume of new information and changing patient demographics.6

Improving the Student-Faculty/Mentor/Preceptor Member Relationship through Mentoring

            Mentoring is a critical component to the success of a program and the nurse. Mentoring is a relationship between a seasoned and novice professional that aids in developing the novice individual to be a productive component of the team. The goals of mentoring are to assist the novice faculty member in overcoming obstacles encountered in daily work, improving individual productivity, and increase employee satisfaction.7 Mentoring is effective for the faculty member and contributes to the increased awareness on the part of the student via interaction, sharing of enthusiasm, and formulation of new insights that contribute to the advancement of teaching styles.

There are many issues to consider when mentoring or receiving mentorship. The nursing profession has a responsibility to remain vigilant regarding influences that change the direction of not only the profession but in nursing education.  Further, nursing educators must work to adapt the changes in a curriculum to model the changes that occur in society, political climate, demographics, economics, workforce trends, and any external or internal issues that may influence change in the way nurses deliver care.8 For change to occur in a curriculum and to build meaningful learning experiences for students, nursing educators need to prepare the nursing student by continually analyzing those forces that impose change and encouraging interpersonal dialogue between students and in the student-faculty/mentor/preceptor relationship.8 Therefore, there is a need for academic administration to construct methods for assessment and to provide the tools to monitor changes as they relate to curriculum design and redesign. Imposing change without assessment and communication will create an ineffective learning environment.

Types of Mentoring Processes and Strategies

Other researchers contend that mentoring effectively enhances cultural diversity in the profession of nursing and academia. Four effective mentoring strategies to encourage academic success consist of communication, professional leadership, confidence-building activities, and students. Further, successful mentoring programs are dependent upon a strong organizational infrastructure.9 Shadowing is another method of mentoring. The literature indicated that shadowing is now a tool for medical residents. The assignment of medical residents to nursing staff, as each makes patient rounds, serves to educate the resident about the role of the nurse.10 Sternszus et al. ‘s 2012 study served to identify the importance of residents as role models, and the impact role modeling had on undergraduate medical students.10


1National League for Nursing (NLN). (2021). Core values.

2Culleiton, A. L., & Shellenbarger, T. (2007). Transition of a bedside clinician to a nurse educator. MEDSURG Nursing, 16(4), 253-257.

3National League For Nursing (NLN). (2006). Excellence in nursing education model.

4American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2014). Nursing shortage fact sheet. Retrieved from

5Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. (pp. 221-254). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from

6Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). (2010). Addressing new challenges facing nursing education: Solutions for a transforming healthcare environment. Retrieved from:

7Kapustin, J.F. & Murphy, L.S. (2008). Faculty mentoring in nursing. Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing 8(4).

8Veltri, L. M., & Warner, J. R. (2012). Forces and issues influencing curriculum development. In In D.M. Billings & J.A. Halstead (Eds.), Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (4th Ed., pp. 92-104). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.

9Wilson, V., Andrews, M., & Leners, D. (2006). Mentoring as a strategy for retaining racial and ethnically diverse students in nursing programs. Journal of Multicultural Nursing & Health (JMCNH)12(3), 17-23.

10Sternszus, R., Cruess, S., Cruess, R., Young, M., & Steinert, Y. (2012). Residents as role models: Impact on undergraduate trainees. Academic Medicine, 87(9), p 1282–1287. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182624c53

Part Two of this article will publish tomorrow.

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Nancy Bellucci, Ph.D., MSN-Ed. RN, CNE, CNOR

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