Lee Shirland, MS APRN NNP-BC
A Welcoming Beacon During a Professional Hurricane
In celebration of the forthcoming Mentoring Toolkit, I wanted to share an updated version of an article that I wrote for NANN Central Lines in the fall of 2005, demonstrating the significant role that a mentor plays for the new neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). The Mentoring Toolkit, which provides your practice with the tools you need to develop mentoring relationships, will be available this spring.
Being a mentor is one of the most challenging and important components of nursing practice. It ensures the continuation as well as the longevity of our nursing force. What kind of beacon are you? I challenge you to examine how you precept or mentor new neonatal advanced practice nurses. Does your light provide warmth or a glare that makes the voyage more difficult?
The last two hurricane seasons were busy and stressful for those living on the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast. There barely was time for emotional, let alone financial, recovery before another storm arrived to batter weary residents. There were heartbreaking tales of personal loss and devastation. Some stories ended with thankfulness for lives saved, possessions spared, a neighbor’s kindness, or the generosity of an unknown benefactor. We can call these happy endings, a port in the storm, a lighthouse, or a beacon.
Changing jobs or positions can be a personal or professional hurricane. Without a beacon to guide you, you may become lost in a sea of technology, new responsibilities, and stress. You may become a casualty of the storm.
When I completed my master’s degree and entered practice as a new neonatal nurse practitioner, I found what I thought was the ideal job in Fayetteville, NC. Initially, my family could not relocate with me, so I was alone in an unfamiliar community, away from everyone I knew. That seemed trivial compared with the stresses of my new role. I was in a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with a completely new team of people to adjust to. My coworkers didn’t know anything about my knowledge base, skill level, or ability to function as a team leader in a crisis. I was challenged, questioned, and tested on a daily basis. I was experiencing a professional hurricane, and I wanted to feel safe again. Then a friendly light came shining through. Judy Philbrook, MSN NNP-BC, embraced me with warmth, listening to my feelings and anxieties and offering me reassurances. When I was being questioned in morning rounds, there came her soft whisper in my ear, “Think about this, you know the answer.” When I managed a difficult surgical infant on my own for the first time, I found a note in my mailbox: “I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful job you did managing baby H. This was a difficult case and you didn’t miss anything. Good job!”
Judy also was concerned about how I was making the difficult transition on a personal level. She became my trusted friend and confidant. Judy guided me safely to shore, making sure I was grounded firmly in my new home and practice. She enhanced my knowledge base and restored my self-confidence. In the warmth of her light, I began to grow into an experienced advanced practice nurse and not only did I become comfortable in my new role, I flourished in it.
I have been an NNP for nearly 22 years now and that mentoring relationship remains a significant part of my journey. I continue to confide in Judy and ask her for professional advice. We share a leadership role as co-coordinators of the Neonatal Advanced Practice Service (NAPS). Mentoring made a difference in my journey and can make a positive difference for any novice NNP. Learn how to become an effective mentor and positive influence on the practice and career of other novice NNPs. The Mentoring Toolkit will assist you in becoming that expert compassionate mentor.