Why finding the right mentor is key for budding nurse researchers

Mentors are vital in developing a nursing researcher career, their support and the support of experienced teams can build the next generation of research leaders

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As an editor and professor I talk to many clinical nurses and nurse researchers about career development. I emphasise the importance of seeking out supportive mentors and connecting with experienced research teams.

Finding the right mentor or research team may not be that simple for a novice or early career nurse. It is important to consider not only the area of research focus but also the ‘fit’ and the ability to work together. Successful mentoring requires the mentee to feel comfortable as part of the team, to receive feedback and to take risks as part of learning the craft.

The first place to start looking for mentors is local research groups. Searching university and health services websites can help to identify suitable mentors. While mentors do not necessarily need to be nurses, choosing a mentor outside your profession needs thought. Consider the intended purpose of the mentoring. If the focus is on developing a career as a nurse researcher, then it is likely that a nurse mentor will offer the most benefit.

Social media can help you find nurse researchers working in your area of interest

Investigate professional organisations providing research mentorship schemes. The UK’s National Institute for Health Research offers a range of career development programmes to multidisciplinary health professionals, while Sigma Theta Tau International has a regular mentoring programme for nurses. These schemes provide structured mentoring with experienced mentors.

Social media has enhanced the ability for people at all career stages to establish and grow professional networks internationally. Platforms enable you to find and follow other nurse researchers working in your area of interest. Not all people using these platforms will engage with their followers but responding to tweets can open a conversation.

Our commentary, How to use social media successfully in nursing research, provides top tips for using social media and building your profile. It is timely to consider engagement in this space.

Working as a nurse researcher can be lonely and challenging. Many nursing research leaders talk about how their career developed through support from mentors. Reaching out to others and exploring the opportunities available will help build capacity and develop the next generation of research leaders.

Find out more

How to use social media successfully in nursing research

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Elizabeth HalcombElizabeth Halcomb is professor of primary healthcare nursing, School of Nursing, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia and editor of Nurse Researcher