Whether you’re a certified wound care nurse or clinical educator seeking to share your wisdom, mentorship in wound care is invaluable to healthcare staff at any stage in their career.

According to the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Certification Board (WOCNCB), there are almost 8,000 nurses certified in wound care. The wound care profession is a cohesive community of healthcare professionals who collaborate, share knowledge, network, and support one another, defining what mentorship in wound care is all about.

Many may think the term “mentorship” is synonymous with “preceptorship.” However, while precepting shares similarities with mentoring, mentorship in wound care can be vastly different.

Precepting is a method used to orient individuals with a particular work environment through teaching and clinical evaluation. Mentorships, on the other hand, are a collaborative effort intended to support the professional and personal development of wound care nurses and other healthcare staff.

Mentorships can also be formal or informal depending on the setting or relationship. Formal programs through a healthcare organization may match wound care specialists based on certain criteria, such as specialty area or license type, and include set objectives and guidelines. Informal mentorships can be created by approaching a senior colleague, leader, or friend to enter this partnership. Mentors and mentees can collaborate at any point without a formal program.

Becoming a Wound Care Mentor

Before becoming a mentor, first assess if a mentorship in wound care is the right choice for you. Make sure you embody certain qualities before entering this arrangement.

Ottamissiah “Missy” Moore, BS, RN, WCC, DWC, CHPN, CAEd, a nurse educator and mentor based in Washington D.C. and Wild on Wounds (WOW) speaker mentioned willingness and communication as key elements to being a successful mentor.

“One of the major qualities is the willingness to work with people who may not have as many skills as you, whether it’s clinical skills or soft skills,” she said. “Mentorship in wound care encompasses a lot, not only your professional life, but sometimes your academic life or your personal life. The other piece is that you have to be able to communicate well.”

As a mentor, you jump into different roles such as educator, supporter, and friend. You’re showing your mentee your adaptability and your knowledge goes beyond the clinical scope.

Trish Richardson, MSN, BSBA, RN, NE-BC, CMSRN, and Director of Post-Acute Care Solutions at Relias, added that leadership experience, effective communication and listening skills, and a pay-it-forward mentality can also play an important part in making the collaboration effective.

Mentors have many responsibilities, such as providing clinical education with wound management, offering career guidance, and supporting mentees through challenging or complex situations. All functions of a mentor are significant. However, Richardson added, in her experience, the most critical responsibility is modeling professionalism and leadership. Mentors can shape and impact future nurses and leaders in wound care, making this element even more pertinent.

At the start, you should set the goals both you and your mentee want to achieve and commit to a regular cadence of contact. By identifying these objectives, you may find that you share similar insights or aspirations. For instance, a mentor’s personal goals could be nurturing leadership skills, networking, or giving back to the industry. It’s important for you as well to be able to learn and grow from this experience.

“A mentorship has to 100% be a give and take on the part of the mentor and mentee” said Chris Recinos, PhD, RN, FNP, NEA-BC, a nurse mentor based in Los Angeles, California, and Founder of the Nurse Leader Network. “If the mentor isn’t learning something from the mentee, oftentimes the mentorship does not last very long.”

What you learn can be anything from new perspectives to ways you can improve yourself as a leader or mentor, she suggested.

Being a Wound Care Mentee

Mentorship in wound care allows mentees to expand their skill set, gain clinical perspective, network with colleagues, and feel supported in their role. To find a mentor, you can participate in a formal mentoring program or talk to your preceptor, colleagues, or leaders about connections or mentorships with them.

Before proceeding with a mentor, Moore suggested testing your compatibility with potential mentors through interviews and said this process works for mentors as well. With preceptorships, she added, you don’t always get to choose who you precept with, and you may not always be compatible with those colleagues. It’s important to take time to do this with your mentor.

In addition, Moore said, a mentee should know what they want to achieve from a mentorship.

“A mentor is someone that you choose that has some knowledge, skill, and ability you want them to impart to you,” she said.

Your aims may be to improve your clinical skill set or expand your network, or you may aspire to become a leader in the wound care industry. By identifying and sharing your ambitions, you and your mentor will be able to create and follow a plan at the onset. Being committed to the plan and sticking to a structured meeting schedule are also part of the constructs of a successful mentoring outcome.

And never underestimate the value of transparency and being open to criticism. Sharing your perspective, ideas, and feelings with your mentor is vital, especially if you feel your needs aren’t being met. Being prepared to give and receive feedback will ultimately strengthen the dynamic.

Benefits for Mentees

Richardson touched upon the extensive list of benefits for mentees paired with the right mentors.

“As a mentee, you’ll gain improved self-confidence, solid communication skills, enhanced goal-setting practices, and an appreciation for new and diverse perspectives,” she said.

Having a mentor helps you identify and express what you really want — personally or professionally — and as you realize your ambitions and plan to advance in your career, your mentor will be there to celebrate with you.

Mentees’ patient care skills can improve through being mentored. “A nurse that has been mentored mentors the patient,” added Moore, who has 36 years of nursing experience and 15 years of experience as a mentor.

The mentee helps patients understand the facets of their care and encourages them to participate in their care so they can better comprehend the process, said Moore. This can be especially useful in wound care cases that require at-home care.

Mentee-mentor relationships also allow you to enhance your clinical knowledge and professional skills and transfer this information onto your colleagues. For example, you may have learned a more efficient process to dress certain types of wounds. Sharing this information with your peers can improve how your team functions and can boost your confidence.

Benefits for Mentors

As a mentor, you impact the wound care profession as well as patient care. You provide more support and more education to wound care clinicians, and this translates into a skilled workforce that improves the safety and care environment patients experience.

Interactions with your mentee can also be energizing and offer a fresh perspective on the current state of the industry.

“I absolutely love mentees’ energy,” said Moore. “Their energy is contagious. They’re so willing to try new things — to engage with patients. Staff can be a little bit intimidating, and when [mentees] come, they’re really ready to learn some new things and put it into practice.”

Mentors have an opportunity to empower future professionals in the wound care community, and according to Moore, passing on the tradition of mentorship is the biggest reward a mentor can receive.

“The best thing that’s ever happened is that a mentee has decided they want to be a mentor,” she said. “That makes me feel good. Because that’s my gift to nursing — to mentor and precept other nurses. When they say, ‘I’m going to work on being a mentor too,’ that tells me my gift is going be given to somebody else, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Interested in connecting with other professionals in the wound care community? Explore what the Wild on Wounds conference has to offer. Register today!

Zelda Meeker

Zelda Meeker is a content marketing manager for the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI). At WCEI, she partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes.

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