Do you feel lost in your career? For new nurse practitioner graduates, the day to day of clinical practice is overwhelming and leads to self-doubt. For NPs with more experience, the daily grind can leave you feeling like you lack motivation or aren’t sure what’s next for your career. Wherever you fall on the career spectrum, it’s important to have an individual or two you look up to work-wise for motivation, guidance and help when you need it. But, does such an individual really exist?

The other day, I was talking with a family member who expressed to me that she wished she had a ‘best friend’. I thought about my own best friend situation and concluded that I also didn’t have one go-to buddy. Rather, I have a different BFF for categories in my life. I have a best running buddy. I have a friend I call when I’m feeling up for an international getaway. I have work comrades that I genuinely like to hang out with. I have a friend or two that I know has my back when I need emotional support. Different friends for different situations. Finding a workplace mentor is a lot like this. Different mentors for different areas of career support and growth. 

Identifying a mentor for your nurse practitioner career is difficult. Healthcare providers are busy. It’s not easy to find someone who practices in exactly the manner that fits with your personality and/or approach to medicine. So, rather than lament your inability to identify that all-inspiring individual, pick and choose your practice and life takeaways from a select a group of individuals. Ask a coworker if they mind answering your clinical questions. Grab coffee with a nurse practitioner that you feel has landed that elusive work-personal life balance. Observe a provider whose clinical knowledge is top notch or one who consistently receives positive feedback and emulate his or her bedside manner. Not only will you glean more from connecting with multiple providers, this also spreads your ‘asks’ among several individuals. You won’t become a burden ‘taking’ too much from one person. 

In my ten year career as a nurse practitioner, I’ve had a number of mentors. Some are physicians, some are NPs and PAs. Some of my mentors are men and some women. While I don’t look up to each of these individuals in the same way, I’ve identified certain characteristics of each that I can learn from. One physician took me under his wing and helped me drastically increase my clinical know-how when I transitioned to working in the emergency department. Another physician I coworker f mine has four kids, a full personal life and an admirable career. I look to her as an example of balance

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You probably won’t find (or will only rarely find) that all-in-one nurse practitioner mentor. But, before you write your coworkers and colleagues off as individuals who don’t match up to your standards, look for a positive attribute. There’s likely something you can learn from this provider. 

Who do you look up to as a mentor in your NP career? Have you found it difficult to identify mentors in your life as a nurse practitioner?


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