March 11, 2020

Mentor and mentee find common ground by exchanging stories about nursing experience

Flight nurse Mia Torres, BN'15, and fourth-year student Jennifer Bohn share passion for healthcare and learning from each other

The nursing foyer is abuzz with students in scrubs scrambling to get their work done as fourth-year nursing student Jennifer Bohn stands quietly in the middle of it all. Her head is buried in a personal project. Recently back from a nursing student conference in Montreal, she’s feeling inspired by the people she met and motivated to explore what it means to be a nurse.

Bohn’s mentor, Mia Torres (BN’15), has stopped by the foyer to meet and talk about mentorship before she leaves town again, that night, on a flight back to Yellowknife.

Torres manages two demanding jobs — one as a flight nurse tending to the primary and critical care needs of patients in northern communities, and another as an ICU nurse at the Peter Lougheed Centre. Bohn is an undergrad with an affinity for mental and community health, and for writing poetry. Together, they share a passion for health care and a drive to learn from one another.

A friend and a safety net

Torres and Bohn may have unique interests but they have found common ground in their mentorship experience. They agree that the safety net mentoring provides gives their relationship value, and exchanging stories about their experiences fuels their curiosity.

Bohn appreciates her mentor’s objective point of view while Torres is willing to be there when Bohn reaches out: her only ask is that communication stays open.

“It’s being able to hear from the mentee that they’ve taken away something,” says Torres. “For the mentor, you want to be able to give. You need to have a strong foundation and a mentee who’s willing to communicate.”

For Bohn as mentee, the mentorship feeds a desire to learn and to meet others who can offer insight and inspiration. She has started a practicum in mental health at Rockyview General Hospital and may need support as issues arise — and will undoubtedly have experiences to tell Torres about — as she finds her way as a new nurse. 

“It’s great to have someone objective, a friendship and a support,” Bohn says. “The biggest part for me is just having Mia come from such a different area and background in nursing that I haven’t been exposed to yet.” Turning to Torres, she adds: 

“I love hearing about your stories and what you’ve learned and what you’ve done.”

Torres makes an effort to focus on her mental health patients, tying in with Bohn’s interest in that specialty and also to tell stories about the ups and downs of life up north. For mentors, being able to share their experiences with a mentee is important for their personal and professional growth.

“It’s eye-opening,” Bohn comments. “It’s one thing to hear a story on the TV or on the Internet, but it’s another to have a personal connection with somebody and be able to ask questions.”

NurseMentor Mia Torres and Jennifer Bohn

Mia Torres, BN'15 is a flight and ICU nurse; Jennifer Bohn is a fourth-year UCalgary Nursing student

Preparing for transition

The pair is already making plans for a shadow shift in the spring when Bohn finishes her practicum. In this scenario, Bohn will observe an eight-hour day in the ICU and do rounds with doctors while Torres works. She will get exposure to everything on the unit and to other types of nurses working there — and maybe a chance to do a head-to-toe assessment with her mentor right there to assist.

As a graduate of the UCalgary Nursing program herself, Torres is tuned in to Bohn’s needs as a student on the verge of graduation.

“Coming up to term 8 you’re talking about everything else nursing,” Torres says. “What’s your plan after? When are you planning to write the NCLEX? Or thinking about shift work life…”

Mentorship has allowed Bohn to open up with questions she might not want to ask an instructor or preceptor.

“With Mia it feels more like a friendship,” she says. “She’s more there to support me and I can maybe say things that I wouldn’t necessarily say to my instructor where I’m wondering if that changes the way they see me as an academic or as a professional.”

That opportunity to get advice in confidence, and to have guidance through transition is a real boost for student nurses.

“It’s really scary moving from a student nurse to a new grad nurse,” says Bohn. “And so knowing that Mia has done it, and she’s very willing to give me tips and help me through this transition, has been a really nice safety net.”

Torres adds, “As a student nurse it means the world to be able to put your anxieties at ease. You just need validation.”

NurseMentor is UCalgary Nursing’s online mentoring program that connects alumni RNs with student nurses for professional and personal growth. For more information, visit nursementor.ca