What's it like being an Alumni Workplace Mentor?

SPEAKING WITH LETETIA

Letetia Gibbs

What attracted you to the Alumni Mentoring program?
I was attracted to mentoring by my belief that the future of nursing and midwifery depends on retaining and building the resilience of our new recruits. I see the Mentoring Program as an opportunity to take an interest in the wellbeing of our new graduates.

When I saw the “Call for Volunteers” in the Alumni newsletter, I thought 'That’s a great idea! I wish I’d had my own mentor when I started out. I would like to be able to help someone else in that way.'

I remember my own new graduate year as one of the most exciting, but also one of the most stressful years of my life. The challenges in adjusting to shiftwork, time management in a busy and demanding ward, dealing with the public and strong personalities, and the responsibility that goes with real-life patient care all seemed overwhelming sometimes. In those days we were assigned a Ward Preceptor, but that person was really just there to help facilitate clinical skills competency, not necessarily the wellbeing of the new grads. In hindsight, I don’t know how I managed to muddle through. While a lot’s changed since then, many of the same issues still influence the wellbeing of our new grads. I’d like to be able to offer them a sympathetic ear and a hand adjusting to the demands of working life.

How did you connect with your mentee?
It’s pretty informal really, we just have a coffee and a chat. So far, I haven’t met a nurse who doesn’t drink coffee! I let my mentees do most of the talking and make a conscious effort to leave my own judgements out of it. However, I’m amazed at how much I can relate to the issues my mentees are discussing. There are many common themes. I’m really impressed with my mentees’ maturity and understanding of the system though. I’m not sure I was so well tuned in at that age.

What are the things you feel you are being able to offer your mentee?
Well, first of all my enthusiasm for the nursing profession. Also a sympathetic ear, and reassurance that their experiences in adjusting are normal. There’s always an upside or something to be learned from even the most difficult or challenging experiences. I offer guidance, constructive solutions and just some basic advice on how to deal with certain challenges. I also act as a point of referral to other specialty areas if I’m unable to answer some of the questions.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?
I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m making a difference to someone who is in the same situation I was once in myself. At the same time, I’m contributing to the future of nursing in Australia, a profession I really believe in. Giving something back to nursing just feels like the right thing to do. Being a mentor is also a great way to stay in touch with changes in the system that educates nurses and midwives. Staying connected to the new generation helps us all work better as a team.