Isn’t it Time for a Mentorship Re-boot?
Written by Vivian Campagna, DNP, RN-BC, CCM
This blog was originally posted to https://allnurses.com/
Mentoring has long been a crucial link in the chain of professional development for case managers. Over the course of my own career, mentors nurtured my development and shared real wisdom to help me become a better case manager. And mentoring others—watching them overcome challenges large and small and seeing them advance to positions of authority in their own right—has been among my greatest joys.
A casualty of the pandemic, mentoring has slipped down the priority list for many as a host of new concerns soak up time and energy. For the mature case manager, increasing workloads crowd out time that used to be set aside for mentoring. And for many younger case managers, mentorship competes with new work and family demands. Isolation and requirements to be physically distant have created more reasons to simply put mentoring on hold.
The Commission for Case Manager Certification has kept its finger on the pulse of the pandemic’s impact on certificants personally and professionally. It’s not just about the virus and its direct impacts; surveys reveal a range of negative financial, physical and emotional effects. Rather than internalizing these challenges and fighting the battle in isolation, mentorship is a means to share concerns and solutions. Case managers should be renewing rather than suspending mentorship.
When feeling overwhelmed or defeated, a front-line case manager may not always believe that they can go to their manager for advice. It could be perceived as complaining or weakness, especially when everyone is feeling the strain. In contrast, connecting with a mentor can refresh like water in the desert.
Who should reopen the mentoring conversation? Both mentors and mentees should feel inspired to take the first step. For the mentee, re-engaging with a mentor can be energizing and liberating—a personal statement that circumstances will not defeat you. Even if setting up regular mentorship sessions can’t be immediate, formulate a timeline that’s reasonable for both parties to get your mentorship back on a regular cadence. Then assess your goals (both short-term and long-term) and start planning. Create a list of questions or topics to discuss with your mentor. This is designed to be your growth opportunity, so you should be driving the agenda and identifying the areas for advice and guidance.
From the mentor’s viewpoint, I can tell you that there is nothing so energizing as giving counsel and support to another case manager. If you are a mature case manager and have not been mentoring lately, it’s time to pay it forward again. The rewards will both surprise and delight you.
For example, my colleague Ellen Mitchell and I have been connecting with CCM exam takers to help them build skills and knowledge needed for success. These small outreach opportunities are not just dry, informative sessions to educate the case manager on the other end of the telephone line. We ask them about questions or concerns they may have. We want them to set the focus for the call. And while we encourage their professional growth, they’re keeping us sharp and reinvigorating us, too.
Mentors far and wide tell us that they get more from mentoring than they believe their mentees receive. It’s an ancient form of passing along knowledge, and its success record is well documented. And at times I learn some new knowledge and ways to practice along the way!
You don’t have to have a formal relationship to gain from mentoring another case manager. Consider how encouraging it is to be on the receiving end of a call or email from a past mentor who is just checking in on you. And then, there is the joy of an unexpected message from someone you mentored in the past and have lost touch with that brings back warm feelings. At this unprecedented time, the warmth of human relationships has never been more valuable.
The next generation of case managers needs good mentors. But before you pick up the phone or write that email, be sure to take stock of your own stressors and assess your self-care efforts first. Are you taking time to breathe and focus on the positives in your life? It’s critical to ensure you’re leading from strength rather than need. If the answer is yes, then be ready with some concrete stress-relief tips your mentee can use, too, like taking a walk, practicing mindfulness and getting enough sleep. The Commission’s Push Pause video series can offer both inspiration and techniques to pass along.
Mentorship is a relationship built with trust and time. Although it often includes teaching a new skill or offering advice, the mentor is also the person who listens, offers emotional support and brings perspective. Especially during the pandemic, mentors should lead with a status check: “How are you doing?” and “What’s keeping you up at night?” followed by a wide-open invitation to express feelings and fears. It may be the most valuable lesson of your mentoring career.