Using Connection to Facilitate Mentorship in Nursing

Thank you to Rachel Rotramel, RN, MSN, CCRN, RN-BC for this article on improving mentorship in nursing using connection.

Mentorship is the mutually beneficial relationship between mentor and mentee. A mentor is an experienced role model and leader who offers support and guidance to an often younger or less-experienced mentee. Mentorship programs are becoming more prevalent in nursing as they improve retention and decrease burnout.1 One will seek a mentor for guidance and support, necessitating relevant clinical experience and professional prowess. Communication skills for successful mentorship are essential and can be strengthened by harnessing the power of authentic connection. Optimizing skillful connection can greatly impact the success of mentorship programs. Moreover, continual education, personal and professional development, and awareness of current issues in nursing will drive successful outcomes.

Nurse Burnout Prevention with Mentorship

Preventing burnout and improving the retention of nurses continue to challenge the nursing profession. The staples of burnout syndrome include holistic exhaustion that impacts all areas of life – mental, physical, and spiritual.2 Recognizing the symptoms of burnout can aid in prevention, as nursing colleagues can readily identify warning signs and recommend a plan of action to their peers, students, and staff.11 These signs include absenteeism, depersonalization, cynicism, and exhaustion.3 In addition to work-related stress that has only been strained by the recent pandemic, nearly one-third of nurses have considered resigning, and around 46% of survey participants felt undervalued by their organization.4 Thus, burnout prevention strategies are critical to retaining a nursing workforce.

Transformational leadership styles can improve workplace culture and empower staff.5 Compassionate leadership fosters autonomy, growth, belonging, and contributions to the profession.5 By prioritizing collaboration, connection, and shared decision-making, compassionate leaders advocate for the support of nursing staff, which promotes positive outcomes. Compassion and communication are essential principles at the core of nursing care.6 Without those defining principles in their work, nurses may feel disillusioned, become increasingly prone to burnout, and ultimately leave the profession. Nursing leaders can combat declining retention and engagement rates by practicing transformational leadership and role-modeling compassionate care.

The Power of Connection in Nurse Mentoring

Loneliness is often overlooked when assessing health determinants. Not only does loneliness impact about one-third of those living in industrialized countries, but it is also associated with negative effects on mental and physical health.7 Nurses may self-isolate as a coping mechanism when attempting to deal with work-related stressors. Some will struggle to find others outside of work who understand their specific work-related situations. Not only may nurses feel as if they do not have adequate support outside of work, but they may also feel unsupported in their organizations. To combat isolation and loneliness, nursing leaders can promote compassionate connection with each other to foster healing, resilience, and professional growth.

According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development (the longest-running study on happiness) the key to happiness is cultivating relationships.8 Developing authentic connections and relationships may prove difficult for some, especially those with compassion fatigue and signs of burnout. Indeed, a fundamental aspect of connection with others is prioritizing self-care practices.

Without the proper mindset and intent on compassionate connection, one can be limited in one’s ability to participate in meaningful conversations adequately. Therefore, nourishing self-care practices can greatly improve the quality of personal and professional relationships, as one can effectively prepare for deep, purposeful conversations. For instance, if a mentor is half-heartedly participating in a mentor-mentee interaction, the mentee will often sense the diminished energy and enthusiasm, leading to sub-optimal conversations and coaching opportunities.

Mentors can enhance their leadership and communication skills by integrating coaching principles and compassionate connection with themselves and others. To start, through intentional self-leadership, mentors can take ownership of their wellness and seek opportunities for self-development. As the nurse leader expands their capacity for personal and professional growth, they can incorporate their learning and experience into a mentorship role. The mentee can gain further insights through the mentor’s role modeling.

Coaching Techniques to Facilitate Meaningful Conversations

Coaching and mentoring have long been vital to fostering growth in the nursing profession. Below are several coaching techniques utilized in the nurse coaching specialty to encourage client achievement of goals and provide a space for client exploration, expression, and connection.


Presence offers the gift of self by entering a shared experience with full attention, non-judgment, and empathy.9 A core nurse coaching competency is remaining fully present, centered, and grounded throughout the coaching interaction.9 Techniques to increase presence during interactions include:10

  • Remove distractions.
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact.
  • Remain relaxed yet alert.
  • Keep feet grounded on the floor when seated.
  • Walk slowly and with intention.
  • Be cognizant of body language and mirroring.

Deep Listening

Attentive listening is a core component of effective communication. Giving others the space to express themselves fully is powerful. Silence is a key tenant of therapeutic communication and is often used when deeply listening to others. Deep listening ensures understanding and clarity of what is said and promotes forward movement towards goal achievement.9


A curiosity mindset allows the conversation to stay non-judgmental and promotes the ability to ask meaningful questions. Authentic curiosity differs from gathering information in that the latter can be self-serving.10 Curiosity inspires growth and reflection rather than merely gaining assessment data. Reframing questions to elicit thoughtful responses can deepen the conversation and, in turn, enhance the understanding of participating parties.

Powerful Questions

Through powerful inquiry, one can discover transformation through insight and reflection. Keep your questions short, direct, and open-ended.10 Powerful questions can spark meaningful conversations when fueled by a genuine curiosity and intent to serve. Some questions during a coaching and mentoring conversation include (Giza & Lapides, 2018):

  • How can I support you?
  • What do you need from our conversation today?
  • What’s your greatest challenge in this moment?
  • What do you need more of?


Facilitating meaningful conversations can contribute to powerful insights that will enhance the nursing profession. Encouraging nurse leaders to engage in a mentor role can reinvigorate personal passions for nursing and enhance nursing overall. Purposeful engagement with others is part of an optimal transformational leadership style. Nurses can develop a community by providing non-judgmental support that decreases loneliness and feelings of burnout. Giving someone full attention requires intentional self-care to continue providing optimal support. Overall, continual personal and professional development will enhance one’s ability to serve powerfully.


  1. Cavanaugh, K., Cline, D., Belfer, B., Chang, S., Thoman, E., Pickard, T., & Holladay, C. L. (2022). The positive impact of mentoring on burnout: Organizational research and best practices. Journal of Interprofessional Education & Practice28, 100521
  2. De Oliveira, S. M., de Alcantara Sousa, L. V., Gadelha, M. D. S. V., & do Nascimento, V. B. (2019). Prevention actions of burnout syndrome in nurses: an integrating literature review. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health: CP & EMH15, 64
  3. American Nurses Association. (2023). What is nurse burnout? How to prevent it. Accessed November 15, 2023.
  4. Hofmeyer A, Taylor R, Kennedy K. Fostering compassion and reducing burnout: How can health system leaders respond in the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond? Nurse Educ Today. 2020 Nov;94:104502. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2020.104502. Epub 2020 Jun 15. PMID: 32980180; PMCID: PMC7295512.
  5. Pattison, N., & Corser, R. (2023). Compassionate, collective or transformational nursing leadership to ensure fundamentals of care are achieved: A new challenge or non‐sequitur? Journal of Advanced Nursing79(3), 942-950.
  6. Vega, H., & Hayes, K. (2019). Blending the art and science of nursing. Nursing202249(9), 62-63.
  7. Park, C., Majeed, A., Gill, H., Tamura, J., Ho, R. C., Mansur, R. B., … & McIntyre, R. S. (2020). The effect of loneliness on distinct health outcomes: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research294, 113514.
  8. Waldinger, R. (2015). Harvard study of adult development. Accessed November 15, 2023.
  9. Southard, M. E., Dossey, B. M., Bark, L., & Schaub, B. G. (2021). The Art & Science of Nurse Coaching: The Provider’s Guide to Coaching Scope & Competencies (2nd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association.
  10. Giza, P., & Lapides, H. (2018). Transformative Nurse Coaching. The Nurse Coach Collective. Self-Published.
  11. American Nurses Association. (2023). Mentorship in nursing: benefits & why it’s essential. Accessed November 15, 2023.

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