You may be an expert Nursing Professional Development (NPD) Practitioner. Or you may be brand new to the professional development role. Allow me to ask you both the same questions: “Do you have a mentor?” And, “Are you mentoring others?”
I distinctly remember my first mentor, Laura (Gasparais) Vonfrolio. She remains a strong presence in the world of adult critical care nurses, offering critical care nursing certification review courses as well as authoring electronic learning modules and reference books on the subject. I had an “aha!” moment when I heard Ms. Gasparis describe how to interpret 12-lead EKGs. She was a dynamic and engaging speaker and she gave me exactly the information I needed in exactly the way I could understand. During a break, I asked if I could take Ms. Gasparis to lunch. She took me under her wing and over the next few months helped me establish my own health education company. She was gracious and generous with her time and advice. I have had many other mentors over the years. Some pushed me to go to graduate school. Others encouraged me to present posters. Some, like Weatherly Brice, our current ANPD Convention Content Planning Chair whom I have the pleasure to work with, have allowed me the freedom to expand my professional limits.
These mentors integrate ANPD’s Roles and Responsibilities into their professional lives:
“Mentor. The NPD practitioner advances the profession by contributing to the professional development of others and supporting life-long learning as individuals develop across practice, professional and educational settings”1.
All of them share what I call The Flower Pot Theory. Plants, when placed in a small pot, never grow beyond the border of that pot. Their roots become entwined and bound. Their leaves turn pale and they do not flower. Place a plant in a larger pot, however, and, while it may be shocked initially, the plant quickly adapts, grows, and flourishes.
Strong mentors help us grow by placing us into a pot we might think is too big. They may be the one moving our pot where others can see us. Mentors are always the colleague providing the nurture we need to grow.
I try to use the Flower Pot Theory with the colleagues I mentor. I challenge them: “Of course you can do that. I’ll help get you started.” I acknowledge that change can be scary: “I understand. I’ve been in that place, too.” I keep them informed of opportunities that might interest them: “You have GOT to submit that as an abstract to ANPD’s Convention.”
You may not know it, but you already mentor people around you during your daily practice. You role-model the qualities that make NPD practitioners well respected and valued colleagues. You encourage and advocate for the profession. Reach out to someone who expresses an interest in what YOU do. Offer them advice. Be a sounding board. Share yourself. You may never realize the impact you have on someone’s work and life.
And if you don’t have a mentor, now is the time to find one. Call, write, or walk up to someone whose work you appreciate. “Will you be my mentor on this project?” It’s a simple request for a great start.
It’s spring. What a wonderful time to start growing.
1Harper, M., & Maloney, P. (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Association for Nursing Professional Development.