In An inside look into mentorship: PART 1, mentor Lieutenant Anthony Russell MACN outlines his experience, now hear from the mentee, ENL Emma Bugden MACN on what she thought of the professional mentorship.

By Emma Bugden MACN, Project Manager – Optimum Thiamine Intervention Trial, Menzies School of Health Research

Applying for the ACN Emerging Nurse Leader program late in 2016 was a commitment to stretching out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar situations and learning about aspects of leadership currently obscure to me. I was very happy and proud to be awarded a place in the program – also keen to get started on the exciting and daunting list of activities. Part of the process would involve being matched with a mentor. There was a strong sense of anticipation around this – what kind of a person would I be matched with? What skills, experiences and qualities would this bring to my ENL journey? These were important questions to me, as I knew I would need help to bridge my deficits in knowledge and move to a higher level of function and understanding.

In April I was matched with Anthony. Darwin is close to Alice Springs isn’t it? I had to laugh as I explained that that is true in a relative sense, but it is actually 1,500kms away.

We first met by Skype on the 30th of April and I was immediately reassured by the fresh, energetic, smiling face before me. Anthony always approached our conversations with enthusiasm, excitement and intention. After reviewing the list of activities, we arranged to meet weekly by Skype in the evening and this continued for much of the remainder of the program. I brought up the subject of ACN’s International Nurses Day breakfast which was only 12 days away. It had been my intention to host an event but I had been unsure of how to approach some of the difficulties – and now it was getting almost too late. Anthony did not hesitate – “Just do it – it will be fine!” So I registered with ACN and hosted a morning tea including a guest speaker and display of information on post graduate nursing courses. About 50 nurses attended, creating a friendly and energetic vibe with plenty of networking, discussion and celebration of nursing. This was an affirmation for me of the power of ‘throwing your hat into the ring’ and following intention to make things happen. I had great support and assistance from Anthony and other inspiring nurses, in particular Jessie Anderson from Flinders who arranged for the Centre for Remote Health to contribute to catering and helped with the program in general. At the time of registering though, I had no idea how these things could happen and was not anticipating these gifts of practical, logistic and moral support. Without Anthony’s infectious encouragement and enthusiasm I would have let the opportunity go wanting.

Anthony was also a great role model for me, he has a very busy professional life with good social and self care balance. He offered me a variety of generous and useful practical suggestions over the course of the ENL. These on subjects as diverse as: using podcasts while exercising to help with time management; who to talk to about various specific spheres of nursing; different ways of planning for career progression and unusual career pathways that may fit my skill and interest set. I was truly grateful for the evident time and thought put into how to help me succeed – not only in the program but in my career into the future. Anthony created opportunities to introduce me to many different nurses able to give insightful advice and direction and this also had the effect of extending my professional network.

Having this enthusiastic, focused support from my mentor encouraged me to ‘reach for the stars’ in the ENL program. As a result, I was privileged to experience some extraordinary opportunities including: spending a day each with five different inspirational, high functioning nurse leaders; taking part as an observer in the NNEG meeting at the NNF; presenting at the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Conference and presenting a series of talks from Adelaide to Katherine on the benefits of the ENL program. These learning opportunities have enriched my understanding of leadership in nursing beyond what I thought was possible in one year. I was also very excited to receive a High Achievers Award along with my ENL certificate.

The ENL program is an excellently designed learning pathway which encourages moving outside the comfort zone in a constructive and supported way. The mentor relationship is a critical component and I feel very fortunate to have had the benefit of a committed, excited and skilful professional nurse in this capacity. I know my own mentoring practice will also benefit as I integrate some of the tools and techniques Anthony shared with me into my practice.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all of the inspiring nurse leaders – from students to EDONs, educators to administrators – who gave so generously of their time, skills and resources to help me during my ENL program. Especially my mentor!

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