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Finding your path in nursing

Use mentorship to help guide you as you navigate your nursing career

We all got into nursing for various reasons but caring for people was my top reason. Increasingly, we live in a world where employers are demanding more and more education and expertise in order to address the evolving and complex needs of patients and stay on top of the latest practice trends.

When I speak with colleagues, I know more and more nurses are considering how they can continue to enhance their practice. Over the course of my 40-year career, I’ve realized that there are a number of different pathways nurses can take to grow their skills and expand their experiences, but you need to know where to look.

That’s where mentors can have such a tremendous impact. I’ve been lucky to have many mentors in my life, throughout my nursing career, in my volunteering roles and in my personal life. Each of them has played such an important role in helping shape me into the nurse and person I’ve become. I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of finding a mentor early in your career.

It is not easy to be a nurse in today’s fast-paced environment. As we all know, nursing is a challenging and often overwhelming career and having a connection to another nurse at a different stage of their career who can offer advice and guidance is extremely valuable.

When I worked in labour and delivery, I was fortunate to work with an amazing, compassionate group of nurses who mentored me through those wonderful times but also guided me when times weren’t great. I learned through observation, discussion and taking any in-service or educational opportunity offered. I wanted to be doing the best wherever I was nursing.

When my mother-in-law was ill, she let us know her wish was to die at home. At the time, this was totally foreign to me and I was unsure I could manage this alone. However, I worked closely with wonderful palliative care nurses from Saint Elizabeth and hospice doctors who offered tremendous support when I needed it. “You got this!” they said. “We will mentor, guide and help you and your family through this journey together.” Not only did their support help me fulfill my mother-in- law’s request, it also changed my career path and started a new chapter for me in palliative care nursing.

Since then, I’ve moved into community nursing and have become a palliative care champion. Through mentors from my team, Hospice of Windsor and Essex, and my patients, every day I learn so much.

Having mentors has not only helped me in my own career, it has also helped me be a better teacher and educator, whether I’m working with my patients and their families, precepting students or helping to guide new staff.

Find a mentor in your workplace, make a plan, find a few minutes or more every week to connect and talk. You’ll be impressed by how happy they are to share their journeys and challenges and help you explore your career path.

Now that I am a mentor, I try to encourage my colleagues to develop themselves into the best nurses they can be. As nurses, we know some days are wonderful and others are challenging. What gets you through those harder times is remembering that at the heart of it is the patient and their family. To deliver true patient-centred care you need to be well-informed and well-educated.

Pursuing continuing education is a great way to build on your knowledge. More and more nurses are also choosing to take additional courses to develop specialized knowledge in an area of practice. There are a wealth of options from which RPNs can choose — from disease-related specialties like diabetes management or oncology, to those focused on specific patient populations like maternal, newborn or palliative care. RPNs interested in pursuing a specialty should peruse course offerings at their local college or visit, which provides an impressive collection of online college courses.

WeRPN’s professional practice team also leads a suite of different courses and workshops each year. From Leadership to Patient Centred Care to Role Clarity, there are a number of dis- counted courses that our members can take advantage of.

More and more, we’re seeing RPNs in new leadership opportunities and taking different paths other than bridging to the RN program to get them where they want to be. While bridging might be a good option for some, there are so many other opportunities for RPNs to consider.

There’s no one “right path,” you just need to find the path that’s right for you. Life happens and changes occur. You may start your career in one practice area and end in another. But always remember to take a look inside to see what will make your nursing life more fulfilling. At the end of the day, it’s your livelihood, and hopefully you will be doing it for a long time. The opportunities are endless. I encourage you to start exploring.


Linda Keirl
WeRPN President

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