Focus On: Mentorship with APNA Mentor Match

In 1977, while working as a staff nurse on an inpatient unit, Kathryn Johnson, NP first encountered a psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist. “That person became my first mentor, and influenced me to go to graduate school,” says Johnson. “I have been lucky enough to find excellent mentors in every job I’ve held. My mentors have been APRNs, psychiatrists and therapists of various clinical backgrounds. As with that first clinical nurse specialist, they have all played a significant role in shaping the kind of clinician I am today.”

Paying it Forward

Johnson joined Mentor Match, APNA’s online mentor matching tool, to ‘pay it forward’. “It’s especially vital that [psychiatric-mental health nurses] who have forged new ground be open to sharing that road map with nurses who would like to follow in our footsteps,” she says. Since joining the program, Johnson has mentored about a half dozen people, all of whom contacted her through the Mentor Match system. Her mentees have ranged from nurses new to the field to experienced colleagues who work in rural areas and are looking for discussion and connection.

Kathryn Johnson, NP

“In each case, we’ve set up an initial meeting by phone to discuss the person’s needs, their availability, etc.” she explains. Most of the mentorships have consisted of an initial phone meeting or two, with options to continue meeting on an as-needed basis, depending upon the mentee’s needs and goals. “So very little time is involved,” says Johnson. “I still hear from these people from time to time, and it’s been fun to watch people move along in their career.”

Anne Pollock, a new NP and one of Johnson’s mentees, is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt who lives in Tennessee. “As a newbie, I sometimes feel pretty overwhelmed. I have great support at work through other NPs, but was hoping for more of an opportunity where I could have 1-2 times a month of additional assistance and guidance,” she says. “So, when I found out about the mentor-mentee program through APNA, I was really excited. I found Kathryn right away, and her extensive experience as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and background intrigued me.”

Trying Out a New Way to Use APNA Mentor Match

Johnson lives in California, where she maintains a private practice as well as teaching as an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco. When Pollock contacted her via Mentor Match, she was at first hesitant to agree to the mentorship because she was in the midst of a weekly clinical supervision with one of her students.  Then she had a brainwave: “I decided to see if we could possibly make use of current video conferencing software and meet as a group of 3.”

The three (Johnson, Pollock, and Johnson’s student) decided to give it a shot. “We were unsure if it would work initially, but [Johnson] was kind enough to extend the offer of matching me with another mentor if necessary. I admit, I was hoping they would be okay with me joining!” says Pollock. “As a new NP, I have much to learn and am always looking to others around me for guidance. Lynn, the other mentee told me that Kathryn has expert knowledge in psychopharmacology, which is one area that I really could use guidance in.”

As for how the process is working out, Johnson says, “We’ve only had one meeting via Skype. We had a few technical difficulties.... We’re now looking forward to trying Go-to-Meeting. In the meantime, we’ve been carrying on an email discussion about a patient’s care plan, and I think we’ve been able to come up with some helpful suggestions.” Pollock agrees: “I was already able to present a tough case via email to Lynn and Kathryn and the responses were quick, and incredibly helpful. I have learned that this field of practice really is an art - medications don't work equally among people, and being able to share different cases, medication trials and even errors is invaluable. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for Kathryn's willingness to include me in her established group - the journey truly is just starting for me now!”

In the long term, Johnson hopes that this is an idea that other mentors and mentees will make use of.  “If we can make use of technology, I can see us acting like a peer supervision group, possibly continuing to meet for an hour, once-twice/month,” she says. “There’s no reason why others can’t do the same.”

An 'Easy Tool' for Forming Relationships with Colleagues

Mentor Match is an “easy” tool for making the most out of the network of colleagues that membership in APNA provides, according to Johnson. “Beyond the educational offerings from APNA, the value of actively participating in this organization has always been in the relationships I’ve formed,” she says. “Mentor match is simply another way to form cherished relationships with other psychiatric mental health nurses.”

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