March 16, 2023
Sean Chilton, left, and Justine Bremner learned a lot as both mentor and mentee to each other thanks to the Nursing Mentorship Network. Bremner, team lead for CoACT Collaborative Care, says Chilton — a nurse himself as well as VP People, Health Professions and Information Technology — helped her access different opportunities, see AHS in a new light and gave her a better understanding of how to align her values with those of the organization. Photo by Evan Isbister.
Susan Alves, left, a clinical nurse educator in Edmonton Zone, enjoys a get-together with her mentor, Dawn Vallet-MacDonald, a provincial senior practice consultant, at the Brew & Bloom Café. “The connections you make and the discussions you have in the Nursing Mentorship Network are so valuable,” says Alves. Photo by Evan Isbister.
Story by Ashley Graydon | Photos by Evan Isbister
Nurses seeking to connect, collaborate and find support have a special friend in the Nursing Mentorship Network.
Susan Alves, a clinical nurse educator in Edmonton Zone, was among the first to join this welcoming group, which took shape in 2021 during the height of the pandemic.
At the time, Alves wondered where she should focus her master’s studies, and found the network an excellent place to connect and get tips from other nurses with completed degrees. She gained valuable insight on where to focus her future studies, and so much more.
“The connections you make and the discussions you have in the network are so valuable,” says Alves. “The monthly Community of Practice sessions put everything I was feeling into perspective — and helped with things like burnout and moving past the pandemic.”
Justine Bremner, team lead for CoACT Collaborative Care, also joined after participating in the Nightingale Challenge — an initiative inspired by the World Health Organization in 2020 to promote leadership and development opportunities for nurses and midwives, and embraced by AHS — and credits the network for her first mentorship experience.
“I also decided to become a mentee after hearing, in my master’s program, how impactful mentorship can be in the development of nurse leaders,” she says.
“I also noticed an AHS leader, whom I had seen speak several times — and who had a leadership story that really resonated with me — list themselves as a mentor. I knew this person had many skills and experiences that I could learn from, so I reached out to him. This led to a fantastic experience, and in the short time we spent working together, I was able to learn so much.”
Bremner says her mentor helped her access different opportunities, see AHS in a new light and gave her a better understanding of how to align her values with the organization. She also credits her mentor’s coaching for helping her land her current role.
Her mentor turned out to be none other than Sean Chilton, VP People, Health Professions and Information Technology for AHS, who’s also a registered nurse. Despite his busy schedule, Chilton believes in the importance of mentorship and always makes time for it.
“The mentorship work is really important to me and I have to admit I appreciate the mentorship I get from people I connect with,” he says. “As I’ve always said, it’s a little selfish of me becoming a mentor because it’s as much about me being mentored as it is about helping others. We agree up front, it’s about both of us taking on the mentee and mentor roles.”
Ultimately, Bremner’s experiences in the Nursing Mentorship Network are helping her to better support patient care.
“I realized that the way I want to be a nurse and provide patient care is to build and improve systems within AHS that support and empower frontline nurses in taking their own practice journey, and finding ways to be leaders in their care areas,” she says.
“The network is a perfect way to do this, and to provide nurses with all the resources and support they need.” The knowledge Bremner has acquired here also positively impacts on her role as team lead.
“Building processes that support mentorship and leadership among frontline staff through the implementation of elements such as Care Hubs is a huge part of my role,” she adds. “Communication and collaboration among nursing staff are key. When nurses feel confident and supported through mentorship, like I did, they’re able to grow their skills and experience and help other nurses to grow.”
Alves agrees. “As an educator, (the network) has given me insight into different areas of nursing practice. It’s given me connections in other departments and removed the feeling of working in silos.” She says the topics discussed in the Community of Practice have helped her reframe her views on nursing in the post-pandemic world.
The network has also increased her awareness of system-level thinking and given her the “ability to mentor staff so they are more autonomous and confident to make decisions on their own, which is more timely for patient care.”
Bremner recently, and accidentally, became a mentor to another nurse.
“I actually didn’t decide to become a mentor, my name isn’t even listed,” she says. “My mentee saw a recording of one of the Community of Practice sessions I hosted and reached out to me to chat. That chat ended up leading to a mentorship relationship — with me taking the mentor role! You never really know when you’re ready, but so far it has been a great fit.”
For staff hoping to find a mentor, Alves says to reach out — and don’t be shy about approaching leaders and colleagues with senior titles.
“They became mentors because it’s something they wanted to do, to pay it forward,” adds Alves.
“Don’t be afraid to send a quick email and say, ‘Hey, I found your profile on the Nursing Mentorship Network and I’d like to set-up a quick meeting to chat.’ You might never know what comes out of it.”