How to find a mentor as a nurse practitioner (whether you’re a new or experienced NP)

It began with my preceptor

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few different mentors, or guides, early on in my career as a nurse practitioner. One of my first mentors was a physician (we’ll call him Dr T) who I have learned so much from over the years, especially in my first year of practice when I was flailing as a new grad.

It’s funny how I found this mentor because I didn’t intentionally seek him out. In one of my last few clinical rotations of my MSN program, this future mentor was one of the physicians at my clinical site. He wasn’t assigned to me as my preceptor but the preceptor who had been assigned to me was incredibly busy and didn’t spent a ton of time answering my questions as a preceptor.

One day during my clinical hours at this site, I asked Dr T if I might be able to shadow him while he saw patients. Dr T was more than willing. He answered my many, many questions I asked about the medications he was selecting, recommended resources to look into to grow clinical competence, and explained how he deals with difficult patients.

My clinical rotation that semester with Dr T was so invaluable! I learned so much in the span of one semester. 120 clinical hours. I was eternally grateful.

At the end of my semester, I wrote Dr T a handwritten thank you card expressing my deep gratitude for all of his teaching and time he gave to me as I leaned as much as I could before graduating that next spring.

That was the end of our communication for several months.

Discovering private supervision

When I started my first job as an NP, I felt completely overwhelmed. The patients I was seeing were incredibly complex, and while I was assigned a collaborating provider by my employer, I wasn’t scheduled to meet with my collaborator regularly to review patient cases or have my questions answered. For several weeks into practice, I was insanely stressed.

I talked to my brother (who happens to be a physician) about my stress and he recommended I start doing private supervision with an experienced provider.

Huh? What’s that?

I had never heard of paid private supervision. Not sure if its something physicians are more accustomed to, but private supervision is basically ongoing consultation with a more experienced provider. Many physicians engage in private supervision after residency or beyond.

I felt as though I had found a solid lifeline. I needed to find a provider to meet with regularly for paid private supervision. Got it.

Now who do I ask?

I racked my brain for who I could ask to meet with me regularly for paid private supervision.

Then I remembered Dr T. He had been SO incredibly helpful to me in my final semester of school during one of my clinical rotations. He was a natural teacher, willing to provide advice and guidance, didn’t make me feel silly for asking questions, and he was a brilliant provider (and patients loved him).

I decided I would reach out to him to ask if he would meet with me for private supervision.

I sent him a message and surprisingly he said yes!

What private supervision can look like

From then on, I met with Dr T every Saturday morning to review difficult patient cases. We did this consistently for over a year. He didn’t charge me for private supervision, even though I offered many times, but he did accept the occasional lunches and snacks I brought him in gratitude for his guidance.

With Dr T’s ongoing consultation, I learned so much about actual patients I was currently treating, and I felt so much more confident and supported.

Dr T was a game changer in terms of how I saw myself, the treatment my patients received, and the confidence and clinical competence I was gaining.

Every new provider (and experienced provider) should have their own Dr T.

Paying for supervision

You might not be lucky enough to find a friend in the process, or someone who is willing to engage in private supervision for free.

BUT even if you have to pay someone, even $100-150 per hour, for one to two hours once a week or once a month, this cost is a drop in the bucket compared to how much knowledge and confidence you’ll gain along the way.

I cannot recommend ongoing private supervision highly enough.

How to ask for a mentor

So what do you say to someone to engage in private supervision? How do you find your mentor or your guide?

Here’s a sample note or template you can use or tweak to send to providers you want to ask to be your mentor.

This first note is for a provider you have already met.

The second note is for a provider you have never met.

Template for a provider you already know

Hi Dr/Mr/Ms _____, 

I hope all is well with you! You might not remember me but you were a preceptor to me while I did a clinical rotation in my MSN program in _____ (time frame) at _____(location). You were incredibly helpful to me and I am grateful for all the time you spent answering all of my (many) questions. 

I just started a new job working at _____ (new job name) and I am looking for a provider to meet with regularly for paid private supervision. I would love to review difficult patient cases with an experienced provider on a regular basis. 

Is this something you might be willing, or have the time, to do? If not, do you know of any other provider who I might be able to pay for ongoing private supervision?

Thanks again for all your guidance when I was a student, I truly appreciate it!

Kind regards,

_______ (full name)

Template for reaching out to someone you don’t know….

Hi Dr/Mr/Ms. ______,

My name is ______ (your name). I recently graduated (or I am about to graduate) from ______ (your MSN program) in ______ (graduation date). I really valued my educational experience at ____ (your school). I am interested in continuing to build on my experiences in private supervision with an experienced provider. 

I thought you would be a good person to reach out to as you are  ______________ (state why you are reaching out to them in particular, ie “an Education Director in the Dept of Psychiatry at ____”) and you might know of some providers who might be willing to offer additional guidance through ongoing private supervision specific to ______ (ie pharmacology/med management, or whatever you are seeking assistance with, may be more general).

I recently accepted a prescribing position at ______ (job name). I would love to find a provider to pay for private supervision and meet with regularly to review difficult patient cases.

I appreciate any assistance or referrals you can provide!

Kind Regards,

_____ (Your Name)

Key takeaways

  1. You want to explain that you would like to meet on a regular consistent basis.
  2. Be willing to pay (it will be 1,000% a worthy, small investment).
  3. Private supervision doesn’t have to be a physician, can be an experienced NP, or multiple different providers if one can only meet monthly, for example.
  4. Know if this provider isn’t able to/willing to meet for private supervision, ask if they know of any other provider who may be willing to meet for ongoing supervision.

Get yourself a mentor

Private supervision was incredibly helpful to me in my career as an NP, especially early on. I know you can find an experienced provider to meet with to discuss difficult patient cases. And if you’re lucky enough, you may find our own Dr T as well. If you’re looking for more guidance on finding a mentor or in need of more information on making the transition from NP student to practicing Nurse Practitioner, I invite you to join NP for NPs Unsure to Unstoppable Course!

Happy searching for your mentor!

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