For Anika Andal, who recently completed her Master of Nursing degree at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, finding a mentor who not only believed in her but opened the door to new career possibilities has been life changing.
“The immediate investment in my personal growth really stood out to me,” says Andal of her mentor Farah Khan. “Farah’s willingness to be supportive and believe in me in ways I had not considered, was so rewarding.”
Farah Khan is the Director of Quality, Risk and Patient Safety at Trillium Health Partners, an adjunct lecturer, and an alum of Bloomberg Nursing. She recalls how she turned to her own network of mentors while navigating her leadership journey and the significant impact of their guidance on her academic and professional career.
“Knowing the impact mentorship had on my own life made me leap at the opportunity to be a mentor for Bloomberg Nursing and give back to the Faculty, because it is not a unilateral relationship, there is also a unique chance to learn from your mentees,” says Khan.
The Bloomberg Nursing Alumni-Graduate Student Mentorship Program launched in late 2021 as a means of connecting graduate students with nursing leaders in a variety of fields across the health care spectrum. With many of the graduate programs taking place mostly online throughout the pandemic, providing this kind of networking opportunity was a top priority for the Faculty to ensure greater engagement and connectivity for students.
In its first year the program paired 18 mentors and mentees. Following the initial success of the program the pairings for the 2022-23 academic year are anticipated to be expanded to more than 50.
For both Khan and Andal, a significant highlight of their mentorship relationship was their ability to connect with one another as women of colour and in particular for Andal to get a sense of the lived experience of a woman of colour in a nursing leadership role, something she notes as being quite rare.
“Being matched with Farah was a real testament to the mentorship program making space for these important relationships and reflection on being a person of colour in leadership and in nursing,” says Andal. “It was something I needed and has helped me immensely as I progress in my career.”
Khan agrees, finding that it was a pivotal moment in their mentorship relationship when realizing the significance of reflecting and learning from one another through their own personal experiences.
“Since our mentorship journey began, I’ve made a more formal attempt at better understanding concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion as it pertains to nursing, healthcare and leadership,” says Khan. “I want to better inform my ability to mentor others and seek out mentorship in this area for myself too.”
Throughout the course of the mentorship program, Andal has been able to not only pursue a career path she hadn’t previously thought of, but has also been able to navigate difficult situations in the workplace all as a result of guidance from Khan.
While in the Master’s program Andal worked in clinical care at an emergency department and was unsure of what her next step should be following graduation. She knew she had always had a passion for education, but didn’t know how to fit that into her experience. It was Khan who suggested she consider becoming a nurse educator, someone who provides clinical education for point of care staff. This might include translating research, disseminating practice changes, or providing training on any new clinical procedures. While this was of interest to Andal, it was also a career option that she felt historically had been reserved for nurses with more than a decade of experience in the field and for her it seemed daunting to consider this path right after graduation.
“Farah suggested I consider finding out more about Trillium Health Partners, meet with numerous hospital leaders including the Chief Nurse Executive and Director of Professional Practice, and let me know that in fact the organization was open and inclusive of young leaders to bring about change. That really shifted my perspective on what possibilities were available to me,” says Andal. “It was fantastic how Farah not only pointed me in the direction of the right door, but she opened it for me.”
Given that Andal is an emerging leader, there are still moments where she feels the pull of that imposter syndrome, questioning herself and her capabilities. It is in those moments that she is grateful to her mentor for her guidance on how to navigate situations with a leadership mindset and appreciates being challenged to modify her approach as required.
“What is unique about my relationship with Farah,” says Andal, “is that she can help me personally identify when she sees that something is not benefitting my personal growth. I had a challenging situation and wasn’t sure how to manage it in a leadership context. It was Farah who said ‘you can’t always please everyone; you need to focus on your work and yourself and that is what will help those around you.’”
Andal is grateful for the opportunities to advance her career that both the Master’s program and the mentorship program have provided her. She notes that the way in which the nursing profession is structured, does not always allow for nurses to be able to continue their clinical roles while also pursuing other avenues like research or leadership. It is something she hopes will change to allow more innovation in nursing as more nurses pursue education to bring about change in the health system.
For Khan, she too sees the importance of nurses pursuing leadership opportunities in the context of the changing health care landscape, and notes the significance of the continued presence of the Bloomberg Nursing Alumni-Graduate mentorship program.
“With the evolution of the pandemic, the nursing profession has dynamically changed. Now more than ever nurses aspiring to advance their professional leadership skills need access to a diverse cadre of nurse leaders through mentorship,” says Khan. “But those of us in leadership can also benefit from learning from our mentees too.”