Lead Through Connection

Badger nurses find ways to lead and empower the next generation of nurses through mentorship

By Megan Hinners

A Match Made in Madison

Amy Bartosiak ’22 had been a licensed massage therapist for 25 years, but COVID-19 caused the massage therapy world to come to a grinding halt for three months, and then it took even longer before people felt safe to start making appointments again. 

“Since I did not finish a degree in my twenties, I decided that this was the time to finish a degree that I could combine with massage therapy,” she says. 

Bartosiak found herself going back to school at 51 years of age, pursuing nursing as a second degree and adjunct career to massage therapy. But she soon found that the age difference made it hard to relate to her classmates. 

“I was coming back to college at age 51 and needed advice and guidance from someone with a similar background,” she says. “I sought out help from others about the school and time management, who were in their twenties, but did not feel like I was understood.” 

Bartosiak began looking for guidance, and found the Badger Nurse Mentorship Program, an initiative started by the School of Nursing in 2020. The program helps current students who wish to receive support from School of Nursing alumni as they transition from student nurses to professional nurses. 

Students interested in participating in the program are matched with mentors based on personal and professional interests, similar educational backgrounds, as well as future career and educational goals. The program allows for open dialogue about anything and everything, including the NCLEX, discussions about career exploration, networking, emotional support, career goals and interests, and professional skill development. 

Bartosiak was matched with Janet Murphy, a 1995 graduate of the School of Nursing’s traditional bachelor of science in nursing program whose journey into nursing and experience ended up being the missing piece to Bartosiak’s puzzle. Murphy, who was 41 when she earned her degree, signed up for the program with an interest in mentoring non-traditional students. 

For Bartosiak, the opportunity to join the program and be matched with someone who went through similar experiences was an important part of her journey through nursing school. “Janet helped me with the anxiety I was feeling and helped me understand that older students learn differently than younger,” she says. “It helped me feel like I was not alone in this new journey.” 

A Long Distance Link

Richard Henker takes a coffee break with some colleagues during a ride around Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Richard Henker (left) takes a coffee break with some colleagues during a ride around
Angkor Wat in Cambodia. With the help of video chats and emails, Henker was
able to participate in the program as a mentor from all corners of the globe.

Over the past year, Richard Henker ’81, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, FAANA, and Crystal Griffin ’22, have been connecting to talk about anything from resume and cover letter guidance, mock interview advice, to NCLEX preparation and how to navigate speaking up to advocate for a patient’s best interests in clinical settings as a new nurse.  

“Rick not only allowed a safe space for me to talk about the challenges I experienced in my clinical rotations, but he has also taught me the proper way to communicate with others when I feel like something is wrong, and I will always be thankful for this experience,” Griffin explained. 

They have built a relationship that will last for years to come, but they have never actually met in person.  

 “Crystal and I met on a monthly or every other month basis by Zoom,” says Henker. “We would also communicate by email, but I liked the idea of having Zoom meetings since I was in Pittsburgh and sometimes in Cambodia when we met.” 

Despite the distance, the pair have formed a strong connection that has helped Griffin navigate the final leg of her journey as a nursing student into her full-time position upon graduation as a labor and delivery nurse at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital in Madison. 

Griffin was drawn to the mentorship program because of the opportunity to learn. “As a Black woman going into health care, I did not have a lot of knowledge about how to navigate nursing school, NCLEX preparations, and DNP vs. PhD programs,” she explains. “When the Badger Nurse Mentorship Program provided me with a mentor, it gave me the chance to connect with an individual who could help me navigate nursing. The one-on-one opportunity to ask questions has helped me a lot.” 

Henker is no stranger to taking on a mentor/mentee relationship; the opportunity to mentor students is one that he has embraced throughout his career. “I have been mentoring new graduate nurses since 1984. I was a clinical nurse educator on the night shift at the University of Arizona Hospital. My job was to work with the new nurses that often started on the night shift,” he said. Adding, “Currently in my faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh, I work with three PhD students (one is at Keio University in Tokyo), 20 DNP Nurse Anesthesia students (scholarly projects), and I had one BSN Honor College student finish in April.” 

Crystal Griffin
Crystal Griffin was drawn to the mentorship
program because of the opportunity to learn.

He adds that he himself had a mentor that greatly impacted his career. “John Clochesy, MS’81, PhD, RN, made a significant impact on my career path,” he said. “He was an instructor for two of my courses at the UW–Madison School of Nursing, went on to be my boss at the University of Arizona Hospital, and we worked together at the University of Pittsburgh where he was the assistant dean. We still keep in touch.” 

For fellow Badger nurse alumni who are considering becoming a mentor through the program, Henker has some advice: listen. “Everybody has something to offer students,” he adds. “Sharing your life experiences and just listening to students can contribute to the student’s professional growth.” 

The Power of Connection

Impacting the next generation of Badger nurses extends far beyond the mentorship program. Those who are looking to get involved will find a wide array of opportunities through various groups, communities, and volunteer openings including the Badger Nurse Network, Young Alumni group, the Alumni of Color group, as well as mock interview events, Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) functions, and more. 

Despite all the various ways to get involved, the goal for all of these groups and programs is the same: to empower Badger nurses, both alumni and students alike, through the power of connection. Through community, support, camaraderie, and fellowship, Badger nurses are building connections, leading in the profession, and changing lives. 

For students like Griffin and Bartosiak, the connections they have built with mentors like Murphy and Henker have been invaluable. When asked if she would recommend the program to other nursing students, Bartosiak enthusiastically responded that she would advise others to reach out and explore a mentor/mentee relationship. “There is so much we cannot learn in classes and clinicals,” she adds. “Mentors have the time, resources, and experience to give well-rounded educational and professional insight to those who are unsure of their choice or abilities.” 

Become a Mentor!

Badger Nurse Mentorship Program Logo

Thinking about becoming a mentor? The School of Nursing has expanded its Badger Nurse Mentorship Program, and is looking for alumni volunteers to serve as mentors to current BSN@Home, Accelerated BSN, second-year Traditional BSN, DNP, and PhD students. 

Who can serve as a mentor? 

Any UW–Madison School of Nursing alum can serve as a mentor regardless of program completed. 

How many students am I expected to mentor? 

Alumni mentors are matched with one student per academic year. 

How often do I have to meet with my mentee? 

Mentoring pairs decide how often they will meet or talk and what types of conversations and activities they will engage in together. The School of Nursing team recommends connecting at least once per month but ultimately it is up to the pair to discuss and decide. 

Do I get to choose my mentee? 

The School of Nursing mentorship team selects each pair, but you may indicate a student to be matched with if you have someone specific in mind. There is not a guaranteed match, but the mentorship team takes your request into consideration. 

Do I have to live in Madison to be a mentor? 

No, location is not a barrier to your participation. Over half our mentors live outside the state of Wisconsin. 

I’m interested! What is the next step? 

The program formally runs each academic year from September to April. Pairings for the current 2022-23 academic year are officially complete, but the opportunity to mentor a student for the 2023-24 academic year is open! 

For more information about the Badger Nurse Mentorship Program, or questions about additional opportunities to get involved, please email the School of Nursing’s alumni relations officer, Jordan Langer, at alumni@son.wisc.edu