By Melanie Rule
A mentor is person who shares their knowledge, skills, experiences and perspectives to facilitate the personal and professional growth of another.
Mentors often play important roles such as career advisor, guide, role model, coach and support person, and can have a huge impact on your career success.
Traditional models of mentoring involve a more experienced person guiding a more junior person in their career journey. However, this seniority gradient is not essential to the mentoring process. In fact, there is increasing recognition of the value of peer-to-peer and reverse mentoring.
In the medical profession, there are plenty of clinicians who would potentially make great mentors. However, it can be quite intimidating for a junior doctor to approach these senior members of the profession to ask them to take on the role of their mentor. This is where formal workplace mentoring programs can be helpful to assist in the matching process of mentors and mentees and make mentoring accessible to everyone who seeks it out. .
It may also be equally challenging to find a mentor once you become a fully qualified physician. Many new fellows say they would like mentoring, but find it difficult to find someone to take on that role. They may also prefer to seek out someone outside their immediate workplace to assist with the challenges of establishing themselves in their new role.
Finding a mentor can be especially challenging for our non urban, non tertiary colleagues where there they work in isolation and there may not be a suitable mentor in their own specialty for hundreds of kilometres.
WRaP EM has written a guide to assist you in overcoming these challenges in finding a mentor by highlighting the different ways that you can seek out a mentor .
Step Wise Guide
This guide highlight the different options that exist for finding a mentor.
Option 1 – Formal Workplace Mentoring Programs
Many hospitals have formal mentoring programs for junior doctors within individual departments, or as a hospital wide program.
Speak to your supervisor of training, hospital executive or medical education unit to find out if these programs exist and how to apply for a mentor.
Consider whether you would like a mentor from your own specialty or whether you are looking for more diversity from someone outside your specialty field.
Remember that the key to successful mentoring is for it to be completely separate from the process of workplace supervision. I would strongly encourage seeking out a different person as your mentor to the person involved in your assessments or direct supervision.
Option 2 – Seek out your own Mentor
Many successful mentoring relationships start from good workplace interactions with supervisors or colleagues.
When considering a potential mentor, firstly, consider why you think this person will make a good mentor. Do they have characteristics that you admire, or are they successful in a career path that you see yourself following? Are they approachable and easy to talk to? Will they be willing to challenge you and help you grow?
Also consider whether this person will have the time to invest in a mentoring relationship. Sometimes the busiest doctors, with the most interesting workplace portfolios don’t make the best mentors, as they don’t have any free time to invest in mentoring. If in doubt, it is best to ask.
Most people will be flattered to be asked to take on a mentoring role, but being clear about what you are asking them to commit to will make it easier to decide if they have the time available to make the commitment.
If you are nervous about asking, maybe consider doing this via email and asking to meet first to discuss a particular issue or for some advice. This will give you the opportunity to see if they have availability, and whether your initial conversations lead you to think they will make a good mentor.
If your mentor does agree to an ongoing mentoring relationship, make sure you have a conversation early about the expectations you both have for mentoring. Why do you want a mentor? What topics would you like to discuss? How often would you like to meet? How will you contact each other? This will prevent difficult situations later on, if one person was expecting something different from the relationship, than the other person is willing to provide.
Option 3 – External Mentoring Programs
There are a number of options external to the individual workplaces for doctors seeking mentors, including programs within various specialist training colleges. These are listed in the appendix.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has a program for junior doctors seeking career advice, and various state branches of the AMA have mentoring programs for medical students and doctors.
Option 4 – E-mentoring
In our tech-savvy society, it is becoming increasingly common for mentoring conversations to occur over video-conferencing platforms such as Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts. Ideally you should meet your mentor face-to-face at some stage in the relationship, however this can be a useful alternative for those living remotely, or who move around frequently during their training and who would like to keep in contact with the same mentor.
Option 5 – Professional Mentors & Executive Coaches
There are a growing number of executive coaches and professional mentors who market their services to doctors. With any of these, word of mouth from past clients is often the best recommendation.
Many of these professional coaches or mentors will allow you to meet for an introductory session before committing to a long-term engagement.
Individual coach and mentor recommendations are beyond the scope of this guide, however many hospital leadership courses include sessions with an executive coach, so this may be a way to try out this style of coaching/mentoring without the personal financial commitment.
Mentoring Programs within Specialist Training Colleges
Australasian College of Dermatologists
Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM)
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM)
The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)
Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators (RACMA)
Australian Orthopaedic Association – Younger Surgeon Mentoring Program
Mentoring Programs within External Organisations
Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship (RAMUS) Mentoring program
Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) – Mentoring for medical students
AMA/ASMOF Alliance Mentoring Program, AMA NSW
- Intern mentoring program
AMA Med-Connect program
- A Mentoring program for medical students
Doc to Doc Network
- Mentoring for female doctors. Requires membership subscription.