Mentorship is a dynamic relationship between mentors and mentees. A mentor is an experienced advisor, counselor, and teacher that provides personal and professional advice, guidance, knowledge, inspiration, and skills to another individual. Mentees interact with and provide feedback to mentors.
Mentorship can take many forms. It can be structured and formal or casual and informal. Mentoring can be delivered in large group settings or one-on-one. However, the purpose of the mentor-mentee relationship is to enrich both parties personally and professionally. The relationship is enhanced whenever mentors and mentees share common goals, backgrounds, and interests. Medical students and residents are in unique positions to be superb mentors and bridge the gap between junior learners and attending physicians.
A mentor is committed to helping the mentee achieve their career goals and to bringing expertise and wisdom to the relationship. The mentor must have excellent listening skills to understand the junior learner’s needs and aspirations. In addition, the mentor must help the mentee determine their strengths, weakness, and passions and instruct the mentee to set realistic and attainable goals. The mentor must help the mentee attain specific professional targets while keeping a long-term plan for their future. Excellent interpersonal skills and communications skills are imperative to provide constructive criticism and guidance without being controlling or critical. In the Anatomy of Mentoring article in The Journal of Pediatrics from 2007, the authors discuss the role of a mentor in the professional community. They describe two roles that the mentor should provide within the professional community: (1) protecting the mentee, keeping him or her from unreasonable demands and from pitfalls and helping navigate any conflicts that arise, and (2) advocating for the mentee and providing introductions, opportunities for development, and exposure that might not otherwise be available (eg, asking the mentee to serve as a co-author, recommending the mentee for a leadership position, nominating the mentee for an activity).
The mentor-mentee relationship is based on enhancing the mentee’s professional goals. Therefore, the mentee must set clear goals and objectives for the relationship. In addition, the timetable for certain objectives is commonly set by the mentee. The mentee should also prioritize specific goals and report on the success or difficulties encountered when performing each task. Communication is key as the mentee must clearly specify their needs and questions to the mentor in order to obtain adequate assistance. The mentee should also be both respectful and responsive to the mentor’s advice and actively engage in the mentor relationship. Feedback is imperative to a healthy mentorship relationship.
Mentorship is a process that changes as mentors and mentees grow professionally. Mentors and mentees both can benefit greatly from a mentorship relationship as they develop as clinicians and educators. Below are two tables taken from the EMRA Resident as Educator guidebook that help characterize qualities, expectations, and responsibilities of mentors and mentees:
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