|Monday, 03 June 2013|
The College is to explore the potential of mentoring to improve working relationships and, ultimately, standards of care
According to Greek mythology, Odysseus chose his trusted friend Mentor to guide his son, Telemachus. Mentor did so with the wisdom of the goddess Athena and has subsequently given his name to the process in which a trusted friend or colleague gives guidance, challenge and support in the pursuit of personal achievement and career goals.
Mentoring in modern times
Mentoring is a learning relationship that helps an individual to take charge of their own development, to release their potential and to achieve results that they value. Mentoring is not patronage, in which a senior colleague nurtures the career advancement of a more junior colleague. It is more concerned with empowering an individual to take responsibility for, and to be strategic about, their own career development. Mentoring is not merely a tool of remediation or needed only to support surgeons in difficulty. Mentoring is a feature of the progress of most successful leaders in every field and can be especially beneficial to surgeons and other clinical professionals.
The benefits of mentoring in medicine for individuals are well documented:
• Improved working relationships
• Regaining of confidence and job satisfaction
• Enhancing problem solving
• Help in making career choices (Oxley & Fleming, Mentoring for Doctors, 2004).
For organisations in times of turbulent change such benefits appear to underpin change management and problem solving activities. The benefits seen in one area tend to stimulate benefits in other areas of the mentee’s professional development (Steven, Oxley et al. J R Soc Med, 2008: 552-57) with the provision of effective mentoring leading to increased staff retention.
Principles and process
The graphic shows some of the key skills and principles of mentoring. At the heart of these is the relationship between mentor and mentee. This is a relationship of trust within which the mentee is confident to be both challenged and encouraged in their learning. Facilitation and active listening skills are essential for the mentor (not always a strength in surgeons).
In one ‘mentoring taster’ workshop, it was interesting to note that individuals were understandably good at listening (inherent in the patient-doctor interaction) but such listening tended to be ‘diagnostic’. The mentor sought to reach a diagnosis, rather than listening without seeking answers. Those being ‘listened to’ found this uncomfortable initially. They were unaccustomed to be offered an opportunity to talk about themselves in an environment that was not linked to performance assessment or appraisal. They then found it difficult to stop!
The skilful creation of space that allows individuals to listen and be listened to empowers both the mentor and the mentee. From this space, a journey of change begins, with a destination initially defined by the mentee, facilitated by the mentor, and an action plan developed collaboratively. Through training and working together, the mentor and mentee create the detailed map for the journey.
Mentoring and RCSEd
The decision of the College to explore the establishment of a mentoring scheme is a brave one. Established constructively and in a sustainable way, this is an opportunity to make a real difference to the Affiliates, Members and Fellows who engage in the process; and thus to their colleagues, families and, above all, their patients. Anyone with an interest in benefitting from, or providing, mentoring should contact the authors to be kept informed of the project’s progress. n