Canadian Medical Association

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced professional (the mentor) helps someone newer to the field (the mentee) grow both personally and professionally. It is an essential resource for medical students and residents, with mentors providing guidance and advice on research, career planning, career transition and work-life balance.

Mentorship benefits

Mentorship has plenty of benefits for mentees, including guidance on personal and professional growth, networking opportunities, and a sense of community.

A study published in AEM Education and Training* found that mentorship increased mentees’ sense of personal accomplishment and decreased feelings of depersonalization and emotional exhaustion. Mentorship has also been found to reduce burnout and increase compassionate self-improvement.

Mentorship can also benefit mentors and organizations. Mentors often feel a sense of personal satisfaction from helping medical learners, with one study finding that mentoring can increase personal growth and job satisfaction. Organizations with strong mentorship programs can also benefit from greater retention and a reputation for offering integrated development services.

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Finding a mentor

The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends the following tips for students who are looking for mentors. Mentees should:

  • Look for role models they admire and want to learn from.
  • Build relationships with physicians who could become mentors.
  • Ask questions about their mentors’ medical career paths, the challenges they faced and the lessons they learned.
  • Be open to having multiple mentors that offer unique perspectives.
  • Maintain connections with mentors throughout the course of their education.

Acting as a mentor

Dr. Jillian Horton and the University of British Columbia offer these tips on how to be a successful mentor:

  • Foster a sense of safety and trust.
  • Encourage open communication.
  • Commit to your role as a mentor.
  • Be available, reliable, flexible and resourceful.
  • Get to know your mentee.
  • Provide appropriate feedback.
  • Help your mentee prepare for the future.
  • Promote your mentee’s independence.

Establishing a successful mentorship program

Experts in Australia and from Resident Doctors of Canada highlight the following success factors as critical to establishing a formal mentorship program in your organization:

  • Secure organizational support, including sufficient resource allocation
  • Ensure mentors have time to devote to this activity
  • Clarify mentor roles and goals
  • Actively recruit mentors and match them carefully with mentees
  • Train mentors well, including in how to provide constructive feedback
  • Follow through on implementation, including ongoing program monitoring and evaluation

Examples of successful mentorship programs

Great examples of successful mentorship programs in action include:

  1. The Stanford mentorship program for neurology residents, fellows and faculty
  2. A study on the impact of mentorship* on medical student burnout
  3. The University of Toronto's Diversity Mentorship Program for under-represented or minoritized medical students and first-year residents

*Note: This article must be purchased or rented.

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