The Role of Mentoring

Published: 2021-09-29 11:35:07
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Mentoring, a committed relationship has established its significance in the field of undergraduate medical education. Mentors invest in their protégés’ personal and professional development, beyond the realm of teaching. The mentors and the organization also gain a multitude of benefits. Formal mentoring is considered to have more advantages. Recruiting mentors should be thoughtful and mentors should be trained for their job. The assessment of mentor’s competence remains a challenge and many instruments have been tried for this purpose. Evaluation can help identify areas for training. The Mentoring Competence Assessment inventory developed by Fleming et al. focused on measuring six main competencies of a mentor-mentee relationship. Since these competencies overlap with the objectives of more general mentoring programs, this tool can be adapted to measure outcomes.
A cross sectional study was conducted at The University of Lahore. The Mentoring Competence Assessment instrument was used with appropriate modification. Volunteers filled in an online questionnaire. 129 students responded, out of which 97 completed responses were considered. Response scores were added to calculate score for each competency. Correlational analysis was performed for competence and seniority. Cross gender mentoring was also compared to same gender mentoring.The high scoring competencies in the order of ratings they attained are: maintaining effective communication, fostering independence, promoting professional development and aligning expectations, whereas assessing understanding and addressing diversity were rated at less than fifty percent, indicating areas for faculty development training. Almost 80% students rated high on how much they had benefitted from their mentor. They also felt their mentor helped them the most by motivating them, by being a good listener and by guiding them. Mentees believed their mentoring relationship was uncomfortable due to group mentoring, seniority bias, and lack of time. The mentor’s gender had no significant effect on all the six competencies.
Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship and is most beneficial when started at an early stage. The mentoring program should be relevant to local perspectives and cultural issues. To prevent misunderstandings, mentors should acknowledge the differences of gender & cultural background. Mentors should be monetarily rewarded for their contribution to medical education. Educating & empowering students, along with faculty education regarding students’ needs may improve mentoring.
Mentoring has established its significance in education for decades. Teaching expertise is no longer synonymous with content expertise, although closely associated (Wilkerson & Irby, 1998). Srinivasan et al. have worked out a total of ten teaching competencies (6 core + 4 specialized) for medical educators drawing on ACGME framework. It also described mentorship as one of the four specialized teaching competencies (Srinivasan et al., 2011). The 12 roles of a medical teacher defined by Harden mention mentoring as one (Harden & Crosby, 2000).
Definition of Mentoring
Although all the teaching faculty is involved in advising students, but mentoring is not the same as advising. Mentoring is considered as contextual, and there is no distinct definition for it, but this definition by Johnson (2002), seems rational for exploring preliminary mentoring competence: “Mentoring is a personal relationship in which a more experienced faculty member acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced graduate student. A mentor provides the protégé with knowledge, advice, challenge, counsel, and support in the protégé’s pursuit of becoming an active member of a particular profession. Mentorships are reciprocal and mutual by design, and the ultimate goal of the relationship is development of a strong professional identity and clear professional competence on the part of the protégé” (Johnson, 2002).
According to Levinson (Levinson DJ, Darrow CN, Klein EB, Levinson MA, 1978), the concept of mentorship has existed since Ancient Greece, and a chunk of the prior work in was in adult development and higher education (Sozio, Chan, & Beach, 2017).
Type of Mentoring
Mentoring is a multi-faceted process, ranging from informal to formal programs, where the relationship is arranged by the institute’s committee and students are assigned to mentors. Most of the times, the mentors are chosen from the faculty and may typically be trained. Formal mentoring, in effect, is superior to informal mentoring. Among other benefits, it provides opportunity for students to find mentors earlier in medical school, and foster student-faculty contact (Mann, 1992). Studies have also shown that structured mentoring experiences increase student retention and degree completion (Crisp, Baker, Griffin, Lunsford, & Pifer, 2017).
Mentoring can be one-to-one, group or team mentoring. As the names suggest, one-to-one mentoring means one mentee for one mentor while group mentoring means multiple mentees assigned to a single mentor. Team mentoring is when multiple mentors are involved in mentoring a single student. Most of the formal programs at undergraduate medical colleges, practice group mentoring. This may be due to the mentor-mentee ratio or because it is known to be effective where collaborative advancement is desirable (Shamim, 2013).
Benefits of Mentoring
Jacobi (1991) declared five generally agreed functions of mentoring relationships: “ 1) mentoring focuses on achievement or acquisition of knowledge; 2) consists of emotional and psychological support, direct assistance with career and professional development, and role modeling; 3) is reciprocal, where both mentor and mentee derive emotional or tangible benefits; 4) is personal in nature, involving direct interaction; and 5) emphasizes the mentor’s greater experience, influence, and achievement within a particular organization” (Jacobi, 1991).
Mentorship should not be misinterpreted as reviewing the students’ performance in an examination. It is more about a broader range of issues concerning the student (Harden & Crosby, 2000). While some students need a tangible instruction or task-oriented assistance, others may need help pronouncing their thoughts or clarifying a life purpose. Mentors invest in their protégés’’ personal and professional development, beyond teaching (Rose, Rukstalis, & Schuckit, 2005). One reported positive aspect for students is learning from faculty who have ‘done it before’ (Fornari et al., 2014). A good mentor early in the career can mean the difference between success and failure in any field (Lee, Dennis, & Campbell, 2007). It has been described as a fulfilling undergraduate medical experience. Somebody rightly said, “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could”.
As Chickering and Reisser (1993) state in their identity formation model, the development of integrity is inchoate in young adults and will continue developing throughout their life (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). A mentor may influence them in appreciating whether the values they advocate align with the behaviors they exhibit. Mentor’s own integrity is probably his or her students’ most important inspiration to develop integrity (Ramirez, 2012). Honesty is a paramount for both the mentor and the protégée, as it vital for developing trust, which is ultimately an essential thread in binding the fabric of the relationship. (Ramirez, 2012)
To actively mentor students, faculty must value that role as both rewarding and rewarded (Mann, 1992). A genuine mentoring relationship is a reciprocal one, with the mentors gaining a multitude of possible benefits as well (Rose, 2003). They include personal satisfaction, career enhancement and feeling rejuvenated at work by the enthusiasm of their protégées (Rose et al., 2005). Student feedback can increase the self-confidence of mentors (Houghton, 2016). Mentoring programs can also strengthen the mentor’s commitment to the medical school & professional recognition within the school. It can fortify his/her identity and create a greater sense of community (Fornari et al., 2014). Administration can be informed about existing hidden curriculum by mentoring (Rose et al., 2005). Organizations also benefit from cost savings by staff retention and satisfaction (Lafleur & White, 2010).
Who should Mentor
Although many studies have parroted the positive implications of mentoring, it still remains a challenge in undergraduate medical colleges. In Pakistan, only a few colleges offer a formal mentoring program, and those too are yet to be evaluated. Who should mentor? What should be the qualities of the mentor? Are there organizational policies that support the selection of competent, suitable mentors? Are there strategies for development of mentoring skills? How will the mentor be assessed? Is there periodic evaluation of mentors? Every step is a task on its own.
Some faculty members have natural attitude and mentoring skills. Others can acquire them through faculty development programs (Shamim, 2013). The spectrum of motivation has intrinsic motivation at one end and lack of motivation at the other with extrinsic motivation in between. Intrinsically motivated people pursue an activity for their own interest and satisfaction. Indeed, if one volunteers, he/she is determined & more likely to put in effort. Whereas extrinsically motivated people pursue an activity to obtain a reward or to avoid a loss (Kusurkar, Ten Cate, Van Asperen, & Croiset, 2011). Reward may be appreciation, promotion points, monetary or time compensation.
Implementing an effective mentoring program requires thoughtful recruitment. Unenthusiastic or inappropriately selected mentors can have negative implications on the mentoring program (Shamim, 2013). It can be due to lack of perceived value in terms of compensation (Fornari et al., 2014).It can also be due to the fact that medical curricula are overcrowded and many faculty members are under constant time constraint (Frei, Stamm, & Buddeberg-Fischer, 2010). Time also seems to be an issue for students where mentoring activities must fit in with other tasks (Fornari et al., 2014). Mentoring requires time and institutes should support by providing time or financial resources (Lafleur & White, 2010).

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