Mentors are just what the doctor ordered
Mentoring is important in all fields, none more than healthcare. Providers need and seek advice from veterans who have been there, done that.
“I was invited to talk about how to communicate with the youth in my alma mater’s faculty convocation,” said Dr. Gia Sison, an occupational health expert.
“This was a pre-launch activity for the mentorship program for medical students,” she said. “The topic hits close to home. I have always looked up to individuals who are open-minded and accommodating when it comes to mentoring.”
This led her to ask other healthcare pros what they thought about mentoring.
Effective mentoring is a knowledge and confidence builder. You have someone who offers advice, holds you accountable and prods you to greater achievements.
“Mentoring considers the scope first,” said healthcare strategist Shereese Maynard. “Ask, ‘What does the mentee need from me?’ Not, ‘How do I turn the mentee into another version of me?’
“These two things should never be confused,” she said.
Roland Vergel Acasio, a registered nurse and clinical clerk, looked closely at teacher-student relationships.
“Mentoring means sharing your knowledge and experiences about careers and life to your students,” he said. “Guide them until they learn to stand up on their own feet and have enough experiences and knowledge to become mentors, too, in the future.
“There should be a positive relationship between mentors and their students,” Acasio said. “Lift them up when they’re down. Be a guiding lamp while traveling to the unknown.”
He and others in his age group welcome views of veteran generations.
“In this day and age, it is difficult for us millennials to find effective mentors mostly due to the large generation gap,” Acasio said. “It usually depends on the attitude of the mentors themselves.
“Mentors need to keep their minds open for today’s generation,” he said. “Most of our mentors are still on traditional ways. Some of that doesn’t work on us anymore.”
The role of mentors is particularly important because many of their students are blazing a path for their own families.
“Most of persons who need mentors are students who will be the first doctors of the family,” Acasio said.
“They’re mostly still in the dark in the program,” he said. “They still don’t know what they’re dealing with in the future. They don’t have any persons to talk to regarding the struggles.”
This is where mentors have to be wise and patient.
“A mentor understands your goal and helps you get there with gentle nudges, reassuring pats on the shoulder — and sometimes a calculated shove,” said endocrinologist Dr. Iris Thiele Isip Tan.
“I once sat in on a women in endocrinology session at a conference abroad,” she said. “The panel was made up of past presidents. One said that a mentor is needed at all stages of our careers.”
Tan noted that at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, each student is assigned to a mentoring group in the first year. They stay with that group until they graduate.
“I still keep tabs with my mentees who are now second-year residents,” she said. “One can have many mentors. Why not one for every aspect of your career — one for research, one for teaching?”
Know your mentee
Nurse and doctor in training Raymond Naguit also looked at mentoring from the younger set.
“I’ve shared with our professors that effective mentoring requires us to understand the context of the mentee,” he said. “Then they would know how to best help. It really worked for me that I have mentors from different fields. I am able to combine their insights with the niche I would like to develop.
“There needs to be open communication where the humanity — and even failures — of the mentor would also be seen by the mentee,” Naguit said. “This gives a more level-headed expectation of life in general.”
He added that a trainer should focus on developing one aspect of the person while mentoring.
“The mentor then will have a more holistic approach to a person’s development,” Naguit said.
Psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Miaco noted that mentors shouldn’t be expected to have all the answers.
“The mentoring relationship is one where there is a good ‘holding’ and supportive environment for learning and growth,” she said.
“An effective mentor is someone able to look at the big picture and guide the mentee into a better career path,” Miaco said. “It need not always be about helping the mentee solve problems.”
Find and keep
There not only is the challenge of finding a mentor but also in keeping one.
“For me, there’s no lack in quality for guidance I’ve received from my advisers, teachers and senior colleagues,” said clinical psychology student Jarvin Tan. “Yet, it’s often been difficult for me to find a ‘continuous’ mentor-mentee relationship because of my niche in mental health and pharmacy.
“On the former, I’ve gotten lots of great guidance the past year from advisers and colleagues,” he said. “On the latter, it’s been from former professors. Both groups have their own circles.”
Mentoring begins in the classroom and continues through internships and beyond. Along every step you can find short-term and lifetime mentors. They can offer guidance to make your professional and personal lives less burdensome.
“Constant meetings and accessibility to the mentor are key points when in the healthcare setting,” Miaco said.
Any time, any place
Iris Tan said her school mandates mentor meetings every quarter.
“There is protected time for this,” she said. “There’s nothing to prevent groups to meet more often than quarterly, and it can be off campus.”
Maynard said that creative problem-solving skills and interrelations “are strategies to be valued in the mentoring journey.”
In many cases, the more personal touch, the better.
“Sharing your life and career experiences will be the most effective mentoring for me,” Acasio said. “It shows we all have our own story of survival in our chosen career. We are all mortals.”
In a way, mentoring can be a relief from the pressures of medical school. Pausing to meet with a mentor gives you a chance to catch your breath and calmly assess where you’ve come from, where you are and where you’re headed. Learn where you can make adjustments.
“Consistency will be the key,” Acasio said. “Regardless of high pressure in our chosen career, as long as you can sustain a positive relationship with your students, it will still work.”
For her part, Iris Tan will not accept mentoring excuses.
“I love this quote,” she said: “When someone says, I don’t have the time, it actually means you are not a priority.”
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