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Mentorship matters in medical science – here’s how to get it right

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Effective mentorships are key to helping professionals chart their careers in almost every industry, but it’s particularly important within medical science. And while mentorship dynamics are continuously changing, the relationship is just as important as ever.


Previously, senior physician scientists would dedicate themselves to the cultivation of their mentees, whose accomplishments were then taken as the success of the mentors. But nowadays, these close, long-term mentoring relationships aren’t necessarily the norm. Instead, mentoring within the medical science industry exists in a ‘less formal’ way.


But regardless of what form mentoring takes, industry experts tend to agree that mentorship holds value for both mentors and mentees and can ultimately be key to staff retention and engagement. As a result, this evolving culture has prompted more mentors to adopt an approach that matches their own approach.


So, what are the benefits of mentoring?

It’s thought that employees who have adopted a more ‘formal’ mentoring relationship are able to make better-informed career decisions, are generally more productive and less likely to experience burnout and tend to have an improved sense of wellbeing.


However, there are many who say that it’s better to be flexible in how mentorship is approached – while there’s no one correct way to mentor, a study in Academic Medicine detailed the main factors which can make or break a mentorship. Essentially, the study found that mentors prefer trainees who actively listen and are open to feedback, are respectful of their mentor’s time, and are prepared to show up to meetings prepared with discussion topics and action steps.


Similarly, trainees strive for mentors who are able to create opportunities for them, offer advice on work-life balance and provide emotional support, and who can ultimately help to guide their careers.


But with this in mind, it might come as surprise that many believe that today’s healthcare industry is facing a mentorship crisis; as the industry and organisations within it become more complex, top executives are struggling to set aside a significant amount of time for developing and coaching up-and-coming leaders. In fact, it’s thought that of 200 healthcare CEOs who are older than 55, only just over a third have worked with their boards to develop a formal succession planning process.


It’s thought that in response to the lack of mentorship opportunities, many healthcare systems have created formal leadership development and mentorship programmes. But coming back to our previous point, simply being assigned a mentor isn’t really true mentorship at all. Instead, the focus should be on training those top executives on the importance of mentorship and encouraging them to create organic mentor/mentee relationships, where they set time aside to work with the younger employees and directors whose potential and performance has caught their eye.


Crucially, great mentorship requires two broad elements: demonstrating great leadership so that others can learn from your behaviour, and championing others. Effective mentors have the ability to add value to the medical science industry and to create a healthy working environment, and therefore these relationships are more important than ever and shouldn’t be overlooked.




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