For physicians, education never stops. New technology and scientific discoveries are constantly arising. Books, journals and professional conferences can provide a good foundation for staying up to date. But they can’t bridge the gap between learning about a new technique and actually performing it: that’s why mentors and Lifelong Medical Mentorings are a must for a physician who wants to stay in tune with his field.
1. TRADITION – Mentoring is a respected tradition in the field of medicine: to new interns, mentors are an integral part of their beginning medical education. The first verse of the Hippocratic oath: “I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow” is a call to action for Mentors and Mentees. Lifelong Medical Mentorings build upon this tradition by adding a continuing education aspect and a multiplicity of mentorships and mentors.
2. PEER to PEER – Lifelong Mentorings are about direct peer-to-peer relationship between medical professionals with complementary backgrounds. Specialists can thus share their unique expertise and experience with each other, alternating roles as trainer and trainee as needed.
Unlike traditional mentoring of the past, there is no hierarchy in these mentoring relationships. Mentors can be senior surgeons or junior professionals who have recently been exposed to and mastered the latest innovations in the field.
3. MULTIPLICITY – No physician can be an expert in every aspect of his field of medicine. He or she will always have something to learn from someone. The Lifelong Medical Mentorings concept recognizes that to help physicians learn about stay up to date with innovations in their field, they need to be trained throughout their life in multiple occasions and from multiple experts. The caveat to the previous sentence is that, preferably, they should be mentored with the best expert for a given technique.
4. EXPERTISE – Mentors cannot be self proclaimed. They must be recognized by their peers as experts in a given technique as well as have the humility to recognize the limits of their expertise. Advertizing of such expertise should be honest. Expertise in a technique is a must but being a good teacher, pedagogic expertise is also a requirement for the Mentors.
5. GENEROSITY & RESPECT – Medical Mentoring embraces a spirit of generosity. Mentors pass the torch of knowledge to others, rather than keeping it to themselves. This generosity from the Mentor must be met with humility by the Mentee. A mentor should be respected, while a mentee must be willing to be open to their expertise. This is especially important if the mentor is younger than the trainee.
6. REAL LIFE – A mentor provides practical sharing of knowledge through real-life situations, not just videos or presentations. Learning new techniques or technologies in actual surgical or medical conditions is the best way to acquire a new skill.
7. UNBIASED – A medical mentor will provide honest feedback on the pros and cons of new techniques. When sharing his experience with peers, he should be free from any political or commercial pressure and share unbiased advice on how and when to use the technique.
8. TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT – Medical mentors are helpful for quickly assessing the possible value of a new technology such as whether it’s worth the time and investment, whether it will be useful in day-to-day practice, and whether it requires a certain level of expertise or not.
9. NETWORKING- A medical mentor brings out the best in his trainee, enhancing his or her growth and development both professionally and personally. It is also, potentially, the start of a professional relationship between the Mentor and the Mentee, which can last well beyond the one or two days of the training course.
10. PATIENCE and REWARD – Working with a mentor to acquire a new skill takes time. Sometimes it is worth exchanging and seeing real life operations from different expert mentors to get a broader view on the topic of interest. Therefore, it is important to be patient and to let the mentoring process take its course.
There’s no better way to learn a new skill than to be taught by a mentor. For those who are completely new to a technique, a workshop or masterclass is a good start. It can provide a broad understanding of a new technology or technique. But real life surgical training in the O.R. is best. Physicians across the world can easily register for on-site, in situ training with the best in their field. The outcome will be worth the investment.