There are many definitions of mentoring and coaching in use, with coaching typically being identified as shorter-term and task- or skill-focussed; whereas mentoring is a longer-term, more personal and broader scope relationship. The two can overlap and might be thought of as a spectrum. Being mentored is associated with greater confidence, reduced stress and enhanced career progression. Mentoring in Emergency medicine is comprehensively explored by EMDocs in 2 parts: www.emdocs.net/mentoring-emergency-medicine-part-1/ & www.emdocs.net/mentoring-process-emergency-medicine-part-2/.
There can be downsides or potential for conflict in mentoring as well as the many positives. Role ambiguity, conflict, inappropriate expectations and issues around confidentiality or mentor involvement in assessments can all complicate or jeopardise the mentor-mentee relationship. (Kasra Teharian and Mina Shekarchian in Medical Teacher 30(4), 2008: www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01421590801929968)
Peer or near-peer mentoring has a number of distinct advantages, including familiarity with training and exam requirements, and recent experience of transition points at work and in life. EM trainees are, by nature and by necessity, a mutually supportive community. Much of this occurs informally but it there is potential, as at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, for a formal support structure around peer mentoring: improvement.nhs.uk/uploads/documents/Case_study.Cornwall_yo1AXrG.pdf. One key component is mentor training, some principles of which are discussed at flippedem.com/2011/03/11/becoming-a-better-mentor – these are well worth considering if you are an informal mentor.
When considering the advantages of mentoring and mutual support, it is also important to think about bullying. Put simply, bullying and undermining behaviours have no place in medicine. The British Orthopaedic Trainees’ Association and the Association of Surgeons in Training, have made great strides forward in tackling this and initiating real cultural change within surgery: www.bota.org.uk/hammer-it-out & www.asit.org/assets/documents/UB_Statement_ASiT_Final_No_tracking.pdf EMTA will shortly be unveiling a parallel campaign in the context of the ED – more soon.