By Rubby Koomson, RN
Mentoring is a central tenet and hallmark of the Urban Service Track/AHEC Scholars (UST/AS) program. A mentor is a non-judgmental individual who is trustworthy, listens, gives constructive criticism, and acts as an overall role model for the student or novice professional. Mentorship is integral to students’ experiences with the UST/AS program from the day they are accepted.
As a first-year student in UST, I looked up to the second-year students as coaches and mentors. These coaches were instrumental in teaching me how to maneuver through the program. From these early days in UST to my professional career today, my notions about what mentoring entails have evolved. I used to think mentoring could only be done when one is at the peak of their profession; I have come to realize the right time to begin mentoring is fluid. After just six months of working as a nurse, I found myself mentoring less-seasoned colleagues and student nurses. That was the moment I learned that I did not have to know everything about the job in order to be a mentor, but rather that I had to be aware of the resources at my disposal and be able to direct others to those resources when needed. This criterion is undoubtedly applicable in both nursing as well as other professions.
One of the key components of mentoring is providing mentees with constructive feedback. Good mentoring requires clear, effective communication between mentor and mentee. Such communication and well-intentioned, constructive criticism are especially important early in the mentoring relationship, as the parties adjust to each other’s teaching and learning styles. It can be quite difficult to gracefully give constructive criticism, and it can be equally difficult to gracefully receive constructive criticism. If mishandled in the delivery or intent, criticism can be one of the factors that sabotages the mentoring relationship. But, once clear, open, effective communication is established, constructive criticism will find its place and value in a mentoring relationship.
Mentoring is an exciting learning opportunity for all parties involved. Mentors have the opportunity to learn new ways of practicing and communicating from their mentees, to gain a deeper sense of self-awareness, and to frequently test their knowledge base. The mentee learns alternate ways of practicing medicine as well, and how to avoid some of the mistakes the mentor may have made as a student or new professional. My advice to you is to be prepared for and open to mentorship opportunities and relationships and aspire to be the type of mentor you needed and wanted as a new professional.
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