Friday, April 17, 2009


What is a mentor? According to Webster , he is "a faithful and trusted counselor or guide”. Then what is a "docent? It is defined as “ 1) teacher or lecturer and 2) a person who leads a guided tour”. In general, mentoring is usually considered to be a relationship of a minimum of 2 years. The docent concept as practiced at UMKC Medical School could therefore partially qualify as mentoring based on these definitions.

Being a good teacher does not automatically mean than one will be a good mentor. Teaching is the imparting of knowledge and the most successful teachers have occupational skills in their ability to present new knowledge with enthusiasm and flair.. Some of the techniques involved were covered in the Metro Med Bulletin. Chances are that the most revered teacher in your memory was both a good teacher and a good mentor paragraph

Mentoring in medical school and in post graduate training is considered adult mentoring and is distinctly separate from the techniques of the mentoring of children.. At present, the average medical teacher is most likely using the style one uses with children. Children are used to being told what to do, but this direct approach may not set well with advanced students and residents. The "drill sergent” approach at present could result in harassment charges against the teacher.

Resident learning is linked to what they need to know or do in order to fulfill their roles and responsibilities. They are striving for acceptance from peers and staff. They are anxious to prove that they "know something" and to show off their recently hard-gained knowledge. They are trying to shift from being subject-centered to being problem- centered.

The best way to help them become problem solvers is through questioning. When they ask for advice, the mentor should ask their opinion before responding. Some of the best mentors answer every question with a question. If the answer is fuzzy, they tell the student that he needs to "think more about it".

The areas of mentoring are. 1) education, 2) career, and 3) personal development. Educational mentoring involves inculcating the concept of being a perpetual student and the monitoring of knowledge by refresher courses, conferences and meetings. Career mentoring helps guide the student into a career for which he or she is most suited and , in residents, the necessary skills and competencies needed. Personal development mentoring guides decision-making and provides support during times of personal or social stress.

Simply stated, mentoring is the guiding of the development of the whole person. A basic grasp of the scope of mentoring is nicely presented by the work of Ned Herrmann and his “whole brain” concept. The Herrmann system classifies thinking processors into four distinct categories: A) logical, analytical and factual, B) structural, detailed, sequential C) empathetic, emotional and expressive D) conceptual, integrative, synthesizing. A good mentor would have a balanced distribution of the characteristics and use the competencies interchangeably. The scientific curriculum in medicine leans heavily on the A-B areas with emphasis on A characteristics, particularly in specialties.. Therefore, because of his lack of strength in the C and D areas, a typical specialist will have difficulty in truly mentoring a resident.

This makes specialties such as surgery, cardiovascular and gastroenterology. essentially apprenticeships, defined as "one bound by legal agreement to serve another for a certain time with a view toward learning an art or trade in consideration of instruction". Nowadays, the “apprentice” insists on a salary rather than trading his work for training and mentoring. Unfortunately, this causes consternation among those who give time to uncompensated teaching and mentoring.

Yet there are still those who love to teach and seem to have a calling. For them to feel fully rewarded, they should take a course in adult mentoring. It would improve the teacher, the student and the institution

Submitted 4/17/2009
C.Y. Thomas, MD

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