By Deborah Y. Land, MPH, BSN, RN, CHCP, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Grace Gregory, MAT, CHCP, NM Academy, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare
Professionals in the field of continuing education in the health professions experience a lifelong process of acquiring and sharing knowledge and resources in order to succeed. It is crucial to identify resources for support, including professionals who are willing to share their experiences and expertise with novice CPD professionals. The challenges of identifying a suitable mentor, as well as offering assistance to peers can impede optimal growth. We share key elements for success from our experience as mentor/mentee in the CPD field. The formal mentorship opportunity along with written tips provided by ACEhp in the 2017 Fundamentals course helped us realize the importance of reciprocity in establishing expectations early on in this journey. (See Table 1.)
Table 1. Summary of ‘Tips for Success in your Mentoring Experience’
Source: ACEhp Fundamentals. Tips for Success in your Mentoring Experience
(Or, how to be a good mentee). 2017
Although I (Deborah, the prospective mentee) had a strong background in continuing education, I was new to the CME arena and did not know what to expect. I needed to learn the fundamentals on a quick learning curve as a new leader in this area and to gain a greater understanding of what would be expected. One key area in the CPD professional’s career path is defined in the National Learning Competencies under Leadership. NLC 7.1 states ‘Engage in assessments and professional development to help identify and then close one’s own knowledge, competence, and performance gaps’. Once a self-assessment is done, a natural question to ask is ‘now what?’
When provided with the opportunity to be formally paired with a mentor during the ACEhp Fundamental’s course, I immediately saw the benefits of defining professional development goals and having someone to help me navigate those goals. I knew I was not alone, as I had already met several helpful and kind colleagues. Yet, a written, formal plan for mentorship was a turn-key step for me in gaining an accountability partner for my success. Timelines were established to check-in, goals were reviewed and encouragement was given for each accomplished goal. In reciprocity, I let my mentor know when I needed clarity and initiated reporting new goals or success.
Two professional goals I set for which my mentor kindly held me accountable were to become certified and to present regionally or nationally. My mentor gently nudged me by simply asking about my progress each time we spoke. I was able to accomplish both goals within two years, and a key component was the supportive accountability established in our mentor-mentee relationship.
Clearly, as is the case for all beneficial relationships, communication was crucial to the success of this successful mentorship.
Mentorship from a Mentor’s Perspective:
I (Grace) had an opportunity to participate in a formal mentorship program through the Alliance Fundamentals 101 as a faculty mentor for two consecutive years. I found the experience to be very enriching, and here are the things that I learned and took from the experience.
Mentorship develops the mentor professionally. The common notion is that mentorship is only beneficial to the professional development of the mentee. However, mentorship impacts the mentor’s professional development just as much as it does to the mentee. Mentorship further develops and expands one’s leadership, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Leadership is influence. When you help your mentee get from point A to point B, you are using your leadership skills. Being able to teach effectively to where concepts and principles become more translatable to the daily work flow, then you have harnessed effective communication skills. When you assist your mentee in examining barriers and finding possible solutions to their problems, then you are sharpening your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
It is a two-way street. I’ve seen mentor-mentee relationships fail and not work out for many reasons, but the most common one I’ve seen is the lack of commitment on the part of one of the parties. Both parties have to be willing and invested for the mentorship experience to be mutually enriching. A mentor may be willing and motivated to impart knowledge about the field of expertise, but if the mentee is not engaged in the process, it will not work out. At the same time, if a mentee is engaged and so motivated to learn but the mentor cannot give the commitment needed to pour into the mentorship, it is bound to fail. Also, as a mentor, keep an open mind that you will learn from your mentee at the same time. Keep in mind that your mentee has areas of expertise that you can learn from.
Mentor by example. A mentor is a role model. If you encourage your mentee to set a stretch goal and hold them accountable, then make sure you have either done this yourself or have also simultaneously set a stretch goal for yourself. You cannot ask or challenge someone to do something you have not dared to do yourself.
Mentorship throughout one’s career is a key factor for success of the CE professional. The factors we both found to be essential to success include mutual commitment, communication and reciprocity. Mentorship done right is enriching and professionally fulfilling.
Deborah Y. Land, MPH, BSN, RN, CHCP, and Grace Gregory, MAT, CHCP at the 2018 and 2019 Alliance Annual Conference.