Ms. Wick is a senior research pharmacist at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Zanni is a psychologist and health systems consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not those of any government agency.
When Odysseus (of Greek mythology) left his friend Mentor to educate his son as he left to fight the Trojans, little did he know he was starting a trend.1 Today, the word mentor is used interchangeably with tutor, advisor, role model, and preceptor. Mentoring relationships (Table 1)—whether formal onsite training programs or informal peer support—have the same purpose: to increase mentees' skills and confidence so that they reach their career potential. Unlike classroom education, mentoring is always person-focused; objectives include more than mastering subject matter. Instilling professional self-confidence is a core component.
Mentoring relationships in health care typically involve pairing a seasoned, well-credentialed clinician with newly graduated professionals and/or those new to a system. Mentoring relationships are essential to career development, shaping both work habits and professional identity. They often have a lifelong impact. Most practitioners can readily name past mentors who influenced their careers significantly. Interestingly, 1 survey found that up to 58% of respondents indicated a direct supervisor was their most effective mentor, followed by 35% who stated a manager or supervisor from a different department was their most effective mentor.2 These data support the position that good supervisors are more than mere performance evaluators and planners; they take a genuine interest in the person's professional development. Many professionals state they perceived their mentors as friends and even confidants.2
Implementing effective mentoring programs requires careful planning and evaluation. Mentoring relationships must establish goals and objectives for both mentors and mentees with measurable outcome criteria. Table 2 lists some guidelines that facilitate successful formal mentoring programs.
Even the best planned program may encounter problems. It is important to address potential obstacles early.
Mentoring benefits extend beyond the pharmacy. Mentees experience increased career satisfaction, manifest more positive job attitudes, and are promoted at a faster rate than others. Mentors, too, accrue additional benefits, including faster promotion rates. Data also suggest that organizations supporting mentoring programs have lower turnover rates and increased employee loyality.3,8-10
Good mentors are good professional role models who deservedly earn respect from peers and supervisors. Professional growth would falter without them. Pharmacists at first reluctant to volunteer as mentors may find it professionally and personally rewarding.
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