Pharmacy students need to understand the value of mentoring and seek a quality mentor while still in school. Here are some guidelines for establishing this vital support system.
Unfortunately, the concept of mentoring may not be common or well understood in pharmacy school and is often interchanged with preceptorship.
The term “mentoring” can be defined as the “naturally formed, one-on-one, mutual, committed, nonsexual relationship between a junior and senior person designed to promote personal and professional development beyond any particular curricular or institutional goals.”¹ The relationship is often long term and constantly changing to meet the needs of the person being mentored, unlike a preceptor-student relationship, which is often prearranged and is a short-term commitment.1
Mentoring is a well-known practice used in supporting and guiding someone who is new to a field, yet it seems as if the importance of mentoring to the progression of the pharmacy profession has not been realized. In a recent American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) report, only 55% of students reported having a mentor, which leaves almost half lacking any form of mentorship.2 This article will focus on the importance of mentoring to the mentee, the mentor, and the pharmacy profession as a whole.
The mentee has the most to benefit from the mentoring relationship. In most instances, the mentor is an established pharmacist within his or her respected pharmacy field of practice and can provide knowledge concerning many of the mentee’s questions. The mentee receives professional guidance, aid in promoting self-confidence, and knowledge about the mentor’s real-world experiences.
Another big benefit the mentor provides to the mentee is an opportunity for networking. The pharmacy profession is a small community where everyone knows everyone. The mentor can be a useful resource when looking for a new job or first job opportunity. This mentor is someone who has the mentee’s best interests at heart and will give his or her honest opinion, even in areas outside professional limitations, such as successfully managing the complexities of balancing family and career.
Although the general consensus is that the junior colleague benefits most from this relationship, the senior colleague also enjoys some perks that come with being a mentor. Usually the mentor is a senior colleague who has been out of pharmacy school for many years, so taking on the role of a mentor can provide him with up-to-date information from the mentee, who is often a recent graduate.²
The mentor’s role also assures that the knowledge and experiences that the mentor has gained are not being lost and forgotten. The mentor will be passing down his or her knowledge, experiences, and skills with the hope that the mentee will also pass them on in the future. For the mentor, the icing on the cake is that a mentee’s success is a good reflection on him or her.
THE PHARMACY PROFESSION
In recent years, the idea of a pharmacy leadership crisis has received a lot of publicity. Although it is quite clear that leadership has become a required component of the profession, many students still seem to think it is an option.² Mentoring is a very important component, in that it can be used to increase the awareness and ease of access to leadership opportunities. This awareness can help impact the junior pharmacists to recognize and achieve their potential contributions to the pharmacy profession.
In effect, the encouragement and support of a mentor might increase the confidence of his or her junior colleague to take on leadership roles, which otherwise he or she might not have been interested in. Furthermore, mentoring could also be used as a means of passing undocumented professional knowledge, which is not part of the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum, from generation to generation.
Oftentimes, the mentee does not want to bother the mentor or feels that the senior pharmacist is too busy with his or her own work. It may also feel like the people we admire are almost unapproachable. The first step is for the mentee to be able to overcome his or her nerves and anxiety in approaching a potential mentor.
The strategy in finding a good mentor can be compared with that of finding a good partner for dating. You would want to find somebody you can get along with pretty well and who has your best interests at heart. Both parties have to bear in mind that in order to gain the full benefits of what this relationship has to offer, the relationship has to be an honest one.
In order to maximize the benefits of a mentor, select someone inside your respective field.³ It should also not be overlooked that the relationship between students and preceptors can be cultivated into that of a mentorship. Rotations are an excellent opportunity to network and meet different members of the pharmacy profession. Mentoring relationships can also be established through joining and attending meetings and conferences of pharmacy organizations such as the ASHP, the American Pharmacists Association, the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, and others.
A mentee can have more than 1 mentor—and likewise the mentor can assist more than 1 junior colleague—but it is very important to note that a mentoring relationship is about quality and not quantity. Most important is to have a quality mentor who provides meaningful advice and knowledge, rather than having a host of mentors who provide you with mediocre advice.
Pharmacy students about to set out into the professional arena need to understand the value of mentoring. It’s a positive activity that should be encouraged, because it benefits the mentor, mentee, and the progression of the pharmacy profession as a whole. •
Stacey N. Caponi, PharmD Candidate 2013, and Barbara Osei-Sraha, PharmD Candidate 2013 Ms. Caponi and Ms. Osei-Sraha are PharmD Candidates at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Florida.