Just started a new job? Or is work a bit tough? You might benefit from a mentor

By Prof Nina Barnett, FRPharmS

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.

Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.
Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Benefits to mentees
Being mentored allows the mentee to improve their understanding of work issues and to be exposed to different approaches to dealing with them. The mentor can be used as a sounding board for ideas and, because the relationship and conversations are confidential, the mentee can speak freely without fear of repercussions.
Information can be disclosed privately to a mentor who, coming from a similar environment, will be able to understand and empathise. Alternatively, the mentee might choose to be mentored by someone in a different sector in order to expand their horizons.

One specialist pharmacist in mental health was mentored as a junior pharmacist and, said: “Mentoring provided me with support and practical advice on how to deal with challenging situations, and gave me an insight on how to develop my career path and make use of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Most people who have been mentored describe an increase in confidence as one of the key benefits. One pharmacist, prescriber in a senior hospital-based clinical role benefited from mentoring when they became a pharmacist prescriber, explained:

Although I was very confident and experienced as a pharmacist practitioner, I was new to pharmacist prescribing. I wanted a mentor for support and to guide me through training and in my role as a new prescriber… Through mentoring I was able to address the challenges of a new prescriber, which included defining my scope of practice in order to maximise patient contribution and ensuring my prescribing was safe and effective.”

As well as offering opportunities for self-learning, mentoring can also help mentees focus on their priorities. One pharmacist, with an existing career in across a range of pharmacy sectors contacted the RPS to find support with the career direction change. They said: “Over the years, I have found that those that are thriving (whether in professional or general life) have often been blessed with having had one or more mentors. I know I would not be where I am now if it were not for several folk who have actively invested in me over the years.”

Rewards for mentors
Mentors often express satisfaction in helping others to achieve their goals as well as enjoying the opportunity to give back to the profession. As a mentor, the satisfaction of seeing your mentee overcome difficulties and create the future they aspire to is extremely rewarding.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to be mentored, both formally and informally, by people who inspired me to achieve my potential and who supported me through the various challenges along the way. I am pleased to be able to mentor others in the hope that they will gain from it as much as I did.
In developing others, mentors also grow their own skills and may gain a different perspective on work. They also find that their confidence around addressing issues and in dealing with people from different backgrounds increases. Mentors do not necessarily need specific knowledge in the mentee’s area of practice (they might simply be required to ask questions to aid reflection and help the individual to self-solve problems) but some skills, such as the ability to question, listen and provide constructive feedback, are essential.

For both mentors and mentees, mentoring presents many opportunities for continuing professional development. The relationship promotes learning, commitment and motivation, all of which support completion of revalidation entries. Entries may include learning that results from meetings and discussions, providing and receiving support or feedback, and evaluating progress either as a mentor or mentee. Mentoring experiences can be used to identify or refine learning focus.

Support
Many professional organisations recognise the benefit of mentoring services and provide this service for their members. Most health-related royal colleges, such as nursing, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynaecology, offer mentorship to their respective students and trainees.
RPS has a mentoring platform which facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. You need to decide what you would like a mentor to support you with. You can then select and approach a mentor based on their profile of skills and experience. Join the RPS platform today and find your perfect match.

Sign up www.rpharms.com/mentoring

How to ensure effective mentoring

Stephen Goundrey-Smith explains how pharmacists can benefit from mentoring and gives his recommendations for ensuring mentees and mentors get the most out of a mentoring relationship

Mentoring is a useful tool for those interested in career progression or simply anyone wanting support. 

Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship of professional development, usually between someone seeking professional progression and a more experienced practitioner. This could also include someone seeking to develop new expertise and a practitioner already active in that area.

Mentoring is different from coaching in that mentoring is concerned with professional development, rather than learning specific skills but many commentators argue that there is considerable crossover between the two.

Mentoring has been shown to have a positive impact on career development in healthcare, helping to improve confidence and interpersonal skills of mentors as well as mentees. It also improves career retention rates and work performance. Moreover, work among psychiatrists showed that mentoring greatly benefited professionals who worked in multidisciplinary teams or who were isolated from their peers in daily practice. Read the full article here

Find out more about RPS Mentoring and how it can help you.

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