The Mentees Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You

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Book details Author : Lois J. This may indeed be the basis of every good human occupation. Whether you love teaching someone else how to knit, make pottery, play video games, mend broken bones, bake a pie, or give an injection, the mentor is in a unique place to pass on skills and knowledge that are not found in books, can't be fully described verbally, and are not tangible enough to take a photo of or draw.

Many people may be mentors in their private lives.

The Mentee's Guide has been added

Maybe you've been asked to teach someone what you know about playing an instrument, or how to change sparkplugs? The role of mentoring in healthcare and your professional life is rarely discussed, and yet is so critical. That is why most healthcare professions rely on internships.

Someone is able to understand the Krebs cycle from a book, but how to palpate a patients organs, how to take a blood pressure, when to talk about end of life issues, where to place a fistula; these are all things that someone has to show you how to do. Similar to hunting for mushrooms, you only know how to look for the things your guide has shown you. If you have never felt the silky heaviness of a Matsutake mushroom, you will never be able to distinguish one in the wild from the sea of a million other mushrooms.

All the photos in the world don't replace someone showing you, letting you see, rotate, touch, smell, heft, and finally find, your own mushroom in a place you have never been before or even predicting where you will find it! Healthcare is the same. You have to smell the uremic odor of an underdialyzed patient, see the uremic frost on their skin, listen to the description of their avoidance of meat, and touch their vibrating fistula to gain insight about the patient.

The amazing return gained from being a mentor more than repays the investment of time and effort. Mentoring enables your expertise to grow.

It may also help mentors see their own work in a very different light. Mentoring enables you to analyze your own performance from a different perspective. By explaining or demonstrating something to someone else, an insight may be gained about why one is more effective with some patients than others.

Or, in the case of dialysis patients, how it feels when needles are successfully placed and inserted or which phosphate binder works better for homeless patients. In order to teach, a much fuller understanding of the subject is needed beyond simply being able to perform the task. Learning to teach something to another person allows one to learn nuances that may have not been noticed before.


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  • Another reason to be a mentor is the opportunity to share your expertise with someone else. For example, you may be a really good caregiver and clinician. If so, perhaps you might be able to successfully care for patients? However, consider if you mentor a strong staff of ten like-minded people and each of them works with patients—the learned skills are extended to 1, patients! Think about it… if each of the people you mentor then goes on to mentor another ten people, your expertise has been shared exponentially.

    The mentor is not a mom, a therapist, a boss, or a role model. The mentor is a guide. A guide that helps you see farther in the forest, pointing out varieties of mushrooms and ideas you may have overlooked. Mentoring differs from teaching in many ways. With teaching, the teacher talks and the student listens. In the mentoring scenario, the mentor is much more likely to do a lot of listening, and less talking. It is a two-way, reciprocal relationship. The mentor gains as much as the person being mentored.

    Sometimes it's just not as obvious. Your mentee might be more technologically savvy than you, showing you how to use a new computer program or app. They may ask a less sophisticated question, which leads you to think in a different way about what we think we know, helping to direct our efforts into a different area of research not considered previously.

    Words of Advice for Mentees

    They may choose to practice in a different area, so now you have a resource and contact in the bariatric or diabetes community when an unanswered question arises. People want to be mentored and seek out dynamic, passionate, flexible and fun individuals. Who wouldn't want to work with this type of professional?

    These people can help bring enjoyment back into your professional career, long after complacency has taken root. Mentoring is not for a day, or a week, or even a year. It takes time for both of you to work on the lifelong relationships that are being built. It is all about empowering people. It's not up to the mentor to figure out how to mentor, but rather the mentee to figure out what they need. The mentor, as a guide, can point the mentee in the right direction and present options.

    Think of these as "poison mushrooms. The mentor role is not to fix problems for the mentee. The mentor role is to help the mentee identify them, and come up with multiple strategies to resolve the problem. Whether they choose one path or the other is up to the mentee, whereas the job of the mentor is to point out there are several successful paths, each with positive and negative considerations. Relationships can't be fixed by the mentor, but the mentor might help the mentee try and figure out why someone is acting a certain way and what might be good alternative actions for the mentee.

    The mentor is not a therapist and, ultimately, the mentee needs to find her own solutions to relationship issues. Having someone to talk to will go a long way toward helping the mentee talk through positive solutions.

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