Recognize the Impact and Value of Mentoring

Dr. Ethan C has just graduated from veterinary school and joined a practice. He is excited but apprehensive. He does not feel confident, knows he has some technical weaknesses, and is nervous in front of clients. He also wants to be accepted and respected by the practice team. How can Ethan make it successfully through this career transition? He needs to find a mentor!

Mutual Benefits 

As a practice owner, have you ever had challenges with integrating a new team member into practice? If you are an associate, have you ever had trouble fitting in to a new position?

Most people face big fears in entering practice. How often do you hear of a young associate who "freezes up" during surgery? How many have experienced difficulty dealing with clients or the hospital team? How confident is anyone in their own professional skills, especially when accepting a new responsibility?

These are examples of normal daily challenges in the professional settting. Consider mentoring as a structured solution to address these concerns in a positive yet practical manner.

Through acknowledgement of personal and professional goals, mentoring is beneficial to both mentee and mentor in sustaining growth, accomplishment, and long term satisfaction. Mentoring is a key activity by which employers can successfully facilitate a new employee's entry into the hospital environment. The mentor provides valuable knowledge, expertise, and support, while the mentee provides enthusiasm and an open mind. This solution-focused attitude reflects positively on the entire hospital.

Both mentee or mentor can broaden the other's understanding of complex issues. Mentoring includes the opportunity to constructively deal with sensitive ethical issues in the practice setting, particularly where there is no one right choice.2,3 Effective mentoring also has a positive impact in non-technical areas, such as improved harmony among practice team members, enhanced self esteem, better work habits, and personal growth.4,5 Only when a veterinary team is working at their best can they offer their best to their patients and clients, which is what motivates us all to excellence in practice.

Mentoring is highly desired by associate and new graduate veterinarians.1,6,7 Research in other professions shows that mentoring can have specific measurable outcomes. For example, the Nature Publishing Group created awards to honor commentoring activities in research. Nature discovered that exemplary mentors were also exemplary teachers. They also found that the individuals who developed the most outstanding careers had first experienced their future mentors as teachers.8,9,10

Does it cost too much to mentor, or is it more costly to ignore the benefits of this relationship? Whether as mentee or mentor, take advantage of all the mentoring has to offer.

Dr. Ethan C recognizes that he needs to find a mentor. He thinks of Dr. Diane W, a veterinarian at his practice whom he admires greatly. Will she see the benefit to becoming a mentor?

Dr. Diane W is a successful and experienced veterinarian. She is looking for ways she can build better relationships and help to develop new talent in the field of veterinary medicine. She recognizes that Ethan is a talented junior colleague. She is optimistic about his career, yet has concerns about the potential time commitment of being a mentor.

Benefits to the mentor

The importance of building successful relationships with new members of the veterinary profession is often unrecognized. A culture of continuous mentoring can be an effective strategy to improve both the recruitment and retention of top talent to your practice. New team members will become acclimated more quickly, increasing their level of satisfaction and leading to higher-quality patient care.

This special relationship inspires the practice team. Mentoring helps new employees learn effective communication and teamwork. The positive culture can encourage candid, solution-focused discussions of difficulties in the practice. Another great benefit is that with the rapid advance of veterinary knowledge, mentors will be able to learn the most up-to-date medicine from their recently-trained colleague.11

Benefits to the mentee

All team members can benefit from being mentees. This is particularly true for new veterinarians. The transition from student to practitioner can be an overwhelming undertaking. During this time it is valuable to have colleagues who are personally and professionally supportive.

If you are a recent graduate, you will find that investing in yourself early in your career by seeking guidance will allow you to establish medical, interpersonal and business skills. Your mentor will be an invaluable resource and source of support when you encounter difficult or challenging situations both within and outside of veterinary practice, enabling you to quickly become a part of the veterinary team.

As a mentee, you will be encouraged to think and manage independently. Your mentor may not have all the answers, but may provide understanding and empathy that give you the courage and confidence to move forward.