Mentoring is where an experienced colleague guides an Advanced Trainee through their development as a physician. This can occur in various contexts and relationships, formally and informally, where conversations, feedback, learning activities and modelling are offered.
An AFPHM mentor is a formal mentoring relationship, designed to expand and strengthen a trainee’s experience in public health, and support the trainee on their journey to becoming a public health physician. It’s likely a trainee will also have a range of informal mentors throughout their training, including supervisors, other senior colleagues and peers.
Mentors also benefit from a successful mentoring relationship through improving teaching and training skills and gaining personal satisfaction in knowing they’re contributing to the future development of their profession.
To become a mentor, a trainee must nominate you as part of their annual application for Advanced Training.
The role of an AFPHM mentor is to guide the overall professional development of a trainee as they move through the Public Health Medicine Advanced Training Program. Ideally as a mentor, you’ll help your trainee:
- develop their skills and professional values as a public health physician
- identify appropriate training positions and training plan to fulfill the required competencies of the training program
- identify any areas of weakness and help the trainee plan ways to address these
- achieve their professional objectives
- develop professional networks
- develop their long-term career plan and professional goals
- support the trainee should they encounter problems or difficulties with their training or assessment, including referring the matter to the Regional Education Coordinator if needed
The mentor does not have to work directly with the trainee but they must not be involved in a supervisory capacity, including specific assessments such as Direct Observation of Professional Practice Skills (DOPPS).
For trainees, it is ideal that they retain the same mentor throughout their training program.
- Sign off on Application to Commence Training, Learning Contracts and Learning Contract Reports
- Be familiar with training program requirements and promote the public health medicine curriculum competencies
- be available for regular communication with the trainee
For the mentoring relationship to be meaningful, we expect mentors to meet trainees (or have other contact) at least once every 3 months. At a minimum, you’re to meet with your trainee at least once per year to discuss your professional development and progress through the training program.
Note: Trainees are responsible for initiating contact and planning meetings.
Managing the relationship
While some mentoring relationships are successful intuitively, these ‘keys to a successful mentoring relationship’ can be a useful guide.
- Develop a relationship of trust
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Establish short-term and long-term goals
- Collaborate to solve problems
Like any relationship, the mentoring relationship tends to follow developmental stages, and these keys are also common descriptions of those stages. How quickly the relationship moves through each stage is unique to each relationship.
Being a good mentor
Literature lists a number of attributes in a mentor that are valued by mentees, including:
- active listening
- building trust
- being available
- being encouraging and inspiring
- determining goals and building capacity
- enthusiasm for teaching
- understanding training program requirements
- being flexible enough to adapt different approaches to different trainees and situations
SPDP 3 — Work-based Learning and Assessment Public Health Medicine
Mentors are welcome to attend the RACP Supervisor Professional Development Program (SPDP) 3 — Work-based Learning and Assessment Public Health Medicine workshops.
The 3-hour workshop facilitated by a trained AFPHM Fellow includes discussions and activities which provide opportunities to practice your skills.
The workshop assists supervisors to do the following within a public health training environment:
- Discuss the purpose and importance of work-based learning and assessment.
- Analyse the process of planning for learning and assessment.
- Identify the challenges and solutions associated with work-based assessment in a complex environment.
- Draw on evidence of learning and achievement to determine overall performance and progression.
Be available and interested
- Where possible, respond to a trainee’s request to meet up.
- Aim to be interested and empathetic and demonstrate active listening.
- Intermittently check in with your trainee outside of planned meetings to see how they’re going and share information (for example, journal articles, new guidelines) on public health that you think might be of interest to them or contribute to their growth
Resist the temptation to give all the answers
- While you should offer advice and teaching when requested, try to guide your trainee to discover information for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
- A good method is answering questions with questions, for example ‘What would you do?Why do you think that? What would you do instead if X happened instead of Y?
- You can help facilitate contacts for your trainee, when they are seeking guidance in areas that fall outside your expertise.
Share your own experiences and lessons learned
- Do this when requested but remind the trainee that these may be different to theirs.
- You can also share experiences in a general way, for example “… in this situation one thing that worked for me was...”
Help identify opportunities and contacts
Make useful connections for your trainee, such as introducing them to colleagues, making them aware of training and employment opportunities and facilitating their involvement in specific projects where appropriate.
Familiarise yourself with the training program
Where possible attend workshops and/or other faculty events to keep up to date on requirements to complete training.
Reflect and seek feedback on your mentoring
- One method of self-reflection is to ask yourself after a meeting or occasionally: “How well am I demonstrating the attributes of a good mentor?”
- Discussing this with a colleague can also be helpful.
- You can also ask your trainee to rate you on these attributes, however be aware that the power differential in the relationship may impact on the validity of this information
- Tools that can aid self-reflection and assessment are:
Developing a successful mentoring relationship
Byintgton. T, (2010). Keys to Successful Mentoring Relationships, Extension Journal, 48(6).
Davis S and Rosewell, A. (2016). Results of a Workshop on Improvement of Field Epidemiology Training in the Asia-Pacific (unpublished).
Lee. A, Dennis. C, Campbell, P. (2007). Natures Guide for Mentors. Nature, 447 791-797.
Centre for Health Leadership & Practice (2003). ‘Mentoring Guide: A Guide for Mentors’ (PDF). Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA