How to be a better mentor to your medical residents
Thursday, February 28, 2019
As a teaching physician, you no doubt take the job of providing guidance to your doctors-in-training very seriously. Still, there are probably areas in which you'd like to improve the interaction you have so your young doctors glean the most professional and personal benefits — but you're not quite sure how to proceed.
Good news: there's a wealth of research that covers solutions to navigate a variety of mentorship challenges with great results. Try these proven strategies:
Encourage more give and take with your resident.
To a newly minted MD, the prospect of merely approaching an experienced doctor to request mentorship can be incredibly intimidating. Research from St. Michael's Hospital recommends that you can effectively defuse your resident's nerves by actively engaging in a respectful conversation about mentorship being a two-way street.
Let your resident know you will actively listen to their questions and concerns, and will never be too busy to explaining complex academic concepts to them.
Set crystal-clear expectations.
The St. Michael's study also stressed that a good mentor also provides clear, concise instructions that must always be respected. If you're multitasking, it can be easy to muddle your message to your residents.
If you're heading up a research project, make the time to provide all necessary written and verbal instruction — you can't assume your residents will create and follow their own project through line accurately. Once the guidelines you've established have been properly laid out, it's your residents' responsibility to follow them precisely, and learn from that process
Don't be susceptible to flattery.
No doubt you've met your share of "gunners" throughout your career — those competitive young medical students and residents who use ingratiation to get ahead. Everyone likes a compliment (even a seasoned physician!), but a new study from Oregon State University finds that mentors who consciously or subconsciously favor a flatterer actually deplete that person's needed reserve of self-control, making them more likely to act impulsively in terms of important work decisions.
Deflect obvious flattery lightly — you can say, "You didn't think I was going to fall for that, did you?" — and make it clear that to your resident that as a leader and a doctor, sincerity is an absolutely essential attribute.
Learn the "red flags" of writing a letter of recommendation.
A Rice University study found that mentors who strive to write a well-rounded and all-encompassing recommendation often unintentionally use language that raises doubts about female applicants without meaning to.
Avoid comments that could be classified as negative, or as faint praise — you may be trying to temper your enthusiasm to be as honest as possible, but if you agree to recommend your resident, you believe in this person (male or female) and should be willing to focus on his/her best qualities. Helping ease your resident's transition into the world is always a worthy goal.
Ask for feedback.
A recent study from the University of Zurich found that what truly sets leaders apart is their willingness to take responsibility for decisions that affect the welfare of others. Tell your residents that they can absolutely point out any time you drop the ball. This will cement their trust in you — and that trust will help you in turn make your residents' great future leaders.
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