Whether you are embarking on your first physician job, a practicing physician thinking of taking on more responsibility, or a physician executive looking for ways to support your organization, you could no doubt benefit from physician mentorship — that is, either having a mentor or being a mentor. In my role as Regional Vice President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search’s Midwest division, I always counsel physicians starting their first jobs to seek out a mentor, but I’d argue physicians at every stage of their careers should take part in mentorships — as mentees, mentors, or possibly both. Physicians with mentors are more likely to be successful and experience greater job satisfaction, which improves the chances that they will stay with the organization. Healthcare employers will thus see improved retention rates, and patients will experience more consistent access to care.
Keep reading to explore the benefits of physician mentorship, find out the best ways to initiate a mentor-mentee connection, and learn how to be a positive participant in the relationship.
Benefits of Physician Mentorships
1. A Fast Track to Success
When new physicians have a mentor to show them the ropes (both clinically and within the organization), they will reach productivity faster and likely be happier in the job. This, of course, improves the chances that they will stay with the organization beyond the average three-year tenure of physicians in their first jobs. But mentorship doesn’t only benefit new physicians. When practicing physicians start taking on more responsibility and begin to consider a leadership role, they will benefit from seeking counsel from a physician who has already forged that path. A mentor who is a step or more ahead of you professionally is a wealth of knowledge.
2. The Chance to Create a Legacy
Physician executives willing to serve as mentors will experience the reward of knowing they are giving back or even creating a legacy. By sharing their wisdom with the next generation of physicians, they will continue to impact patients long after they hang up their white coats.
3. Improves Job Satisfaction and Physician Retention
Some studies have found a correlation between mentorship and job satisfaction. When physicians are building their skill sets and developing professionally, which mentorship encourages, they will likely feel more satisfied with their jobs. Similarly, when older physicians are actively helping to develop new talent, they, too, are likely to feel more job satisfaction. We know from other studies that physician job satisfaction significantly impacts physician retention, so organizations may see improved retention rates as a result of physician mentorship programs.
4. Patients Receive More Collaborative Care
Physicians with mentors have access to more experienced physicians and will incorporate their wisdom into the care they provide, resulting in better, more collaborative patient care.
Making the Mentor-Mentee Match
Mentorship benefits everyone — mentee, mentor, the organizations they work for, as well as the patients they serve. However, most organizations don’t provide formal mentor programs, so it is up to the physician to seek out a mentor relationship. This can happen in a variety of ways, some more organic than others. Most commonly, the mentee will approach someone they admire professionally and ask if the potential mentor has time to share some advice on a specific topic. If the mentor agrees, one conversation leads to another until a mentor-mentee relationship is born.
A more formal approach, though just as effective, could be to simply ask a respected physician if he or she has time to be your mentor. He or she may not be able to commit but can perhaps refer you to someone more willing. And while it may not happen as often, sometimes an experienced physician will make a connection with a promising new physician and offer to mentor them. Sharing wisdom with a new generation of physicians is a powerful way for them to impact more patients, and those who recognize this will be motivated to be a mentor.
Tips for Physician Mentorship Success
Make Yourself Available
Physicians’ days are often packed, and coffee with a mentor or mentee may seem like the easy thing to cancel when a day or week gets particularly hectic. This is inevitable sometimes, but it is important to prioritize the relationship and make the time to connect — even if only for 15 minutes or over the phone instead of face-to-face. Some time is better than no time at all.
Set Clear Expectations
In an ideal mentorship, both parties know what each is hoping to get out of the relationship. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Dr. Sanjay Saint and Dr. Vineet Chopra discuss the different roles a mentor may play and counsel physicians to know which one is expected of them. A physician mentor may serve as a coach, teaching the mentee new skills; as a sponsor, increasing the mentee’s visibility within an organization and helping them navigate promotions; or as a connector, making introductions to grow the mentee’s professional network. A new physician may primarily need a coach, while a physician hoping to move into leadership will need a sponsor and/or connector. Most mentorships will be a blend of all three, but it is useful to have an understanding of what is expected so neither party is let down.
Recognize the Importance of Physician Mentorship
Across industries and professions, no one achieves success without the guidance and support of those who came before them. Nowhere is this more true than in medicine, where a commitment to sharing knowledge is even built into the modern Hippocratic oath.
In my experience working with hundreds of physicians each year, I have found most of them are wired to be both lifelong learners and teachers. They recognize the important role mentorship plays, not only in their own professional development but in the advancement of medicine and improvement of patient care. So, despite the many demands on physicians’ time, most are willing to make the time for physician mentorship.
No matter where you are in your physician career, the recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search is eager to assist. We have clients of all types and sizes in every region of the country that are looking for physicians like you. Reach out today to learn more, or start searching for physician jobs online now.
About Tara Osseck
With more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Tara Osseck specializes in matching healthcare organizations with physicians who are a strong fit for the role and the culture. Her healthcare career began as a physician liaison and quickly expanded to include physician recruitment, strategic planning, and business development, working for various hospitals throughout Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri. Based in St. Louis, Osseck leads the firm’s Midwest Division, placing providers across the Midwest and Upper Midwest. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Truman State University and a master’s degree in health care administration and management from The University of Memphis.