Explaining the Different Types of Mentors

February 1, 2021

Louise Jones, PhD, MEd, Director of Research & Scholarly Activity

General Faculty Mentors

Each resident is assigned a specific faculty-mentor who acts as their program guide, career advisor, and support source. Typically, residents get together with their mentors monthly or quarterly, with more sessions set up as needed. There may be an element of “assessor” in this relationship that alters the power-sharing of a typical mentoring relationship.

Near-Peer Mentors

Senior (PGY-2 and above) residents can mentor a small group or individuals providing general or specific support as needed. Research from adult learning investigators supports near-peer mentoring and tutoring as more effective than seasoned experts due to a phenomenon called “blind-spot competency”3. Blind-spot competency is where the seasoned expert has forgotten the “in-between” steps that novices take to build links in their learning. I really love a structure where there are near-peer mentoring groups which in turn are facilitated or mentored by a faculty member. It seems like a win-win for everyone as teaching a subject is one of the highest yield approaches for board prep. Facilitating by the faculty mentor means that they can mentor many residents through brief check-in meetings with a group each month and then meet individually with the residents who may need focused assistance to meet their potential! This approach also coincides with our CoRE idea that PGY-2 residents are progressing as teachers and year three and above as leaders – a natural progression and apprenticeship system. Internal medicine is in the process of setting up a formal near-peer mentoring structure of two to three interns with one to two PGY-2 residents, supported by a faculty mentor.

Academic Mentors

There are several models of academic mentoring—from the intensive time-limited high-touch mentoring (that is very goal specific and specialized) to a more sustainable academic mentoring structure, where the academic mentor acts as an accountability and resource partner. The latter for example meets with the resident at monthly intervals to look at board preparation progress (practice question score analysis, etc.,) and helps the resident plan a realistic month ahead. With SMART goals, as well as guiding the resident toward leveraging the evidence-based learning approaches that maximize their study efforts, the Academic mentors typically move between coach and advisor. The overarching goal is to support the development of independent learning and self-authorship in the resident. The specific support that an academic mentor gives depends largely on how the individual is navigating the “pit” of learning which can be quite a lonely place to be.

Research Mentors

Each resident involved in a research or QI project has a faculty sponsor who is their assigned and time-limited research mentor. This type of mentor guides and supports the early-career researcher through the intellectual research proposal and protocol development, IRB applications and data collection, analysis stages as well as manuscript development and publication phases. This type of mentoring can be very fruitful – the faculty-researcher is literally impacting the future of medical research!

Next time…

Join us next week as we explore why mentoring relationships are so important! To learn more about our GME programs, visit ngmcgme.org