Role Reversal… Being the Mentor (& some tips)

by Cindy Hon, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT

One year ago I was the mentee being mentored, and this spring I was the mentor mentoring my mentee.  It’s a big role reversal and so well worth it when I see my mentee make all those big “aha” moments.

The first day I worked with my mentee, I was admittedly nervous because it was my first time as a mentor.  My mentee had already worked with a different mentor and had a rhythm.  Luckily my co-mentor had written something up for me so I knew what the strengths and weaknesses of my mentee were.  The first few weeks were also interesting because my mentee and I were trying to find a rhythm with the patient so that the patient saw the mentee as the primary PT, and not me.  Towards the end of our 6 weeks together, some patients said to me that I will learn a lot from my mentee.  This was the best thing any patient could have said about my role, because they saw my mentee as the teacher which she was.  My mentee was teaching me how to be a mentor.

And I’m still being mentored to be a mentor.  It’s a different process being in a treatment session as the mentor and not the clinician.  Don’t get me wrong, you’re always the clinician, but you also have to wear a different hat and think differently.  You end up asking yourself: What is the mentee missing?  What would I have done differently?  If I would do it differently, does that mean what the mentee did was wrong or just a different way?

I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to be someone’s mentor.  I’ve had students in the past, and mentored my colleagues before, but being a mentor in a Fellowship program felt more demanding to me.  It really shouldn’t be all that different since the person I’m working with (whether a SPT, colleague, or mentee in a Fellowship program) has a goal in mind and my job as the mentor is to help that person achieve their goal.  However, in my head the goal of becoming a Fellow had more weight behind it.

Here are three of my tips I picked up as a new mentor:

  • Tip 1: If you’re wanting to interrupt the mentee for some reason or another, then it likely means the mentee is off track.
  • Tip 2: Don’t write everything down as if you’re the clinician documenting.  Just write down enough to help you remember the patient.  It’s more important to write down notes about what the mentee is doing or not doing that will help the mentee grow.
  • Tip 3: When giving feedback to the mentee, it’s easier for the mentee to digest by grouping the constructive criticism into over-arching themes like communication, time-management etc.

What are your tips when you’re mentoring someone?

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