Paving the Way: A Physician’s Role as Mentor

Paving the Way: A Physician’s Role as Mentor




If you’ve been practicing medicine long enough, then you’ve had the chance to work with a variety of veteran doctors. Whether you realize it or not, almost everything that defines you as a physician—knowledge, skills, and work ethic—was absorbed from, or otherwise shaped by those you worked both with and under over the years.

Think back. As the head of your own practice, you must have had a mentor of some kind along the way, that person whose example helped you become the leader you are today. With so many newly minted physicians entering the fray, the onus is now on you to help cultivate the next crop of independent physicians. You must be there with them in the trenches of a work day, orienting them in the jungle of EHRs, Meaningful Use practices, and healthcare policy changes.

Are many soon-to-be doctors leaning towards hospital positions in lieu of the technological, legal, and financial challenges they hear about in private practice? Yes. This is where you come in. Teaching young doctors the “workarounds”, how to adapt and to manage their time, is not an end in itself, but a bridge to something more important: the satisfaction in promoting and ensuring a better quality of life for the patients they serve.

Stepping into the role

So you’ve recognized tremendous potential in one of your staff, and this person has regularly sought you out for guidance. Here are some simple things to remember when taking a mentee under your wing. First, take upfront ownership of your own mistakes, as doing so you will show those who look up to you that mistakes are human. They also provide valuable opportunities for learning.

Be sure to suppress that little black monster known as ego. You may have the opportunity to guide some very bright, talented physicians who are destined for great things beyond your practice. This should be viewed as nothing if not a privilege. They should never be viewed as rivals. Remember, they see in you the type of doctor they want to become, and their success will be a reflection of the passion and skill with which you practiced medicine throughout your career.

Provide intermittent feedback and encouragement to your mentee, and beyond that, seek out their feedback. They want to be competent physicians, and you want to do the best you can to help them get there. The truth is that they will never stop learning, and neither will you.

How you are with your patients will influence how your mentee will be with theirs. In previous posts, we highlighted the importance of compassion, patience, and a good bedside manner in the examination room. “Do as I say, not as I do” is unacceptable doctrine. Set the right example. Be sure to consistently speak to your patients with respect and understanding.

Leading by example: handling change

One of the most important examples to set for young doctors is how to properly handle the prospect of change. Change is imminent, and can affect many things. You could be speaking of changes in hours, pay format, or your practice’s impending shift to another healthcare network. Whatever the case, your response must be prompt, and your communication to your staff clear. Be sure to call a meeting, and outline for everyone what is happening, why it is occurring, and what the predicted, or desirable outcome is.

Your staff may be chiefly concerned with what these changes may mean for them, their job functions and security, their pay, etc… Make sure you address this in your communication. You’ll want to quell any potential anxieties that may arise. Sometimes this will take more than a few reassuring words. Any period of change, no matter how short, can be rife with misunderstanding. It may be difficult for many of your staff to see the bigger picture as you do, no matter how clearly or energetically you try to render it for them. This could be a good time to pull your protégé aside, and have them deliver the finer points of your plan to the rest of your staff.

This next one is a two-way street. You must present your staff with solutions to help mitigate problems and navigate change, but also encourage them to bring solutions to the table. There are multiple benefits to this. The first has to do with the kind of proactive workplace culture you want to create. Every manager or leader should admonish their workers to “come to them with solutions” rather than just problems or confusion. The second benefit of hearing your staff out is that it gives them the measure of control, and autonomy they need during transitional periods. The third is benefit is flexibility. With so many options available, everyone should be able to meet their responsibilities.

The final pillars of handling change are simple enough, though no less important: awareness, and follow-through. The importance of fulfilling a promise to those who depend on you in a timely way is self-evident and universal, as is being aware of how they are handling their new responsibilities, or workday dynamics.

As a mentor, you are proving to a new generation of physicians that, despite all the changes and obstacles of modern practice, workplace satisfaction is still achievable, and their roles as primary, urgent, or pediatric care physicians are still incredibly important to their communities. Your role is crucial. You are not just helping to shape another doctor. You are shaping the future of medicine as a whole.


Brian Torchin

| HCRC Staffing | |

– See more at: