Putting things in a new light: insights into a mentoring partnership

In our latest mentoring blog, cardiology registrar Dr George Collins, and Dr Parag Gajendragadkar, BHF clinical research training fellow at the University of Oxford, discuss their experiences of being a mentee-mentor on the Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) mentoring scheme.

A mentee’s perspective

I joined the RCP mentoring scheme in 2015 as a medical CT1 with my heart set on cardiology training. The scheme appealed to me because I liked the idea of building a relationship with a named mentor in an informal and voluntary way over a longer period of time. This was in comparison to the traditional education and clinical supervision structures which can see supervisors and supervisees sadly parting ways within a matter of months of meeting each another.

My supervisor Parag and I have met up every few months for the last 2 years now. Each time we meet up we have a catch up and then discuss what’s happened since the last meeting. That might be an event at work, something related to my future career, or even a clinical query – it’s an added benefit that we are both interested in cardiology! I find the process of reflecting on the last few months and then planning a way forward together to be beneficial, and Parag always has really useful advice from his own experience as well.

I would recommend to any trainee to get involved in the mentoring programme. Not only were our meetings enjoyable, the opportunity to discuss my concerns and queries in an open, informal and non-judgemental way outside of the workplace was helpful. Our discussions always put things in a new light and allowed me to see things from a different perspective. The scheme has certainly encouraged me to get involved in mentoring my juniors as I go through my career as well, both formally and informally.

Dr George Collins, cardiology registrar (London)

A mentor’s perspective

Most trainees are lucky enough to get some ‘tidbits’ of wisdom along the way from their senior colleagues along the winding road of their careers. Whilst gratefully accepted, this often falls short of a rewarding mentee/mentor relationship mainly due to its unevenness. Coaching and mentoring are also very different - I was lucky to get some informal mentoring from a variety of people as a junior and thought the RCP supported idea was a fantastic one. With difficult times in medical specialties in terms of recruitment and retention, this seemed like an easy and practical way to do something about it.

If you want to give something back and develop yourself, I thoroughly recommend the mentor course run by the RCP. The initial training is well thought out and strikes the right balance between some necessary theory and practical skills. It allows you to feel very comfortable with the upcoming process. Mentees choose their mentors via a fairly simple-to-use online system and contact can be through this securely until you both feel happy to take things further via e-mail or phone calls.

My mentee George was a core medical trainee with his heart set on a career in cardiology. He was motivated and clearly talented and it’s fair to say it was not a challenge to help him get to his first set of career goals. Our mentor-mentee relationship is ongoing and now in its third year with George a cardiology registrar in London. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a time-intensive relationship and is about empowering trainees rather than feeding them advice.

Generally speaking, the trainees seeking out mentoring are already quite motivated and high achievers, and that was certainly the case with George. Our discussions centred more around focus of long-term goals and work-life balance especially in the modern NHS. It is very tempting to give ‘advice’ to mentees but this isn’t what mentoring is about necessarily. I found that holding back my own opinions and advice was difficult at times, but at the same time began to see the value of mentoring in allowing the mentee to ‘own’ their own decisions and successes and give them a much more fundamental structured basis for approaching a variety of problems in the future.

If anything, seeing them develop and achieve success is even more rewarding when they do it using skills they have refined themselves. I have taken on a second mentee at a more junior level in a different specialty because I enjoyed the experience so much and feel passionately that the profession we entered is still worthwhile pursuing!

Dr Parag Gajendragadkar, BHF Clinical Research Training Fellow (University of Oxford), ST7 Cardiology & Electrophysiology (East of England Deanery)