If you’re in an HM leadership position, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to be a mentor for a less-experienced hospitalist. Why should you voluntarily spend valuable time sharing your guidance and advice? Because to lead is to mentor, and when you dive into the process it rewards all parties involved.
To Lead Is to Mentor
Whether you were just promoted or you’re a leadership veteran approached for the first time by an eager new hospitalist, don’t hesitate to add mentoring to your schedule and responsibilities.
“When you start out as a leader, you get where you want to go by being a mentor,” says Eric E. Howell, MD, director of Collaborative Inpatient Medicine Service, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore and faculty for SHM’s Leadership Academy. “You gather disciples, as it were, who will then see you as a leader and support you as a good leadership choice.”
Not only that, but mentoring can add to your skill set as a leader, says Joan C. Faro, MD, FACP, MBA, chief medical officer at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, Port Jefferson, N.Y. “If you’re interested in developing leadership skills, it’s one of those things you need to do, and do well. If you can’t mentor, then you really can’t lead.”
Plus, when you mentor, you get to feel the reward inherent in helping a young physician whose shoes you once filled. “It’s like raising a kid,” says Dr. Faro. “You want to do a good job because you want to see someone succeed.” This is especially true for mentoring relationships within your HM group.
That means fully flushing out the program and dedicating the time necessary to make it a success. “If you are the de facto leader of a group, you have some obligation to people interested in career development,” says Dr. Howell. “I think it’s part of the job to help advance those people.”
The Ground Rules
Any new mentoring arrangement should start with a discussion of expectations, responsibilities, time frames, and communication. What are the mentee’s expectations for the relationship? How much time can you, the mentor, offer?
Whether the arrangement is formal (a director mentoring a new hire) or casual (an established hospitalist asking a conference speaker for a long-distance mentoring relationship), ground rules are important, Dr. Howell insists. “The mentoring relationship can be established informally, but it’s worthwhile to set some rules on responsibilities: How is the feedback going to come, how frank and honest do you want to be, when should we meet? …Rules will depend on the relationship and on the individuals involved.”