5 Tips for Mastering Cardiology Mentorship
A mentor is often the first person in your career who will show you how to be a leader, guide you through difficult decisions, and help you find solutions to problems. Dr. Jasdeep Dalawari, cardiologist and Regional Chief Medical Officer at VitalSolution, defines a mentor as “being a person who teaches and offers help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.”
A cardiology mentor can come from many different sources: fellow clinicians, residents, or medical students. They can be found in your office or hospital, at conferences, or even online. As a mentor, you can provide guidance and support to those who are just starting out in their medical career. Here are 5 tips for becoming a great cardiology mentor:
Improve mentorship skills with active listening techniques.
Your mentee might be a passionate interventional cardiology fellow with much to say, so it’s important that you not only listen to their words but also the message they’re communicating. A good mentor that practices active listening pays attention to their mentee and asks questions that may help them find solutions on their own.
If you’re a mentor, ask questions like “How did you handle this situation?” or “What did you learn from your experience?” The more you ask questions and listen attentively, the more your mentee will reveal what they’re going through. Your mentee will feel heard and be more confident when making decisions on their own.
Encourage your mentee to reach out to other cardiology experts.
You can’t be everywhere at once, so if there are other people in your field who have experience with what your mentee needs help with, encourage them to seek advice from those individuals. You might be the perfect mentor for your mentee—after all, you know exactly what you’d do if you were in their position. But it’s important to remember that there are other people out there who could help them too, and they may have different experiences from yours that could add to the conversation. So, while it’s great to offer advice and guidance, encourage them to also seek other mentors’ opinions on their situation as well.
Make yourself available to your mentee.
You have a lot on your plate as a cardiologist. You work long hours, including nights and weekends, and deal with challenging medical situations; it’s easy to think that you don’t have time for the role of mentor. But not only is mentoring a great way to help yourself by creating the next generation of physicians, it’s also an opportunity to help your colleagues and even some of your patients.
Truly great mentors can help their mentees become better practitioners—they can provide advice on patient care, referrals to subspecialists when needed, and tips on how to handle specific situations. And sometimes more than just help with clinical situations: mentors can teach their mentees how to balance work, family, and other obligations while also keeping up with their medical studies. But in order to be a great mentor, you need to set yourself up for success by being available when your mentee needs you. Mentorship doesn’t have to be time-consuming: just 10 minutes once or twice a month can make all the difference.
Be honest and constructive with feedback.
Being honest and constructive with your feedback is important when you’re a mentor. Everyone makes mistakes, both at work and in their personal lives. Doctors are no different. If you’ve made a mistake in your career and learned from it, share the experience so that your mentee can learn from it as well. Showing vulnerability builds trust and can strengthen the mentor-mentee relationship.
Reflecting on his time mentoring students and younger physicians in the cath lab, Dr. Dalawari says, “It’s rewarding to help guide mentees to think about the correct approach and choose the best equipment for the current job.”
Being transparent with criticism is a powerful way to show others that you’re not afraid of being honest. It’s beneficial for mentors and mentees alike to see each other as peers, so if you make a mistake and admit it, it can establish trust in the relationship. While this doesn’t mean that you must talk about every mistake or failure you’ve had in your career (or at least ones that didn’t have an especially valuable lesson attached), it shows that you are comfortable admitting when things don’t go well.
Encourage your mentee to take chances and pursue their dreams.
Mentorship is a two-way street: the mentor offers guidance, and the mentee processes that advice and tries to put it into practice. But sometimes, it isn’t as easy as that. To become the best doctor they can be, your mentee will need the courage to think big, even if at times that means taking chances. That’s why it’s so vital for you, as their mentor, to provide them with honest feedback and encouragement to take those chances.
Dr. Dalawari adds that “being encouraged and empowered in personal growth and being helped to achieve career goals” are among the top benefits for mentees in medicine.
In a podcast on the power of mentorship, cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldbert says, “A mentor is there to stimulate your ideas [and] help guide you in the direction but not do your work.” She also adds that a mentor is there to inspire you.
Inspire your mentee not only to look forward but also to always think bigger than they are now. Does your mentee have short-term and long-term career goals? Is there a part of the country they’ve always wanted to live in? Is there a hospital they really want to work at? As a cardiology mentor, you should help your mentee understand their key motivators and encourage them to take chances and pursue their dreams.
Are you prepared to be a mentor?
Being a great cardiology mentor requires strong leadership qualities and good communication skills. You should be able to balance your time effectively and be willing to be flexible in order to accommodate your mentee’s needs.
Finally, mentors must be compassionate and willing to offer their time, regardless of how the mentee may benefit them professionally. Be patient, kind, helpful, and honest.
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