The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Do you have an onboarding/mentorship program for new providers?” In response, the majority (60%) answered “yes,” while 40% reported “no.” Respondents who answered “yes” were then asked, “What is the program focused on?” In response, 17% answered “organizational culture,” 13% replied “clinical expertise,” 64% stated “both Organizational culture and clinical expertise” and 6% said “other.”
This poll was conducted on October 22, 2019, with 1,125 applicable responses.
Not making mentorship an area of focus in a medical practice can create a missed opportunity. Engaging new and seasoned providers in mentorship programs can be a rewarding experience for the mentor, mentee and organization. Structured provider mentorship programs provide guidance, support and feedback at a critical time for new providers.
The educational process for providers, at all license levels, includes both formal and informal mentorship. Though it may not be evident at first, consider the residency, internship and fellowship processes. Or simply consider the phrase, “watch one, do one” — the latter obviously being informal, but the root message remains one of guidance and support.
The benefits of provider mentorship
Mentorship provides a transparent platform to ask questions. New providers, though excited and eager, may be hesitant or apprehensive to tackle their responsibilities. They are suddenly without a chief intern or chief resident; for some, this is the first time they won’t have a mentor. Encouraging the development of strong relationships with mentors provides new providers the opportunity to ask questions, to seek guidance and to improve their skills and confidence.
This type of relationship and engagement strengthens the ethos of the organization while fostering a continuous culture of improvement. Mentorship isn’t just about “feel good” moments. There are quantifiable benefits (e.g., shorter learning curves for new hires), which increase productivity, and longer periods of provider observation, which can reduce organizational risk. Additionally, mentorship programs provide a strategic method for incorporating future leaders into an organization’s succession plans.
Key program components
The most successful mentorship programs are structured to drive accountability for both the mentor and the mentee. Strong mentorship programs include:
- An organized method of assigning mentors. Though individual employees may relate better to certain individuals, it’s important to rotate assignments on a regular basis. Consider annual mentor rotation.
- Well-defined goals and strategic plans to achieve them (e.g., regular meetings, competency/skill improvements).
- A culture of accountability. Define the look-back periods for mentorship programs and include self-assessments, as well as peer assessments for mentors and mentees.
Remember, the goal is to create well-rounded professionals who may become mentors for your organization.
Starting a mentorship program
Preparation is required to create a program that drives meaningful change in your organization. Consider using the DMAIC method to manage required changes:
- Define — Specific goals of mentorship programs may vary by organization, but the foundational principles are often the same. Outline the preferred outcomes and goals of the program.
- Measure — Outline the metrics by which you will gauge success of your newly defined goals. How engaged should mentors be? What is the time commitment required for all parties? What is the knowledge level required to achieve success?
- Analyze — Assess your organization to ascertain why this program is needed and why it will be so valuable. Understanding the history and needs behind a program should help drive focus and strategic planning efforts. Research programs at other organizations. Are there common themes? What is working well? What feedback is available on preparation, education or structure?
- Improve — Outline, pilot and implement the mentorship program. Document the goals, processes and expectations. Assign responsibilities and drive accountability for mentors and mentees. Consider including participation and genuine engagement as a factor of performance evaluations.
- Control — Periodically review to ensure the program is running smoothly. Is the direction of the program still aligned to the original mission and vision of the program? What needs improvement? Are there areas causing pain?
Prepare the mentors
Some senior physicians will be natural mentors and others will need refinement. To ensure equitable mentorship across the program, prepare your mentors. (“How doctors can be better mentors” from Harvard Business Review offers advice for mentors to be available, to understand their role and to be objective, among other suggestions).
Most professionals are not inherently proficient at mentorship, so you will want to provide them with the resources and support to succeed.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
There are many resources for tried and true programs, such as books, TED Talk videos and more, which all discuss successful mentorship models. Specifically:
- “Mentoring millennials for future leadership in healthcare,” by Kathi Newman, FACMPE (MGMA Connection magazine)
- “Physician Mentorship: Why It’s Important, and How to Find and Sustain Relationships,” by Bonnie Darves (NEJM Career Center)
Use the methods above and perform your own research as well. Mentorship programs are worth the effort and successful implementation is achievable.
Would you like to join our polling panel to voice your opinion on important practice management topics? MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at: mgma.com/stat