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The College strongly advocates mentoring at all stages of a surgeon's education and throughout their career.

The BMA is lobbying for the development of mentoring schemes for all doctors and the College would fully support this aim. The following offers guidance on the benefit of mentoring schemes, and on how Trusts/surgical units might go about setting up local schemes.

The concept of mentoring is inherent in the College's publication 'Good Surgical Practice' and the College will be looking at ways of developing a culture of mentoring, both within existing College structures and beyond.

What is mentoring?

There are a variety of definitions and explanations of mentoring. Different organisations will attach different meanings to the term - for example, 'mentoring' has been used to describe counselling services, careers advice, appraisal, and assessment processes.

The Standing Conference on Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education (SCOPME) described mentoring as:- 'The process whereby an experienced, highly regarded, empathic person (the mentor), guides another individual (the mentee) in the development and re-examination of their own ideas, learning, and personal and professional development. The mentor who often, but not necessarily, works in the same organisation or field as the mentee, achieves this by listening and talking in confidence to the mentee. SCOPME, 1998. Throughout all guidance and recommendations made by the College, this is the definition that will be used.

Why do surgeons need mentoring?

Mentoring can be beneficial for surgeons at any stage of their career and the College fully supports participation in mentoring arrangements wherever possible.

There is increasing interest in mentoring within the medical profession - for example, it is promoted as an essential component of the modernising medical careers initiative, many trusts have set up mentoring schemes for other healthcare professionals and such schemes are being extended to include clinical staff.

While not wishing to associate mentoring with 'crisis points' in a surgeon's career, it is worth noting that mentoring targeted at specific groups, or at a specific milestone in a surgeon's career may be beneficial.

In their professional life, surgeons face a number of pressures:

  • Surgeons in training may find that being trained within shorter hours under EWTD and within a streamlined training programme under MMC particularly stressful.
  • Newly appointed consultants may find the transition from SpR to first consultant appointment challenging.
  • Existing consultants have to work within an increasingly target driven environment while providing training and support to less experienced surgeons.
  • Surgeons from diverse backgrounds may also face particular pressures and require support. 

All of these groups may require additional support and may benefit from a mentoring arrangement.

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