Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maintaining Mentorship

Most highly skilled professions have some framework of mentorship set in place to ensure that things which are not easily picked up in the classroom, or from reading a book, are taught in a practical setting. Naturopathic Medicine is no different. Mentorship maintained naturopathic medicine in the United States in the years following the 1910 Flexner Report when naturopathic schools could not afford to operate (the Flexner Report also shut down many "diploma mills" and substandard medical schools which was a positive outcome. Unfortunately though, the recommendations were to only fund schools with a pharmacological and technological focus).

Mentorship at CCNM begins in 1st year as new students are introduced to the teaching clinic with days spent shadowing their supervisor. Second and third year students get more involved with patients each year as clinical supervisors and 4th year interns take mentoring roles. There are certainly times where patients are surprised at the additional students that come into the treatment room and occasionally, the 4th year intern is inadvertently put in the hot-seat with all eyes on her or him. At these times, there is the potential for everyone involved to share an awkward moment.

My love for teaching and background in instructing usually dissolves my concerns about others watching me in clinic. Additionally, I recognize that I am not perfect at this yet and I may say the wrong thing or make a small mistake with someone else watching. However, as the mentor, it can still be an additional source of stress.

I wonder if this change in dynamic is currently making it very difficult for some students to fulfill another type of required mentorship called preceptorship. This is where students spend time with a ND, DC, MD or physiotherapist in their private practice (or hospital). If you are currently a student in naturopathic medicine, here are a few points to consider when being mentored:

1. Firstly, if at all possible, pick a mentor who's style of practice you like. This is very important for preceptoring and will eliminate many unforeseen disharmonies and make for a much more enjoyable day.
2. Recognize your mentor's strengths. Certainly there are times when you may learn how NOT to practice but try to glean the best of what the mentor is offering.
3. Show appreciation. This is so important in order to successfully continue a constructive and receptive attitude towards mentorship and maintain the philosophy of passing down knowledge to the betterment of the profession.

Residency is another type of mentorship offered to naturopathic graduates and I hope to write about this at a later date.

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