“That’s great in theory, but how do I actually use it in the real-world?” If you’ve ever struggled with bridging the gap between theory and practice, then mentorship could help you.
“I took a whole bunch of courses, but I’m struggling to put it all together.” Being equipped with new knowledge can sometimes be more confusing than informative. Mentorship could help you.
“I’m trying to be a more evidence-informed clinician, but the research articles sometimes seem to contradict each other or even what I learned in school! I feel less confident (and confused) about my clinical practice.” Yup, mentorship could help you here as well.
I could go on with more examples. However, the point here is that many of us recognize that it is not enough to simply know the theory, or to take a bunch of courses, or to read research articles. And there are many reasons for that, some of which are mentioned above. The Pain Science Division (from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association [CPA]) recognized these important barriers to the professional development of its members and, in response, launched a mentorship program in 2015.
This mentorship program was (and is) successful. Shortly after its launch, other CPA Divisions followed suit. Based on the Pain Science Division’s mentorship program, the Global Health Division and the Cardiorespiratory Division also started developing their own mentorship program. The Pain Science Division also shared the structure and resources developed for its mentorship program with organizations beyond the CPA, such as the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia national group, the Ontario Physiotherapy Association, and the Saskatchewan Pelvic Health Mentorship Program.
Mentorship can happen in different ways, some informal, some formal. The Pain Science Division’s mentorship program is a formal type of mentorship in which applicants consist of physiotherapists who are new to pain science and who seek assistance in trying to integrate pain research into their clinical practice. The mentors consist of pain research evidence-informed physiotherapists with over five years experience. Mentor-mentee pairs are made by trying to maximize the compatibility regarding mentee learning goals, type of clinical workplace and patient population, and geographic location. Those criteria are considered in that order and, while they can’t always be all achieved, usually result in a fruitful experience. Mentor-mentee pairs are recommended to meet for at least an hour per month (Skype, phone, in-person), for a year. Mentor-mentee pairs are encouraged, however, to mold the program to their needs. After the 1-year formal commitment, certain mentor-mentee pairs continue informally and result in valuable professional relationships.
It is important to mention that mentors are not teachers. Though there may be “teaching moments’ (or rather, “learning opportunities”), the mentors are primarily expected to facilitate and stimulate active learning processes. Often, mentors will help guide the mentee’s self-reflection, will discuss with the mentee about his/her patient cases or about what he/she recently learned from research and courses, and will share educational resources as well as their own professional experiences. There exist many ways that mentors can help mentees using an active learning processes, but passive diffusion of information is rarely one of them. Teaching something through passive diffusion is not prohibited, however. It is just important to remember, that it is not the primary purpose of a mentor.
All in all, from my personal experience as one of the mentees in the inaugural mentorship program from the Pain Science Division and from my experience in overseeing the program from 2016 to 2018 as a Pain Science Division exec, I firmly believe that the benefits of a mentorship program are unique and extremely valuable to any physiotherapist breaking into a new area of practice or just coming out of school. We need both teachers and mentors to help us move forward.
What do you think? Have you had meaningful mentorship experiences in the past? Perhaps bad ones? Discuss below, so we can learn from you!
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