There are many definitions of the term mentoring, there are also many thoughts on whether the word itself is appropriate to the process, depending on its context. Andrew Gibbons ( N.M.N. 2002) defines mentoring as: “A protected relationship in which learning and experimentation can occur, potential skills can be developed, and in which results can be measured in terms of competencies gained, rather than curricular territory covered. It is a relationship rather than an activity”
Clearly the person-centred approach is integral to the concept|: “The support of one individual by another within a personal relationship developed through regular contact over a period of time” (Pan London Standard 2001) In this essay I will seek to discuss some different models of the mentoring process and relate them to my own practice in the workplace. I shall examine the role of guidance and its importance as a fundamental of a good mentor/mentee relationship. Most people are familiar with the origins of mentorship in the business world, where the mentor was often an older wiser businessman who passed down knowledge and contacts to the up and coming high-flier. Nowadays mentorship is not only used in the business world, but in most settings forms part of a structured aid to learning There are several elements that are important:
The programme should be a structured and supported voluntary relationship, preferably not between those in a “direct, hierarchical or supervisory chain of command” ( Peer Resources Mentor Programmes 2002) Managers usually have different goals It should consider the influence of time over the process. “Mentoring is powerful in taking account of both the short and long term. Firstly it explores and acts on what’s happening right now, whether problems or opportunities. Secondly it looks ahead to the future.” (Coaching and Mentoring Network 2002) There should be recognised objectives, based on assessment of competence by the experienced mentor and designed to foster growth towards the “maturity” of the mentee. The mentor should facilitate reflective change.
Mentoring Models According to Kerry & Mayes (1995) there are three distinct models of mentoring. The appren iceship model fits the ambulance workplace well because of the importance of experiential learning in ambulance work. It is argued that some skills are best learned by “supervised practice under guidance” Mentees work alongside their mentors and learn directly from them. In the Competency model the mentor takes on the role of a systematic trainer, often with a pre-defined schedule. This is more rigid and the mentor coaches against a list of agreed behaviours. This has the advantage of being tangible and explicit and demands commitment from the mentee to take responsibility of their learning process.
The competency model is not as relevant operationally because by its nature ambulance work is not pre-defined. Competency based approaches to learning are used in (basic) training school but are not as valid “in the field” where less systematic learning takes place. The reflective approach. Reflective practice is introduced as a critical element in the learning process. In order to create deeper insight the mentor shifts from being a model and instructor to being a “co-enquirer” ( Kerry & Mayes 1995) As previously mentioned these three models all have a part to play in effective mentorship. I feel that the apprenticeship and reflective approaches apply best to my workplace.
So is there recognisable mentorship going on in my workplace? Using the elements discussed earlier it becomes clear that there is no formal or structured mentorship, but that is not to say that none takes place. In reality mentorship is a constant feature of training but takes place with very little deliberate structure and with no formal support from the employers. As a teacher of ambulance staff I can find myself leading a crew of two basic training graduates on a training vehicle, or work with a qualified but inexperienced (trainee) crewmate.. In both of these roles I work in the operational setting, on an ambulance answering urgent and emergency calls, working a combination of day and night shifts.
In the operational setting I often find myself with an inexperienced crewmate who is keen to assume the mentee role and use me as a role model or mentor. I can encourage them by example, when taking the lead (apprenticeship) or allow them to get on with the job, if safe, and debrief later using a reflective approach. Initially, especially where confidence is low I take on the former role. Allowing myself to take a more low key approach as time passes, sharing in the reflective process where appropriate. Maybe this relationship could better be described as preceptorship. “an individual teaching/learning method in which each student is assigned to a particular preceptor so that he/she can experience day to day practice with a role model and resource person immediately available within the clinical setting.” (Chickerella & Lutz 1981)
Usually I work with the same crewmate for two or three months at a time. This period effectively becomes our “defined” schedule, the short term approach. Longer term I may or may not work with them again for an extended period. If staffing a training vehicle my two trainees are with me for a period of three weeks. After that I am keen to encourage further informal contact by either party but is not mandatory or contracted. Thus it can be seen that ambulance “mentorship” does not exist in a normally recognised form. That which does take place is both unstructured and unsupported and not officially recognised. But I do believe that mentoring takes place, albeit in an unstructured, unintentional way and that it lends itself to the apprenticeship and reflective models.