Ongoing Competence Through Mentoring
What do a new graduate, a clinician planning to change practice area, a practitioner who has left clinical practice for a period of time, and a practitioner assuming a volunteer leadership position within his or her state organization have in common? They each might benefit from developing a mentoring relationship with an experienced practitioner. Although mentoring extends into all aspects of occupational therapy, many individuals may be unaware of its benefits relative to competence.
The terms mentoring and supervision have sometimes been used interchangeably. Typically, however, mentoring is defined as a relationship between two people in which one person (the mentor) is dedicated to the personal and professional growth of the other (the mentee).1 The relationship is often mutually beneficial and collaborative, and both parties participate willingly and knowingly in the development of the mentee. Knowing participation differentiates a mentor from a role model. A supervisor, on the other hand, functions more as a monitor or gatekeeper of performance. Mentoring serves different purposes and is a more flexible and adaptable process that can be modified to meet the needs of both the mentor and the mentee.2
Although numerous models exist to address mentoring, those identified by Maynard and Furlong are appropriate for consideration in examining competence.3 The apprenticeship model focuses on the mentee observing and learning from the mentor. The competency model focuses on the mentor providing feedback to the mentee about skills and expertise. The reflective model directs mentors to support the mentee's professional development.
Before developing a mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentee should each examine current competencies and reflect on future goals. This can be accomplished with the American Occupational Therapy Association's Professional Development Tool (PDT).4 They should then develop mutually agreed upon goals and a plan.
AOTA's Standards for Continuing Competence (which are also found in the PDT)5 can be enhanced through any of the mentoring relationship models. For example: Standard 1: Knowledge can be increased in the apprenticeship model by the mentee committing to lifelong learning, identifying the need for mentoring, and actively participating in the mentoring relationship. Standard 2: Critical Reasoning can be enhanced through the competency and reflection models by the mentor challenging the mentee through ongoing feedback and support as well as encouraging active reflection. A mentee who is moving into an emerging practice area can gain insight on developing and maintaining professional roles, which is the focus of Standard 3: Interpersonal Abilities. Standard 4: Performance Skills can be assessed by the mentor observing the mentee during intervention as well as through collegial discussion of current research and implications to practice. Standard 5: Ethical Reasoning can be incorporated into any of the mentoring models.
Today's occupational therapy practitioners are challenged with ethical dilemmas and need to be prepared to make effective decisions. As a profession, we need to believe that engaging in a reflective mentor-mentee relationship will facilitate active, effective decision making. Ethical reasoning addresses the need of the mentor and the mentee to have a professional development plan and to continually evaluate this plan.
Benefits to a mentor can include personal satisfaction, strengthened professional reputation, increased influence within an organization or system, development of a supportive relationship, and goal attainment.2 Benefits to a mentee can include improved clinical competence, increased professional satisfaction, possible career mobility, increased knowledge and skills, improved professional self-confidence, development of a supportive relationship, support in developing new skills, and increased awareness of strengths and limitations.2 Whatever the reason, and regardless of the role, practitioners who participate in mentoring relationships do more than serve their own professional development needs; they strengthen the integrity and viability of the profession as a whole.
1. Robertson, S. C. (1992). Find a mentor or be one. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.
2. Baptiste, S. (2001). Mentoring & supervision: Creating relationships for fostering professional development. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
3. Maynard, T., & Furlong, J. (1995). Learning to teach and models of mentoring. In T. Kerry & A. S. Mayers (Eds.), Issues in mentoring (pp. 10-24). New York: Routledge.
4. American Occupational Therapy Association. (2003). AOTA professional development tool. Bethesda, MD: Author.
5. American Occupational Therapy Association. (1999). Standards for continuing competence. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53, 559-560.
Christine Urish, MS, OTR/L, is an assistant professor at St. Ambrose University, Department of Occupational Therapy. She is president-elect of the Iowa State Occupational Therapy Association and chair of the AOTA ad hoc Committee on Mentoring.
Copyright 2004. The American Occupational Therapy Association. All rights reserved.