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Mentoring – Experience from both sides of the fence

Posted in Association of British Neurologists Trainees on 6th Aug 2018


Timothy Rittman BMBS, BMedSci, PgCertMedEd, MRCP, PhD, is a Neurology Consultant and Clinical Research Associate at Addenbrookes Hospital Cambridge and the University of Cambridge. He trained in Nottingham and completed SpR training in the East of England in April 2018. His research aims to understand progression in atypical parkinsonian disorders using neuroimaging and computational analysis.

Srikirti Kodali MA, MBBS, is a Core Medical Trainee at Addenbrookes Hospital Cambridge. She trained in Cambridge and London and completed the Academic Foundation Programme in East of England before taking on her current post. She aspires to train as a neurologist.



Correspondence to:
To cite: Ritman T, Kodali S. ACNR 2018;17(4):14-15

We have noticed a pattern among the  best, the wisest and the most successful people that talk about their life’s work. They talk about their mentors.

It is no secret that morale is low among junior doctors for a variety of reasons. Since 2012 the number of doctors continuing in training after their F2 year has declined from 70.7% to 55.7% with many choosing to take a break from the treadmill of medical training, move abroad, or leave medicine completely.1 There are over 45 Core Medical Trainees at our trust of which 75% knew which speciality they wished to apply to at ST3. The Core Medicine curriculum is designed to attain general medical skills in an acute setting and it is not uncommon for trainees not to work in the speciality they wish to train in. It is therefore essential that trainees feel supported to make an informed choice on their ST3 applications. 90%  of CMTs did not have a contact/mentor they could approach for advice about their chosen speciality. After  ST3  the  challenges  continue;  a survey of trainees in our NHS Trust revealed increasing symptoms of burnout with increasing seniority of registrars. Mentoring could potentially provide critical support for trainees throughout their career.They always refer to their mentors. These mentors are sometimes well known, sometimes not, but are invariably described as a source of support at a crucial time in the career of the successful speaker. This seems more than simply  gratitude to a former employer or colleague; the mentoring relationship has shaped and  formed  the work of the mentee and often proved invaluable to the success of a particular project or idea. We believe successful mentoring relationships remain relevant to today’s trainees.

Mentoring is defined as the relationship between a ‘mentee’ and a ‘mentor’, a more senior colleague who works in the same field and can provide advice and direction. This is distinct from a ‘coach’ who is a more experienced person who may work in a different field and provides a sounding board, or peer support from colleagues at a similar level of experience. Mentoring can be informal or formal. Informal mentoring refers to the chat snatched at the end of a departmental meeting, or the chance meeting over a cup of coffee at the canteen. Formal mentoring is the arranged form and, though can be organised in groups, more usually happens on a one-to-one basis. There is some evidence to support a beneficial effect of mentoring in staff retention, more motivated and experienced workers and better career outcomes.2 The medical academic sphere is more advanced in organising and providing mentoring opportunities. As long ago as 2003 the Association of British Neurologists highlighted mentoring as important for all Clinician Scientists and Clinical Research Fellows.3 The Academy of Medical Sciences mentoring scheme is particularly well developed with a well funded programme and associated resources.4

We were partnered as mentor (TR) and mentee (SK) through the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) mentoring scheme.5 The scheme is administered by the ABN’s Trainees committee and partners Neurology Specialist Registrars with Core Medical Trainees interested in applying for Neurology. In addition, we have both been involved with setting up trainee-led mentoring schemes between senior and junior trainees within the Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust. We describe our experiences below.

Setting up trainee-led mentorship schemes

Mentoring scheme for junior Neurology trainees (TR)

In the East of England Deanery we have organised a mentoring scheme for junior neurology registrars that has been active for 18 months. The process started by surveying the registrars to gauge their views on whether they would want a mentor and, if so, should this be a more senior registrar or a consultant. Around half the registrars would be happy with a more senior registrar, and half would prefer a consultant mentor. Taking the path of least resistance, I started with a scheme partnering junior registrars (ST3-5) with senior registrars (ST 6-7). Roughly 80% of our trainees took up the opportunity to have a mentor.

Creating mentoring pairs can be a tricky task, but essentially requires little more than two columns of names and some time. Each mentor was assigned 2-3 mentees. Where possible I tried to match people by geographical location, career interests and social factors. For example, I tried to match registrars who were both following an academic career path, or those interested in working part time with those already doing so. I gave the first refusal of the mentoring partnership to the mentee, but fortunately nobody refused their assigned mentor. Each pair were provided with basic advice on setting up the mentoring relationship, including a link to the BMA’s mentoring website ( that provides an outline of mentoring and links to other resources. The mentee was then left to organise meetings with their mentor.

Informal feedback has been positive, particularly from those new to the region and the Deanery. We have yet to formally evaluate the scheme, but this is planned for later this year.

Mentoring scheme for Core Medical Trainees (SK)

Based on my experience of being a mentee, I set up the ‘HippocraTORs and TEEs club’ which catered ST3 transition support. CMTs who expressed an interest in a particular medical speciality were introduced to each other and matched to a choice of consultant, SpR and Academic Clinical Fellow within their chosen speciality. After the initial group meeting trainees were expected to organise future meeting independently. The objectives of the programme were broadly based on ARCP training outcomes but with an added speciality focus in addition to support around applications, interviews and further career progression. Recruitment of mentors was surprising easy within our trust reflecting the high levels of motivation to participate and satisfaction that mentors gain from the process. Initial feedback from both the mentors and mentees was very positive and we plan to expand the model across other trusts in the deanery.

Being a Mentee (SK)

My experience of the ABN mentorship programme has been excellent and I am lucky to have a mentor within the same trust. I got some very useful tips from TR at our first meeting on how to prioritise my various extra-rotational activities that I was involved in at that time. We met a few times thereafter to focus on more specific issues, for example, discussing a neurology case I had encountered on the ward and pursued to submit an abstract for a trainee case presentation competition. A successful local mentor-mentee relationship can be resourceful in multiple ways – it was useful to be directed to educational opportunities within the trust in the form of clinics, department teaching, audits, clinical research projects, etc.

The benefit of the mentoring relationship has been the informality and the flexibility to cater my individual needs and preferences.

Being a mentor (TR)

Through the East of England Neurology Trainee scheme and the Association of British Neurologists scheme I have now met up with 4 mentees over the past 18 months, all very different in their stages of career and intended path. Two of those I have met on only one occasion so far, the other two have been more regular chats. I have found the experience of mentoring immensely rewarding. Firstly, it has been great to get to know these colleagues better. Secondly, there is a sense of satisfaction in helping people avoid the mistakes I  have made and take advantage of opportunities they  didn’t  know  existed.  Thirdly  I feel I have been able to give something back to neurology as a specialty, and in particular the East of England training scheme. Discussions have been wide-ranging, from the  impact  of life events (eg starting a family), to planning an academic career, and starting out on the on-call rota.

Mentoring SK has been a great experience. It has brought to mind the period of uncertainty I went through before gaining a foothold as a neurology registrar. Although her path has been different to mine in many ways, I have the perspective to look back and help her to prioritise the most useful activities and not to be too concerned with those less relevant to her career progression. SK sets the agenda and our conversations have been more of a discussion than me providing endless advice. I have also been able to link SK with other people in the department who can provide help and support on specific issues.


In conclusion, we believe mentoring is as relevant now, if not more so, as it ever was. A successful mentoring relationship is directed by the mentee and flexible in its commitment and scope. The rewards of mentoring are not limited to the mentee; the mentor and wider organisation also benefit from these very special kind of professional relationships. We have  benefited as mentor and mentee from participating in the Association of British Neurologist’s mentoring scheme which we highly recommend. We believe that mentorship schemes should be available  to  all  post-graduate  trainees   and we have demonstrated that trainee-organised mentoring schemes are practical and feasible.


  1. Training pathways: analysis of the transition from the foundation programme to the next stage of 2017. FINAL2.pdf_72695703.pdf
  2. Allen TD, Eby LT, Poteet ML, et al. Career Benefits Associated With Mentoring for Proteges: A Meta-Analysis. J Appl Psychol 2004;89:127–36. doi:10.1037/0021- 9010.89.1.127
  3. Association of British Academic Neurology in the United Kingdom: Treats, Opportunities and Recommendations. 2003.
  4. Mentoring Programme | The Academy of Medical mentoring-and-other-schemes/mentoring-programme (accessed 17 May 2018).
  5. Association of British ABNT Mentoring Programme. (accessed 21 May 2018).