Mentoring Clinical Faculty

Marisue Pickering, Ed.D.
University of Maine, Orono, Maine

In the first two presentations, my colleagues have presented challenges of the sort that make me think how great it would be to have super mentors who tell us exactly how to develop a new set of goals for clinical education, goals that include development of interactional professionals and life-long learners (McAllister's presentation), and goals to change the face of the university clinic (McCready's presentation).  Although I am reminded of Lucy, of Charles Schultz' Peanuts' fame, and the cartoon that shows her behind a desk with a sign that states, "Director of Everything," such a model for mentoring is not the type most of us think about when we think of mentors whom we value.

This afternoon, I want to consider some aspects of mentoring.  Specifically, I want us to consider what it means to be a guide, to receive guidance, and to be on a journey of learning within the specialization of clinical education.  I would like you to think along with me about mentoring.  First, take a moment and write down two things: a) the name of someone whom you have seen as a mentor for yourself, and b) a particular "mentoring moment" you experienced with that person.  Please use these notes as a point of reference as I go through my remarks.  In thinking about mentoring, I want to offer 3 major points.

Point 1

The professional journey called clinical education is not easily separated from our personal journeys.  Mentors come into our lives simply in the business of living, and what we learn there can benefit us professionally.  Conversely, what we learn from people in our professional lives benefits us in our personal lives.  I want to give two examples.  Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, has a new book out entitled, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (1999).  Ms. Edelman, a Black American of my generation, is someone I admire tremendously although I have never met her. She begins the preface of her book with a prayer, part of which I will quote here: "O God, I thank You for the lanterns in my life who illumined dark and uncertain paths, calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears with encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful actions along my journey of life . . . . "(p. xiii). This is a woman whose life's work has related to civil rights, the welfare of children, and advocacy for the disadvantage. But what she talks about in this book are people who enriched and shaped her life rather than her work specifically.  From her mentors, her lanterns, she learned values, attitudes, and ways of being.  Her book makes clear that she applied much of what she learned to her professional life.  A second example is a mentor from whom I learned an untold amount.  He was a professor I met in my first year as a master's student at Boston University in 1960:  Albert T. Murphy.  He subsequently served on my doctoral committee and remained someone with whom I intermittently kept in touch.  When he died in 1998, I felt his loss keenly.  I could do a whole presentation about him, as could others whose lives he touched. How did I experience this person as a mentor?  One thought that comes to mind was that he was someone who interacted with me.  He was, to use McAllister's phrase from earlier this afternoon, an "Interactional Professional."  I experienced this person interacting with me in ways that benefited me as a human being and as a professional.  Additionally, Al's style provided a model for interacting with others. For example, I experienced this individual seeking to find the strengths and areas of uniqueness in his students, the jewels in each of us that we saw as very unpolished stones.  This approach modeled for me a value and a mode of encounter; willing to acknowledge emotional pain in others and not run away from it.  Again, a model not only for professional work but also for life.  A mentor willing to say "I don't know, "  "I don't know what that means, " "I'll have to give that some thought,"  and saying all of this to a very young graduate student.  A mentor sharing ideas, asking questions, disclosing aspects of himself, laughing at the absurdities of life, and putting energy into his interactions.  A mentor who sent me articles and poems he had written, notes about recommended books, and one who corrected my writing.   I still can see his red pen marks when I read something I have written and come across a split verb phrase!

 In a field that works with significant aspects of individuals' lives, practitioners can find it difficult or impossible to separate their own personal and professional growth. These two dimensions overlap, and what we learn from our mentors can influence all arenas of our lives.

Point 2

There are a variety of ways or styles of mentoring. Let's go back to the quote from Edelman and note her words about her mentors. She states that they offered "encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful actions" (1999, p. xiii).   Relating these terms to previous writing I have done about mentoring (Pickering, 1994), as well as work by Blosser (1994), I suggest four styles or types of mentoring.  Incidentally, although I present these styles as separate categories, mentors probably assume elements from any or all within any one mentoring relationship.  On your worksheet, would you please note which styles you are most likely to assume when you are the mentor and which styles you are mostly likely to benefit from as a person being mentored.  You might note any other style that occurs to you that I have not mentioned.

Style 1.  Edelman's "encouraging words" translate for me into facilitative mentoring.  The mentor empathizes, encourages, reassures and offers support.  The mentor conveys ideas such as, "you can make it through this,"  "you have worthwhile strengths that will help you in this situation",  "you're o.k."   I am part of a peer consulting program at my university and have been mentoring a colleague in another department who has felt trampled upon and whose self-esteem has suffered.  Recently, much of my mentoring with this person has been of the encouraging, facilitative type.  This is a style also applicable to mentoring new clinical educators.  Further, this is a style of interacting familiar to clinical educators from their own clinical practice and from their work with students in practicum.

Style 2.  "Wise lessons" are what I think of as collegial mentoring.  Mentors share their own thoughts, values, and insights as well as the lessons they themselves learned from various situations.  Collegial mentoring also can allow joint opportunities to think critically or reflexively about an issue. My two colleagues (in this presentation) and I have been collegial mentors for one another, both in life and in our professional work.  This winter both Vicki and I experienced the terminal illness and death of a parent.  We often were on the telephone with one another, mentoring the other as we went through our respective situations.  In addition to the emotional support we gave one another, we shared lessons learned.  With Lindy, I had the immense good fortune in 1995 to be invited by her to work in Australia for two months.  During this period, we both shared our growth and development as clinical educators, academicians, and scholars.  We learned from one another.  I especially learned about the area of adult learning and its application to clinical education.  Collegial mentoring gives both new and veteran clinical educators the chance to share what they know and perceive.  For example, the new person may have perceptions of situations that the experienced clinical educator has overlooked.   Conversely, experienced individuals have the opportunity to share what they have learned.  Together the individuals can reflect critically on a variety of issues.

Style 3.  I am combining Edelman's "gentle touches" and "firm nudges" and calling them didactic mentoring.  I think of this as when the mentor offers direct advice and guidance, thus consciously seeking to broaden the other person's horizons or to articulate organizational expectations.  This is when the experienced clinical educator either gently or firmly says, "it probably works best to do it this way."  The mentor may observe the new clinical educator, demonstrate useful behaviors, point to skills needed, and give feedback, behaviors similar to those used by the clinical educator in clinical practicum itself.

New clinical educators need to learn to do the specialization called clinical education. It is not the same as doing clinical work or academic teaching.  There are skills and procedures to be learned and organizational rules to be understood.  It is tremendously helpful to the new clinical faculty member to have a mentor to assist with all this in direct ways.  Those of us who started out in clinical education, without mentors in the specialty, probably can remember how hard it was to figure out what we needed to do.  A lot had to be inferred, not always successfully.  I especially want to stress the importance of direct mentoring relative to organizational rules and protocols. This pertains to those norms present in the clinic, the department, and the institution.  I strongly believe that mentoring within institutional settings (e.g., universities or hospitals) needs to include an understanding of the institution as an organization and as a culture.  Mentors can help the new clinical educator do what is needed to meet retention and/or promotion expectations.  As Blosser (1994) has stated in her discussion about mentoring within universities clinics, "Mentors can help 'break the code' for newcomers" (p. 9).

When should a mentor be gentle and when firm? I think these are individual decisions influenced by the relationship and the personalities, the interpersonal skills of the mentor, the organizational situation, and the issues involved.  It is similar to clinical decision-making.  When does one give direct advice to a client and when does one provide the gentle suggestion?  There is no one answer applicable for all situations.

Style 4.  Edelman's phrase, "faithful actions", is what I think of as role modeling or indirect mentoring.  Use of this style allows the mentor to serve as an example, perhaps even from afar, and perhaps even with little direct interaction with those who see this person as a mentor.   I think it is hard to acknowledge that we are role models for others, but I suspect most of us are to some extent.  Someone notices our strengths or efforts, ponders them, and even attempts to emulate them.  Or perhaps, they attempt to avoid our notable mistakes!  When a person has traveled the road on which another is embarking, then the newcomer on that road may look to the experienced individual, even from a distance,  for hints as to how to keep on the path and what to observe while walking that path.  It probably is easier to think about someone else being one's own role model. I suspect all of us look-up to someone, admire that person, observe that person's behavior, and likewise pattern our own behavior to some extent.  An advantage in having a role model is that we can pick and chose which part of that person's behavior we want to consider incorporating into our own repertoire. I can choose one element, but not another.  I can admire particular actions or values and ponder how they fit into my own being.

An additional way I have found to be mentored by role models is indirectly through biographies and stories about people's lives. I learn a lot from reflecting on the lives of others, their circumstances, their decisions, and their values. I think of this as biblio-mentoring, and I had such an experience recently as a result of reading "Tuesdays with Morrie", about a man with ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease (Albom, 1997). I felt mentored by reading this book, especially at the personal level. It also contained insights that I can apply professionally. This particular example of biblio-mentoring actually is an example of several types of mentoring. The book was recommended by two individuals who in many ways model behaviors for me; my husband, John, and a colleague in our field, David Shapiro at Western Carolina University. The book is about a set of interactions and learning experiences between a younger man, the author, and an older man.  The author was a former university student of the older man. The older man was a mentor on issues of living and dying to the younger man, years after he had been a mentor when the younger man was his student. In many ways, mentoring was the theme of the book as well as the way I learned about the book in the first place.

Point 3

My third point has to do with the attitudes embedded in the mentoring encounter.  A basic challenge of mentoring is for two people to come together to give and receive in ways that simultaneously protect the worth of each individual's personal identity and allow opportunities for that personal identity to develop and be enhanced.  Such an approach can be a particular challenge when we mentor cross-culturally within the spheres of, for example, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and national identity.  The mentoring experience for the clinical educator, like the clinical education experience for the student, is not always positive.  The experience can challenge one's concept of one's own identity in stressful, painful, and even wounding ways. I had someone once tell me that it took him years to "get over" the messages he received in his supervisory experiences in our field.  Presumably this is not what any of us wants for either the student or the new clinical educator.  The question thus becomes, "what is the basis for how we connect with our fellow humans in the mentoring relationship?" or "what values under-gird our encounters?"  I believe these questions need to be present irrespective of mentoring style.  I find the dialogic mode offers a useful value base for the mentoring encounter.  For this discussion, I am beholden to the work of Yoshikawa (1987), writing in the field of cross-cultural communication. Yoshikawa bases his work in various Buddhist teachings, as well as in the writings of the European Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, a long time influence in my own life (e.g., Pickering, 1977, 1987, 1995).  As I understand the dialogic mode, it allows two individuals to meet and communicate without attempting to eliminate the uniqueness of either. Both identities remain intact.  One person is not ignoring the differences of the other.  One is not attempting to impose on the other or to control the other. Nor is one trying to co-opt the other in some way.  Personal/cultural identities are recognized and respected.  Another element in the dialogic mode is that the dynamic tension that results when two people meet is acknowledged and worked with. In the dialogic mode, each person holds the value that the other is a separate and different person, and acknowledges that this fact results in a polarity when they encounter one another.  This polarity, dynamic tension, is part of the reality of two people encountering one another.  When two people really encounter one another, without attempting to control, the encounter can be lead to dialogue and relationship development.  (See Yoshikawa, 1987, for a fuller discussion of this concept.)

As I think about mentoring and the dialogic mode, I am struck by our use of the terms mentor and mentee or even protégé (e.g., see Blosser, 1994; Huffman, 1994).  These terms suggest to me a one-way form of communication rather than a mutually created and creative endeavor. In an exploration of this issue relative to mentoring between academic women, Johnsrud (1991) points to a developmental model in which the protégé moves from dependency through a stage of independence to an interdependent relationship with the mentor.  Johnsrud believes that "to call for a collaborative collegial relationship from the outset of the mentoring relationship is not realistic" (p. 9).  She suggests that the interdependent relationship comes with time and relationship development.   Although this current occasion is not the time to explore Johnsrud's stages of mentoring relative to the concept of dialogic communication,  a key challenge for any stage or style of mentoring, as well as for clinical education, is learning to create space for personal and interpersonal growth, relationship development, respect for difference, and the empowerment of both participants.

To help understand dialogic communication, Yoshikawa (1987) has created the double swing model (p. 326), which he visually portrays through the use of the symbol for infinity (?).  In this model, one loop signifies person A and the other loop, person B.  This symbol becomes both a linguistic and visual metaphor for dialogic communication.  As Yoshikawa states, "The cultural integrity of A and B and the differences and similarities of A and B are recognized and respected.  The emphasis is on wholeness, mutuality, and the dynamic meeting of A and B" (p. 321).   He further states, "The double-swing model demonstrates the process of balance between the opposing forces of life" (p. 327).
What the dialogical mode means to me on a daily, practical basis, is that when I am with another person, I want to try to step away from my own personal base long enough to hear, understand, and learn from that person.  I want to attempt to wait and bracket off the interpretations I make based on my reality.  I need to learn that my reality is not the same as another's and that my solutions to a situation may not work for another.  I want to learn to restrain my tendency to judge negatively another person's statements or to find fault because that person is unlike me.  Also, I want to remember that this is a model, not something that I achieve as often as I would like!   As I think about the qualities of mentoring within the dialogic mode, these are some terms that come to mind: effort, patience, diligence, humor, and empathy.  You may think of others.  Another thought is that there is a congruence between values of mentoring and some of the characteristics discussed earlier this afternoon, especially those pertaining to the interactive professional, concepts of professional artistry, and life-long learning.

Conclusion and Discussion

By way of conclusion, I want to note that the literature is full of assumed and validated results of mentoring.  At the very least, mentoring probably results in a sense of being supported, increased self-confidence, new connections and networking opportunities, enhanced knowledge of professional skills and organizational rules and protocols, additional personal and professional growth, and increased professional opportunities.  At its best, mentoring gives recipients the sense that someone is watching out for them, something we all can benefit from.


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