Mentoring Mentality by Dr Shamla Aly

My career started as an overseas mentee, progressed to an associate, then after my postgraduate degree, to a Clinical Development Manager. Understandably, it was quite satisfying when the time finally came to be on the other side of the equation as a mentor not a mentee.

Mentorship has always held a sentimental value in my heart. I know first-hand the effect of it on someone’s life, as I am a living testament of mentorship going right.

My life completely changed when a mentor took a chance on me years ago which kick started my career and opened doors to opportunities I would have only dreamt of back then.

I knew I wanted to give back to the profession and empower a new dentist to start their own journey, however I was still occupied by the weight of responsibilities that this may entail. I needed the reassurance of these legitimate worries and to be armed with the necessary tools to take on such responsibility.

As a {my}dentist associate, I was lucky enough to take advantage of the free mentor course provided. It is fair to say that the course structure is so detailed and robust that HEE approved it for validation supervisors who want to undertake PLVE. My expectations were set in terms of objectives of this course in the realm of mentorship but what surprised me the most is the vast applications of what I learnt over the two days that extended well beyond that.

In a room full of different faces at different career stages, we all met for one goal; we were all in a privileged position to help a new colleague start their UK career whether they were EU or non-EU qualified we were all united with this goal in mind.

Inspiring as it was to listen to each delegate’s story at the start of day one, what was really eye opening was how this step can truly mean career progression for all of us. Our presenters were the perfect example of this. Our speakers for the course, Manish Prasad and Susan Williams, both started their career progression by becoming a mentor and then progressed to Clinical Support Manager and eventually Clinical Director of the South East in the case of Manish and a Clinical Development Manager in the case of Susan. It felt that being a mentor is just a building block for a very diverse career which was an exciting prospect.

"The true meaning of mentorship became apparent, it is supervision and guidance, facilitating the way for these candidates to have confidence and knowledge to take ownership of their clinical decisions"

After the initial introductions, the course dealt head on with any fears on our minds. It highlighted the sense of control and involvement each delegate will have in the process of mentorship. From the early process of CV selection of the mentee, the interview stage, first day in surgery until the last day where the portfolio is submitted and finally signed off

 One of the common misconceptions this course managed to correct for all the delegates including myself, is the idea that we will be training rather than supervising these dentists which is not the case. These mentees are GDC registered dentists within their own right who have gone through undergraduate training and in some cases gained significant experience. The true meaning of mentorship became apparent, it is supervision and guidance, facilitating the way for these candidates to have confidence and knowledge to take ownership of their clinical decisions rather than training them or being liable for their work.

For further reassurance the course goes into details on the robust scheme in place for non-experienced mentees on what is referred to as the Professional Development Course (PDC). The course runs for 10 days in Manchester and is packed with practical assessment in all aspects of dentistry that the mentee must successfully complete.

The clinical team provide such a level of detailed support which allows the mentees to have a smooth journey during mentorship and has assured me that regardless of the level of experience my mentee will have, we will both have the best chances of success, backed by the unconditional support of the clinical team.

By the end of the two days, I admittedly learned a lot of how to be a good mentor, the different pathways of the NHS vs Private mentorship and the remuneration that comes with this. However, I also learned a lot on how to be a good dentist in general.

I felt empowered by learning the different learning styles various people fall under and what that means when conveying a message across. The best language to use when giving feedback, the art of effective listening and how to influence a conversation positively instead of coming across as over critical or condemning.

I found myself confident in being able to apply concepts as setting ground rules within a team upon which expectations can be built on, how the right mindset is critical for the success of any task and finally the power of body language in delivering a clear developmental message within the team.

Above this invaluable advice the concept that stayed with me since the course, is the idea of how to be a truly self-regulated dentist. Such a clear concept prompted me to update my own PDP the night I finished the course and albeit being an experienced dentist, I subsequently pinpointed some learning needs to work on. I booked a few courses to support these needs and planned an audit to measure the impact of such measures. This was an unexpected outcome of the course that helped me as a clinician before being a mentor.


"The course taught far more than how to be good mentor"

I left the course contemplating the power of being a good mentor in someone’s life and the legacy and impact you can have. It extended beyond tutorials, paperwork, or portfolios. Such power to guide and support and instil enough confidence in a human being to start a new life. To be a role model and share your past experiences. To be able to recognise early on, some developing problems and appropriately intervene with continuous support. The course taught far more than how to be good mentor but how to be a good communicator, a good team member, and in turn, a well-balanced clinician and that’s the true mentality behind mentorship.

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