What is mentorship? Mentorship is a complex personal and professional connection between 2 individuals. The goal of a mentoring relationship is to nurture and develop the protégé's potential—to fortify skills and abilities. A mentoring relationship fosters self-realization and serves as a framework for navigating professional paths for both individuals involved. Therefore, a mentor must be open and willing to recognize that this individual may possess skills that often complement their own (1, 2).
What are the attributes of a successful mentoring relationship? These attributes are common vision, shared trust, a supportive, learning environment, and challenge (1–3). A common vision is based on a shared and deep respect for the values underlying that vision. To achieve this common vision, a good mentor must be a good listener; allowing the protégé to find and express his or her voice in research and in professional life. The mentor must be open to listening and hearing the protégé's ideas—validating the protégé's contributions and fostering a sense of belonging. As a wise and trusted counselor, the mentor provides the protégé the freedom to develop and to forge his or her own path (2, 3). Dr. Lawren Daltroy described the attributes of a good mentor in this manner, “… someone who gives honest, hard work, who is intelligent, who gives respect and credit to the contributions and ideas of others. Someone who thinks hard, and is willing to change his mind” (Lawren Daltroy: personal communication).
The second attribute of a good mentoring relationship is shared trust. Shared trust promotes open, honest, and meaningful communication and enhances self-confidence, enabling growth and creating an environment for discovery. A mentoring relationship, similar to a good provider-patient relationship is intimate, moving beyond the didactic functions of the relationship (guidance and mutual decision-making) to modeling positive interactive styles. A strong mentoring relationship mirrors the elements of effective personal and professional interactions.
The third attribute of a mentoring relationship is a supportive, dynamic interactive learning environment; one evolves as the protégé develops and creates a space for growth and exploration (2). The fourth attribute is to infuse self-confidence and stimulate the protégé to meet new challenges and to discover.
These are the attributes that are familiar to many of us, as we have all been mentors in our lives. Now let's discuss organizational mentorship. An organization is a bearer of gifts. Its gift is mentorship. The organization holds and fosters a space of growth and development for its members. How does an organization mentor its constituents? Well, the attributes of organizational mentorship are the same as traditional mentorship. First, the organization must share a common vision with its membership. We accomplish this goal through a concerted effort to foster communication. This year we introduced the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP) Presidential column and an E-mail response mechanism in the ARHP newsletter to foster discussions of events and issues facing rheumatology health care practitioners. This column provided information about ARHP activities and provoked discussions about clinically relevant topics. Our newly appointed ARHP international newsletter correspondents provided us with the latest information on arthritis treatment and research activities from across the globe. We enlisted the support of international members to serve on committees to provide a venue for information sharing among all our members. Our newly created Web Enhancement Task Force improved the information and educational content of the ARHP Web site. The members of the task force served as conduits to and from ARHP standing committees. They identified and recommended web-based strategies for accomplishing our organizational objectives. We also attempted to advance our shared vision by completing work with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) on a survey that attempted to discover the role of the advanced practice nurse and the physician assistant in rheumatology. We also created and dissemination a journal readership survey. Through enhanced communication, our organization can develop a strategic plan that incorporates the needs of its members and builds upon members' values and goals.
Organizational mentorship is also based on shared trust. Through shared trust the members are free to explore all possibilities in an environment that fosters learning and professional development. Our members are offered the opportunity to have grants pre-reviewed by experts, thereby providing mentoring in a more traditional format. Through our poster tours we create an opportunity for shared knowledge and skills. These tours are led by content experts to provide a relaxed informal dialogue between members and poster presenters about the design and execution of clinical studies performed by the attendees of our conference.
The third attribute of organizational mentorship is creating a creative, supportive, positive, learning environment to foster the professional growth of its membership. ARHP is a dynamic multidisciplinary organization of rheumatology health professionals representing over 12 disciplines. Where do our members work? Nearly 50% of our members practice in clinical settings, 40% are employed in academic/research facilities and 11% work in industry. This diversity exposes our members to differing career paths and philosophies. Diversity in members allows for optimal integration of knowledge and dissemination of innovations. Leadership is representative and therefore, equally as diverse in expertise and skills. Recognizing the need for renewal, we balance the representation of new members in leadership roles with more seasoned members.
If an organization is truly serious about contributing to the development of its membership and offering a creative learning environment, then it must make mentoring a planned and integral part of its mission and a mechanism to achieve its long-term goals. Recognizing professional development needs, ARHP offers clinically relevant state-of-the art educational programs and products to our members. Our educational programming is remarkable. The programming focuses on interdisciplinary education. We regularly monitor and improve of program offerings in response to membership feedback. The annual meeting offers a forum for networking and skills development in addition to individual mentoring. Our educational products are equally as diverse. This year we developed and received approval for 6 audio conferences that will premiere monthly from January through June, 2004 for member and nonmember health professionals. At this annual meeting we completed a new web-based case on Knee Osteoarthritis that will premiere on the ARHP Web site in September.
The fourth attribute of organizational mentorship is to stimulate and challenge. This is the greatest gift an organization can give to its membership. How is this accomplished? We accomplish this task by offering unique training and research opportunities. This year we have added The Lawren H. Daltroy Fellowship in Provider-Patient Communication to the ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF) Portfolio. This fellowship is designed to improve patient-clinician interactions through the development of more qualified and trained clinicians and investigators in the field of patient-clinician communication. We also submitted and received approval for a Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner Rheumatology Training Fellowship to the ACR Board. This fellowship is under consideration by the REF. We recognize and value our clinicians and demonstrate our value of them through these training opportunities. In addition, to ensure our practices reflect the values of our members, we have created a new ARHP Merit Award for Clinical Excellence in Rheumatology by a health professional.
In summary, our organization must recognize and support its gift, its members. As our field grows more complex, our organization must provide as many opportunities as possible in various and new ways to raise our level of care and concern for all providers in rheumatology. Then and only then can we give patients the effective care they truly deserve.