Physios are finding career boosts and mental-health benefits from having an impartial mentor under the relaunched CSP mentoring scheme, Tamsin Starr finds out
You are never too young or too old to be mentored. A good mentor can help you keep your career challenging and fulfilling, or help you navigate the right path.
No matter where you are in your career, there is always someone who knows more than you, who can help you gain a better understanding of yourself and improve your skills.
But mentors can provide much more than clinical insights, according to mentee Nikita Mascaren has.
Healthcare professionals often put the patient first, and don’t think about their own wellbeing so it’s great to have a mentor who encourages you to prioritise yourself,’ she says.
Fellow mentee Lynne Mann agrees, ‘We’re often working away in a little bubble feeling as if we’re not getting anywhere so to have someone to speak to, who’s championing you, in your corner, really helps.’
The art of passing knowledge and expertise from one person to another was at the heart of the CSP’s Mentoring Scheme relaunched in April last year. Open to everyone from students to senior leaders, the free scheme matches mentees to mentors via a web-based mentoring platform. To date, more than 600 mentees have been matched to a mentor through the platform including 18 final-year students and 142 early graduates.
Third-year BSc student at the University of the West of EnglandJane Kennedyhas used the scheme to help her transition to the workplace. She says, ‘Having a mentor gives you an impartial voice outside of your university. It gives you a sounding board for ideas and thoughts about physiotherapy and your career on a one-to-one basis and gives you the freedom to drive the conversation in the direction you want to go.’
Advice my mentor has given me already has been invaluable in preparing for applications and eventually interviews for band 5 roles. I am right at the beginning of my journey and I can already see multiple benefits to the system.’
Justin Lim was at a career crossroads after graduation, undecided between sports physio or a more traditional route, when he sought a mentor’s advice.
He took the time to understand me and make suggestions based on my personality and my career stage that helped a lot,’ says Lim. He now has a part-time job at Sheffield United, which he really enjoys.
For Lynne Mann, lead Allied Health Professional at NHS Dumfries and Galloway, being a mentee was a way to define herself in a more senior role. ‘I had to step up into my current role, and my confidence was lacking. I needed guidance on what a senior AHP looked like from someone already in that role,’ she says. ‘We spent a lot of time on self-confidence and my abilities - it really helped to have someone on the outside reflecting back to me how much I had done and achieved.’
Having a mentor unconnected to her workplace made their conversations a safe space, Mann admits. ‘I could talk freely and explore the challenges I was having, with my mentor questioning my approaches and challenging me to think about them differently.’ She urges would-be mentees to join the scheme as a way of achieving personal growth. ‘Your mentor sets the conditions for you to come up with the answers. They ask the open questions and guide you to work out the problem for yourself.’
The benefits for her have been tangible. The scheme boosted her confidence to the point she applied for a role on a CSP committee. ‘I never would have done that otherwise – a mentor helps you look outwards and horizon scan for opportunities to help you develop. They are like the lights on an airport runway – keeping you on the right path.’
Carl Wong, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at the Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, needed a roadmap to his career goal – a move to developing his clinical academic career alongside his clinical role. As well as acting as a sounding board for his plans, his mentor also taught him the skills to break into a new career community. ‘I learned a lot about networking from my mentor, which is so important in research, as well as prioritisation in terms of how to manage your time and be realistic when you have a lot to do.’
Sessions also gave his progress fresh momentum.
My mentor helped me identify the steps I needed to take to achieve my goal, and their order. I’m self-motivated but needed guidance on prioritisation.
Wong was empowered to make connections with key researchers while presenting his MSc dissertation at the most recent vPUK. ‘We talked about what the barriers were, including nerves and uncertainty over what to expect. My mentor said,
“You won’t lose anything why not just try it a go?” - sometimes you need a little bit of a push and motivation.’
His tips for getting the most out of a mentorship is to find the right frequency of meetings and stay positive. ‘You don’t have to be scared that you’ll be under pressure, you can be honest with your mentor over what stage you’re at. They are all nice people who are wanting to support you.’
Independent practitioner Louise Dyson had taken a career break after battling with endometriosis for ten years before having surgery, then going through the menopause. ‘They are all challenging in different ways but the menopause turned my world upside down. The mentoring scheme has helped me press the reset button and find a new lease of life.’
She started up a new business, Prehab Physio, but as a sole practitioner found it lonely at times. A clinical and academic mentor offered both sounding board and guidance. ‘It’s so great to have people you can ask questions, debrief on cases and help you understand your own limits – they really have empowered me,’ Dyson says.
They act as a safety net, a sense check and direct me to great learning resources as well as advising on practicalities such as how to incorporate policies into my business.
Most of all, they’ve given me the confidence to go forwards.’ She volunteered to act as an observer on the NICE hip and knee guidelines after her mentor recommended it. Plus they’ve been invaluable in helping her to build a business compliant with CSP and HCPC standards. ‘There’s been an explosion of benefits from it!’ Dyson smiles.
For mentees like Nikita, the scheme offered ‘transformational’ support for her wellbeing during the pandemic. ‘As an Indian working in the UK I didn’t have access to the support networks many of my colleagues did, so my mentor was an ally for me and gave me a fresh perspective at a time when I was struggling at work,’ she says. Like many early-career physios, Nikita suffered from imposter syndrome and workplace stress, but found it uncomfortable to be honest with her manager about her difficulties.
‘My mentor listened to my situation, made me believe in myself, inspiring me to do things she knew I could achieve, and giving me the confidence to rock the boat and stay true to myself. It has been life-changing,’ she adds highlighting how it has also supported her to advance her career successfully.
Mentees agreed that you need the right fit with your mentor, as trust and honesty are crucial in getting the most out of the scheme. Two mentees switched mentors after initial mismatches while another recommends treating the first session as a ‘chemistry test’ to see if you both connect. ‘They need to understand you and where you’re coming from so the relationship is based on mutual respect,’ Dyson says.
And although the CSP scheme sets out expectations for both parties, Wong recommends discussing what mentorship means to you both at the outset. ‘It’s not a question and answer session, so you need to establish the style of the mentorship so it suits you both.’
Mentees must be prepared to put the work in to get the most out of the scheme. ‘Always go in with something to discuss, it’s not for them to direct you,’ advises Mann. ‘I used a journal to capture points in the moment that I could discuss at mentor sessions.’
Dyson says being structured about sessions helps, ‘I set SMART targets at the outset so I could work towards my goals, which gives me a sense of accountability.’ Mentor Diarmuid Denneny, lead physiotherapist at UCLH Pain Management Centre, believes the benefits are shared between both parties. ‘When you mentor others, you gain critical leadership skills,’ he says.
‘In great mentoring you are not the expert, you don’t have to be, instead you are providing the safe space for the mentee to explore their own resources and strengths and build on them. Offering to mentor hones your ability to bring out the best in others. Most importantly, mentoring works both ways; there is as much reward and opportunity for self-development for the mentor as there is for the mentee! The shared learning can benefit you both, not only refreshing your knowledge of best practice, and providing you opportunities to reflect on your journey and development, but also giving you extra momentum to achieve more in your own career.’
Register here for the CSP mentoring scheme.
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