A need to build up long-term care mentoring

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

 Of the many statements that stuck with me from covering the long-term care profession in 2012, one that resonated was almost a throwaway line.

It was from Marianna Grachek, the head of the American College of Health Care Administrators, who made a comment in May about the importance of mentoring in the long-term care community. “We do tend to eat our own,” she said of the industry's professionals.

For someone who spends a lot of time thinking about animals, and metaphors around animals, I began to wonder if LTC leaders were actually Komodo dragons: really interesting, very powerful lizards who are a tad vicious. For many reasons, but including eating their young, species survival for them is a challenge.

Perhaps you can relate.

So how do we change this dynamic in long-term care, where we know a high percentage of future leaders burn out? A new study out of Toronto presents some salient research based around studying mentor-mentee relationships at two major academic health centers: the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.

There were five key factors St. Michael's Hospital researcher Sharon Straus, M.D., isolated as making for a successful relationship: reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connections and shared values.

The reasons for bad mentoring related to poor communication, a lack of commitment, personality differences, perceived or real competition, conflicts of interest or the mentor's inexperience.

If you're wincing in recognition, you're not alone.

These challenges in finding a healthy balance in mentoring are, of course, not isolated to long-term care. But since we know that the industry needs more mentors and leaders, it's worth noting that good mentors are the ones who help the mentee set goals and open doors. They are the ones who are invested in helping their protégées take the next step in his or her career. In turn, those mentees who benefited had to take the mentor's advice seriously.

Straus recommends training programs to promote effective mentoring. Even for those facilities or institutions where more training is not an option, it's worth taking a moment to be reflective: Ask yourself not only whether you've been a mentor, but also how effective you have been as a mentor.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.