Consultant mentorship | Association of Anaesthetists

Consultant mentorship

Consultant mentorship

Mentoring is the practice of facilitating a person’s development. ‘To help and support people to manage their own learning in order to maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be' (Parlsoe; [1]).

Mentoring tends to involve an experienced individual using their greater knowledge of the work or workplace to support the development of an inexperienced colleague. However, it is not directive; at its best it takes a coaching approach where the mentor helps the mentee to find his or her own path and solutions. It has been described as helping without telling. A mentor can provide support, direction and an objective view on how the mentee can develop and progress in their working environment.

Who needs mentoring?

Anyone and everyone at some time in their careers could benefit from a mentor. This is particularly the case around times of transition and change, for example starting a new consultant post or returning to work after a career break. Mentoring is not just for doctors at a crisis point, it can also be used to further challenge and develop the most able of people. The GMC advocates mentoring for doctors in enabling the delivery of safe and effective care when taking on a new role. In Leadership and Management for all Doctors it states: ‘you should be willing to take part in a mentoring scheme offered by your employer’ [2].

What does the mentee get out of the relationship?

  • help with achieving outcomes that the mentee cares about;
  • help in exploring weaknesses and gaps in their experience and knowledge; 
  • exploring understanding, perspectives, attitudes, beliefs and thinking styles through a supportive relationship; 
  • an opportunity to talk through issues requiring a decision or action; 
  • some judicious challenge and support around facing difficult issues and developing self-awareness; 
  • assistance with reflection leading to personal and professional growth.

For doctors in training the Local Education and Training Boards or Deaneries should provide, or be able to provide access to mentoring. For new consultants many employees’ organisations will have a mentoring scheme in place. To try out mentoring there are free taster sessions available at the Association’s national meetings including the Trainee Conference in July 2019.

What can happen in a mentoring session?

A mentoring meeting is typically a formalised structure of dedicated, private, uninterrupted meeting time. The content is guided by the mentee. A skilled mentor will use a combination of questioning, listening, observation and feedback to create a productive conversation which fosters insight and learning. The mentor encourages the mentee to find their own solutions to move forward. The frequency of meeting is agreed between the mentor and mentee; typically, this takes the form of regular meetings for up to a year for newly appointed consultants.

At the start of the mentoring relationship, the mentee will need to think about what the gap is that he or she would like mentoring to fill. It might be around: 

  • integrating into the team; 
  • understanding how to take on a new role or project; 
  • leadership; 
  • help with managing working relationships; 
  • balancing responsibilities inside and outside work.

It is useful to set some goals as the mentor and mentee begin to work together.

Sally Millett
Consultant Anaesthetist
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust


  1. Connor M, Pokora J. Coaching and mentoring at work: developing effective practice. Open University Press; 2007 
  2. General Medical Council. Leadership and Management for all Doctors. London; GMC; 2012 ( all-doctors)