Have you heard about reverse mentoring among health professionals? It’s all about maximizing everyone’s potential by pairing a junior mentor with a senior mentee. The result? A dynamic duo that brings out the best in each other and leads to some serious wins – think improved learning, productive teams, and an inclusive work environment.
What Is Reverse Mentoring?
Usually, mentorship in medical training involves seasoned mentors sharing their wisdom with the early-career mentees. Reverse mentoring, on the other hand, provides the chance for junior medical professionals to take the lead and mentor their more experienced colleagues.
Reverse mentoring is a niche form of mentoring and has some unique characteristics:1
- Length of mentoring relationship: Traditional mentorships are usually longitudinal relationships, and reverse mentorships are shorter, specific content-driven relationships.
- Subject areas: Traditional mentorships are broader, holistic mentoring, e.g., career, professionalism, research, and work/life balance. Reverse mentorships often aim to improve specific knowledge, e.g., telemedicine, use of apps, and literature searching.
Reverse mentoring has roots in the idea of communities of practice (CoPs), which are groups of people who come together to learn and share around a specific topic or area of interest. In this theory, mentorship is all about forming a knowledge network, where it’s more of a partnership than a one-way street. Mentees bring their unique skills and knowledge to multiple communities, allowing them to be a mentor in one area and learn as a beginner in another.
What Are the Benefits of Reverse Mentoring?
Reverse mentoring has the power to harness everyone’s strengths, no matter their age. By working together and learning from each other, health professionals can create a cohesive, productive team where all generations thrive in harmony.
For example, an oncology unit needed to implement a computerized charting system and brought in four tech-savvy young nurses to support their senior colleagues. The young nurses naturally fell into a mentoring role which made them feel valued and helped them develop cohesiveness with the team, and together they rolled out the new charting system smoothly.2
And it’s not just about technology. A study showed that junior doctors also felt confident in providing feedback to senior doctors in clinical practice.3 Reverse mentoring gives them a platform to highlight outdated practices to senior doctors in a constructive way.
The benefits of reverse mentoring go beyond personal or team growth – by fostering understanding and breaking down biases, reverse mentoring can help create a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
The reverse mentorship program at the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is a good example. They paired two black and minority ethnic staff (mentors) with a senior white male director (mentee), and the results were encouraging. The mentee showed improvements in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion, such as using gender-inclusive language, being more aware of policies against bullying and harassment, and making efforts to have diverse interview panels.4
Challenges of Implementing Reverse Mentoring
For a successful reverse mentoring experience, both the mentor and mentee need to overcome the same roadblocks that traditional mentoring faces – time constraints, misaligned expectations, poor communication, and conflicts of interest, to name a few. However, some barriers may be more prominent in reverse mentoring, especially when it comes to mentorship skills.
The success of reverse mentoring largely depends on whether junior mentors have the necessary mentorship skills. For example, resident physicians are often responsible for teaching medical students during the clerkship rotations; however, the residents usually don’t have training or guidance on how to be effective mentors.5 This lack of mentorship skills can pose a challenge when junior mentors, such as the residents, need to work with their senior mentees in a reverse mentorship relationship.
At Gather-ed, we strive to share with our community information and stories related to all types of mentoring and coaching among health professionals, recognizing their value from a personal and professional perspective.
Are you a health care professional who enjoys teaching, coaching, or mentoring and looking for opportunities to hone these skills? If so, please contact us to learn about how you can become a Group Leader at Gather-ed.
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- Clarke, Antonia J, et al. “The Role of Reverse Mentoring in Medical Education: Current Insights.” Advances in Medical Education and Practice, vol. 10, Aug. 2019, pp. 693-701.
- Reinbeck, Donna M. et al. “Four Generations of Nurses Bridge Digital Divide.” Nursing Critical Care, vol. 10, no. 4, July 2015, pp. 18-20.
- Raju, Suneil A, et al. “Does Reverse Mentoring Work in the NHS: A Feasibility Study of Clinicians in Practice.” BMJ Open, vol. 12, no. 11, Nov. 2022, e062361.
- Raza, Ali, and Kiki Onyesoh. “Reverse Mentoring for Senior NHS Leaders: A New Type of Relationship.” Future Healthcare Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, 2020, pp. 94-96.
- Sobbing, Jackson, et al. “Residents as Medical Student Mentors During an Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship.” Journal of Graduate Medical Education, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 412-416.