Maybe this relationship could better be described as preceptorship. “an individual teaching/learning method in which each student is assigned to a particular preceptor so that he/she can experience day to day practice with a role model and resource person immediately available within the clinical setting.” Chickerella & Lutz 1981) Usually I work with the same crewmate for two or three months at a time. This period effectively becomes our “defined” schedule, the short term approach. Longer term I may or may not work with them again for an extended period. If staffing a training vehicle my two trainees are with me for a period of three weeks. After that I am keen to encourage further informal contact by either party but is not mandatory or contracted.
Thus it can be seen that ambulance “mentorship” does not exist in a normally recognised form. That which does take place is both unstructured and unsupported and not officially recognised. But I do believe that mentoring takes place, albeit in an unstructured, unintentional way and that it lends itself to the apprenticeship and reflective models. Almost all of the mentoring that occurs in the way I describe does so within the dynamic of the crew of two. Although staff may approach me in other ways there is no method of facilitating their desire for a mentored relationship other than entirely informally as an unrecognised “friendly” arrangement. Shift times and location of staff countywide make regular contact very difficult.
Working alongside my “mentee” as a crew means that boundaries become much more of an issue than in other, formalised mentoring situations. “Like any close involvement, the relationship between the mentor and protï¿½gï¿½ has the potential to become emotionally charged”( Murray & Owen 1991) . On operational duties crews routinely spend twelve hours together and witness a variety of emotive situations that can force them together. Where there is a burgeoning mentor/mentee relationship it becomes incumbent on the mentor to carefully consider the limits.
Mentor qualities such as trustworthiness, credibility, commitment, discipline, patience, communication skills etc, all become tested in an intense atmosphere of long day and night shifts in sometimes difficult circumstances. Anna Guest suggests that, “Companies have a duty to provide mentors and mentees with a clear framework for the relationship” (Coaching & Mentoring Network 2001) Clearly this is not presently happening in my workplace. But would the situation improve if a structured scheme were put in place? I would like now to look at the potential advantages and disadvantages of a structured mentorship model in my workplace. Advantages Murray and Owen (1991) list some of the benefits of a structured program as follows.
This has limited validity in my workplace. In fact it has been shown that where training is going on, productivity in the form of turnaround is reduced. As this is so important to managers it becomes an area of conflict between the operational and training departments. Structured schemes can undoubtedly enhance communication and understanding, especially when those involved work in different departments. In the crew relationship communication is vital. Using counselling techniques and psychological models I can try to use Gerard Egan’s “person-centred” approach to my trainees and establish trust. I can use other techniques, such as the cognitive behavioural approach to enhance their understanding and confidence.
(Elbaz 1993) talks of “empowering” the mentee, giving them greater control over their practice. In the intimate and sometimes intense operational setting it is very important to establish confidence but it can be easy to overpower the mentee by taking a hierarchical approach. Thus it is necessary to encourage trust and foster a relationship that will facilitate their development to “self-actualisation”. In a recent study FENTO showed that most students value understanding and supportive qualities as being the most important qualities of a good teacher. (FENTO Press Release 2001)
This can be enhanced for both parties. As the fires of his dreams and ambitions are banked, the mentor enjoys the stimulation of tutoring and guiding a younger person who is full of idealism and potential.” (Groder, 1980 P.5) I have certainly found that this is true and that the process of guidance can be very revitalising. The Maynard and Furlong model of teacher development also applies to my experience of my ambulance career to date. Having hit the “plateau” stage of development, guidance of new staff has helped me avoid cynicism and complacency.
Trainees in the “idealistic” and “survival” stages can achieve greater understanding more quickly and learn the practicalities of their job. They become better able to cope and adjust to changes. Disadvantages A structured programme could well create an expectation of career progression for mentees that does not exist. Chances for advancement in career are limited.. In the present relationship trainees quickly become aware of this problem because a mentor/crewmate can make them aware of it.