Any true professional development involves mentoring, and residency is no different. My mentor was a 3rd-year resident, and we became friends the first week I started my intern year. He showed me the best food in the hospital cafeteria, gave me insights into the best doctor lounges, told me which attendings to befriend (and which to avoid), and taught me some hard lessons about navigating residency.
Everyone’s experience with mentorship in residency is different, but it always provides a valuable learning experience.
We asked residents about “specific ways your mentor helped you in residency.” Here’s what they had to say.
Someone who offers guidance and support
Christina Pedro MD, MBA: “There were times in residency where I felt lonely and misunderstood. Checking in with my mentor was helpful to remind me to continue to think positively and have a healthy perspective of my future.
“My mentor also offered guidance. There are so many important decisions that we must make throughout the day, every day, in medicine. Often, life-changing decisions must be made with little time or opportunity to think things through.”
"My mentor not only took the time to listen but also gave advice and opinions that were helpful and nonjudgemental. Being able to bounce ideas around with someone of more experience is always helpful."
— Christina Pedro, MD, MBA
They offer encouragement
Jake Jacob, MD: “My mentor's guidance on clinical skills has been a game-changer. They've shown me the ropes of patient examination, diagnosis, and treatment, sharing their tricks and experience. Learning from someone who's been in the field for a while is like having a treasure trove of knowledge at your fingertips.
“In the medical world, you often face situations where you need to make quick and critical choices. My mentor taught me how to weigh the pros and cons, consider all the possibilities, and make the best call, even in high-pressure situations. Their wisdom and insight has given me the confidence to trust my judgment and make informed decisions.
“Residency can be tough, and there are days when you doubt yourself. Having someone who believes in you, listens to your concerns, and cheers you on can make a huge difference. Whenever I faced challenges or felt overwhelmed, my mentor was there to remind me of my strengths and guide me through the tough times.”
"Their encouragement has been like a safety net, reminding me that I'm not alone in this journey."
— Jake Jacob, MD
They helped shape my career
Abeeha Naqvi, MD: “It was difficult to establish a singular mentor for myself, and so I have made many different attendings throughout my career my mentors. They have been helpful in guidance for patient exams, in how to adjust conversation for optimal bedside manners, and more.”
"My mentors have also helped me with long-term planning, shaping how I envision my future self practicing medicine."
— Abeeha Naqvi, MD
Other mentor guidance
James Skinner, MD: “My mentor helped me figure out which fellowship I should apply to, encouraged me to enroll in different hospital committees, and taught me how to say NO when I feel something is not right.”
Mihir Patel, MD: “Advocating for me for fellowship, helping me with research, and buying me lots of coffees.”
Mark Winfield, MD: “My mentor helped me develop good communication skills with patients.”
Ravi Patel, MD: “They helped me pick a track for work after residency, taught me about financial stability, and helped with coordination of care and discharge planning.”
Boyer Bran, MD: “My mentor was helpful in teaching me how to manage difficult patients. They also taught me the value of being able to leave work on time.”
Having a mentor in residency is a powerful leadership tool. There are many important lessons your mentor can teach you that you won’t find in medical school or from reading textbooks. Your patients can also be your mentors, in a way, as they teach you about humility, death and dying, grace and gratitude, and more.
One of the greatest benefits of being in a mentorship is that you can learn how to return the favor and mentor someone else. I believe this is a highlight of progressing further into your training and becoming an attending.
Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!