Residents as mentors: Should you take the opportunity?

By Kirstin Bass, MD, PhD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published April 15, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Mentors promote the development of younger clinicians; having a mentor has been shown to enhance motivation and productivity, as well as help prevent burnout.

  • Residents can mentor people who are junior to them, such as interns and PGY-2s, and also medical students.

  • Researchers studying the practice of developing residents as mentors have identified three attributes of a good resident mentor: availability, competence, and altruistic support.

In medicine, mentors are often senior clinicians who take an interest in someone younger or more junior than they are, and through this interest help promote their career and development. Mentorship is known to enhance the motivation and productivity of younger clinicians, and it can help prevent resident burnout.[][]

As you gain more experience, you can seek out those younger or more junior to share your knowledge and advice with.

Although you may still be learning yourself, you already have plenty of knowledge to share.

Who can you mentor?

As a resident, you can mentor medical students, interns, and those in earlier years of the program.

Look for those experiencing something you have gone through yourself and who you think you can connect with and help. You can provide advice and mentorship about the situations and hurdles they may be facing, that you went through, too.

What makes a good mentor?

If you’ve decided to be a mentor, or perhaps been asked to be one, how do you go about it? What makes someone a good mentor?

Researchers studying the practice of developing residents as mentors have identified three attributes of a good resident mentor, as they reported in an article in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. These attributes are availability, competence, and altruistic support.


To be a mentor, you need to have the time for it. Being available starts with the willingness to be a mentor, but it also means having the actual time in your day to talk with your mentee. This can take many different forms, depending on the person and the relationship you have with them.

These talks may be a quick conversation in the elevator after rounds, or a cup of coffee at the hospital cafeteria once a week, or a scheduled, formal meeting to sit down together.

As a resident, you will most likely have briefer encounters with your mentee. They will probably not need a lot of time from you all at once but instead will be served by shorter but more frequent check-ins.


To be a mentor, you need to have some knowledge or skill to pass on. What are you good at? What do you love to do? What life events have you gone through, or are going through? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you figure out what you might want to mentor someone in, and then find those whom you can mentor.

Altruistic support

Being a mentor means supporting the person you are mentoring.

This can range from providing timely and constructive feedback, to offering advice or guidance, to helping open doors for a future prospect. When providing support, it is critical for you to realize that your own thoughts and ambitions may differ somewhat from those of your mentee.

When done right, the mentor-mentee relationship is a partnership: You are there to help guide and support your mentee to succeed, but they will need to figure out their own definition of “success.”

What this means for you

Becoming a mentor to someone can be highly rewarding. It can help you improve your communication, reinforce the knowledge or skills you are passing on to your mentee, and enhance your leadership skills. You also reap the reward of knowing you have helped others, just as your mentors have helped you.

Related: Finding mentors during residency
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