GP Synergy’s Peer Mentorship Program was developed in 2013 to assist registrars to transition from a hospital setting to general practice. Our Peer Mentorship Program study aimed to explore the experiences of registrar mentors and mentees involved in the program, for the purposes of improving the GP training experience.
Between October 2018 and March 2019, we conducted two focus groups and 29 individual interviews.
Many interviewed registrars reported minimal contact with their assigned mentee or mentor, which consisted of exchanging one or two emails, or meeting once in person. Less commonly, registrars reported developing a useful relationship with multiple meetings, which extended beyond the program period (i.e. beyond GPT1).
Some of the factors that appeared to influence whether or not a mentoring relationship developed included:
- success of the match on personality, location, or expectations of the program or peer mentoring
- level of stress experienced during GP training
- mentor skill and engagement.
Barriers to engaging in the program or developing a mentoring relationship included:
- lack of program clarity and structure that provided consistent expectations for mentees and mentors about what involvement would entail (e.g. how often or how they could contact each other, what was appropriate to discuss, seek or provide advice and support on)
- insufficient opportunity or contact for mentees and mentors to develop trust and rapport
- lack of feedback of the mentoring process.
The most common request for improvement to the program from registrars was for GP Synergy to facilitate mentees and mentors meeting face-to-face for the first time, preferably in a group setting. Meeting in person was perceived as pivotal in establishing a mentoring agreement, and trust and rapport in the relationship. Other suggestions included guidelines or assistance in establishing the mentoring relationship, such as a checklist of topics to discuss, how often to make contact, and areas that are suitable for a peer mentor to provide support with. Training and feedback could also be provided to mentors to help further develop their communication and leadership skills.
GP Synergy has taken the feedback from this research onboard, and although we are unable to facilitate mentor and mentee meetings, we are making changes to assist registrars in getting the most from the program. Some of the key changes that have been introduced include:
- proximity of the mentor to the mentee has been identified as a priority for the matching process to facilitate the opportunity for face-to-face connection, in so far as possible
- updated program guidelines to more clearly articulate the way the program works
- creation of FAQ toolkit documents for program participants to help establish more consistent expectations, provide clarity around the aim of the program and suggest appropriate topics for discussion. These documents also provide practical tips and strategies for effective communication, connection and the facilitation of a positive mentoring relationship.
We thank all the registrars involved for their time and help with this study.