Revolutionizing Medical Training: Singapore’s Innovative Mentoring Approach

Medical education plays a pivotal role in the Professional Identity Formation (PIF) of medical students and clinicians, which is essentially the development of their professional persona as they navigate their medical practice. The process of socialization and the concept of Community of Practice (CoP) are two essential elements for fostering PIF effectively. However, the understanding of these mechanisms is still in its early stages. The mentoring practices at the Palliative Medicine Initiative (PMI), a structured research mentoring program at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), can provide us with a deeper understanding of how professional identities are shaped in medical education.

Mentoring is a well-known method for cultivating PIF in medical education. However, to fully appreciate the experiences at PMI, its role in nurturing PIF, and its connection with CoP and the Socialisation Process, we must first understand the key terms and theories involved.

The PMI employs a combined novice-, peer- and e-mentoring approach (CNEP). Graduating PMI mentees are selected, recruited, trained, and mentored by senior mentors to support new PMI mentees. After completing at least one PMI mentored research project and receiving training on how to mentor, assess, and provide feedback to peers and new mentees, the peer-mentors are reoriented to the mentoring approach and their roles and responsibilities.

Peer-mentors are given a choice of projects to work on, ranging from systematic reviews in ethics, professionalism, communication, PIF, mentoring, thanatology, wellbeing, and reflective practice to qualitative interviews on palliative care, PIF and mentoring. They often discuss these projects with the senior mentors involved to ensure their expectations align.

The peer-mentors are then given access to robust communication channels with the two senior mentors overseeing the project. At this point, they are reintroduced to the PMI’s norms, skills, motivations, and attitudes; learning objectives, goals, timelines, professional standards, codes of conduct, roles, responsibilities, expectations, implicit norms, culture, artifacts, sociocultural norms and expectations and legal requirements. They are also reintroduced to the current education approaches; the program’s value, support and assessment systems; the settings and stages of training, as well as the formal curriculum.

A key feature of the PMI is the spiral curriculum for peer-mentors, which allows them to regularly revisit key training skills and competencies along the training trajectory. This curriculum is designed based on the PMI’s well-established mentoring stages. These stages include matching; initial meeting; data gathering and analysis; manuscript writing and submission; and post manuscript submission stages. Each stage delves deeper into the knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences of the previous stage and introduces a new set of competencies to be attained.

The mentoring stages also map out the mentoring trajectory characterising the gradual inculcation of complex skills, knowledge, and competency in communications, relationships, learning, socialisation, collaborations, networking skills, reflective practice, medical humanism, and professionalism that will be employed to guide mentees. The peer-mentor’s mentoring trajectory follows that of the mentee and maps the peer-mentor’s progress in the PMI.

The PMI also employs an assessment-driven, context- specific, individualised mix of role modelling, networking, coaching, supervision, apprenticeship and traditional concepts of mentoring provided throughout the mentoring program that supports immersive learning and reflective practice.

In conclusion, the mentoring practices at PMI offer a unique perspective into the development of professional identities in medical education. The combination of a structured approach to mentoring and a well-defined trajectory provides a conducive environment for the PIF of medical students. It reflects how CPD accreditation can play a significant role in shaping medical professionals’ identities. The cost of accreditation is a small price to pay for the immense benefits it offers in terms of professional development. Digital CPD certificates serve as a testament to the competencies and skills attained during the program. This insight into the PMI’s mentoring practices underscores the importance of self-accreditation for education providers and how to get CPD accredited. It is a testament to the transformative power of effective mentoring in shaping the professional identities of medical students.

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