Specializing physicians wish for mentoring, noted Chief Physician Anne Räisänen-Sokolowski at the annual specializing physician monitoring meeting, where the status and prospects of each specializing physician are reviewed.

“I attended two mentoring programs in my manager training, and I found that to be a good thing,” says Räisänen-Sokolowski.

She explored the potential for a mentoring program with HR Development Manager Salla Koivunen and Research Director Anne Pitkäranta, who is in charge of specialist training. This came at a good time, because it coincided with the publication of the survey of specializing physicians where HUS had scored very poorly.

Specializing physicians were asked whether they would be interested in being mentored, and specialists were asked whether they would like to become mentors. A pilot mentoring program was agreed on, enlisting specializing physicians in pathology to form three mentor–actor pairs. Successful mentoring is a voluntary effort that relies on confidence and good personal chemistry. A mentor must be a senior colleague who is not the actor’s supervisor.

Mentoring meetings are included in working hours

The pilot was launched in October 2019 with an outside instructor on board from the start. Private meetings were generally held once a month; these 90-minute meetings are included in working hours.

“This is how the employer demonstrates that mentoring is considered important and viewed as a training tool for specializing physicians too,” says Räisänen-Sokolowski.

Discussions focus for instance on command of the job, harmonization of work and family life, career plans, and wellbeing at work. Growing into one’s role as a specialist is an important topic. Newly graduated physicians train as clinicians for six years. In pathology, the work and tools are very different from those in other clinical specialist fields. A physician specializing in pathology may thus be faced with a completely unfamiliar situation.

The discussions concern things such as how to build the identity of a pathologist and how to address the practical work, how to plan and manage your own work, and interaction in the workplace community.

Interim talks held in January 2020 indicated that mentoring is off to a good start and that the actors are satisfied. The mentors have also gained new insights into their work. The pilot will be concluded at the end of March 2020. Mentoring of specializing physicians will continue with programs to be launched in spring and autumn 2020.

More satisfaction, more commitment

Tanja Holopainen, a specializing physician in pathology, is being mentored by Anna Räisänen-Sokolowski in the pilot program. She has found the experience very positive.

“One of the key benefits is the opportunity to reflect on my professional development with a senior colleague. Mentoring has also had a positive impact on my image of HUS as an employer. I highly recommend this for all specializing physicians.”