How mentoring relationships evolve: a longitudinal study of academic pediatricians in a physician educator faculty development program

J Contin Educ Health Prof. Spring 2011;31(2):81-6. doi: 10.1002/chp.20110.


Introduction: Mentoring is increasingly recognized as central to career development. Less attention has been paid, however, to how mentoring relationships evolve over time. To provide a more complete picture of these complex relationships, the authors explored mentoring from a mentee's perspective within the context of a three-year faculty development program in which the mentor provided specific expertise to assist the mentee in completing a scholarly educational project.

Methods: Using an evolving focus group design, the authors interviewed mentee groups in 2007-2009 inclusive. Transcripts were coded inductively; codes were revised as data patterns became more apparent. Preliminary assertions about the answers to guiding questions were made; the trustworthiness of the assertions was assessed via member check.

Results: Mentees offered a variety of reasons for choosing their project mentor, including proximity, familiarity, and mentor expertise. There was a dyadic relationship with the project mentor in year 1, a broader collaboration with multiple senior mentors in year 2, and mentoring among program peers in year 3. Mentees benefitted from mentors' supportive behaviors and, to a lesser extent, mentors' challenging behaviors.

Conclusion: Mentoring relationships, in the context of this faculty development program, tended not to be an exclusive dyadic connection but rather a constellation of relationships that evolved over time and included peer mentoring. The complex reality of these relationships challenges the application of traditional mentoring models and suggests unique considerations in developing mentoring programs designed to meet the needs of faculty in academic medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mentors*
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Staff Development*