The Unwritten Rules of Mentorship: Facilitators of and Barriers to Effective Mentorship in Pediatric Hospital Medicine

Hosp Pediatr. 2016 Apr;6(4):219-25. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2015-0108. Epub 2016 Jan 1.


Objectives: Benefits of effective mentorship include career satisfaction and academic productivity. Given the youth of pediatric hospital medicine (PHM), effective mentorship is a widely acknowledged challenge. This study aimed to characterize successful pediatric hospitalists' past and current mentorship experiences and identify facilitators of and barriers to effective mentorship in PHM.

Methods: Semistructured phone interviews were conducted with peer-nominated pediatric hospitalists, exploring past and current mentorship experiences and approaches perceived to aid or hinder mentorship relationships from both the mentor and mentee perspectives. Interviews were recorded verbatim, professionally transcribed, and analyzed by using a general inductive approach.

Results: Sixteen interviews were conducted and transcribed. Participants reported having a median of 3 mentors and 6 mentees. Three themes emerged regarding how mentors can optimize mentorship: (1) comprehensive focus on the mentee, (2) setting of clear expectations, and (3) acknowledgment of mentors' limitations. Five themes emerged regarding how mentees can optimize mentorship: (1) preparation, (2) proactivity, (3) continual reevaluation of relationships, (4) willingness to seek mentorship outside of common venues, and (5) building of a mentorship team. Major barriers to effective mentorship included (1) mismatched expectations between mentor and mentee, (2) lack of available mentors in PHM, (3) lack of time/compensation for PHM mentors, and (4) geographic separation between mentor and mentee.

Conclusions: Several themes emerged regarding facilitators of and barriers to effective mentorship in PHM. These "unwritten rules of mentorship" may serve as a guide to establish and maintain beneficial mentorship relationships and overcome challenges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers
  • Faculty, Medical / standards*
  • Hospital Medicine* / education
  • Hospital Medicine* / methods
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / standards
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Mentors* / psychology
  • Mentors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics* / education
  • Pediatrics* / methods
  • Pediatrics* / organization & administration
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality Improvement
  • United States