Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding a mentor - being a mentor

A mentoring agreement between two midwives can enrich and support both the mentor, and the one who is being mentored.
I have experienced this special relationship in the past two years, with a colleague who asked me to mentor her as she explored and experienced private midwifery practice as a career option for herself. During face to face meetings, phone calls, and email messages we discussed and questioned and reflected upon our shared and separate experiences as midwife, as woman, wife, mother, sister, and many other roles.

We each learnt to trust the other, and avoid defensiveness, when a question, such as "Why did you do that?", or, "... not do X" arose. Trust enables truthfulness, which leads to accountability and critical thinking, which can lead to changes in the way we behave in a given situation: the lifelong learning pattern that a midwife will always value.

I have titled this post 'finding a mentor, and being a mentor', as the midwife who is being mentored will quickly realise that she is able in turn to mentor others. The role of ‘mentor’ as it is commonly used in midwifery literature and discussion, is
mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. ... Today mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. [Wikipedia] 

Although there are no set ‘rules’, the following simple points may guide you in choosing a potential mentor:
  • • The mentor should be a midwife who is practising or has recently practised in the scope of midwifery that you are entering; eg having a caseload 
  • • In asking another midwife to be your mentor, you need to find ways in which you are able to work together, so that you are able to learn from your mentor, and she/he can observe your professional activity. This can be within a midwifery group practice, or as self employed midwives, or as volunteer members of a group, such as the local committee for the College of Midwives, or Maternity Coalition. 
  • • The midwife who agrees to a mentoring agreement may ask you to do something as your side of the arrangement. She may ask you to be accountable to her, in giving regular updates on your learning goals, using the ACM MidPLUS professional development recording system. 
  • • Review your situation from time to time, and be ready to become mentor.

$? What fee does a mentor charge? 
Of course there is no simple answer to that question.  A great deal of informal mentoring happens, without any fee and without being given any title, as midwives support one another within their communities. 

Sharing of skill and knowledge is a logical and accepted principle in health professional ethics.  Putting it another way, if there is insufficient sharing and passing on, that skill and knowledge will quickly be lost.

However, being a mentor requires commitment of time and interest. I have found that midwives who ask me to mentor them are happy to come to an agreement in which there is an exchange of money, and an expectation of commitment over a period of time. 

Here are a couple of examples of mentoring arrangements between midwives:
  • Midwife A is an experienced independent midwife, who has established a midwifery business (or group practice) which enables other midwives to practise privately under the name of the business.  Midwife B asks A to mentor her, and comes into A's business as a partner.  The agreement between B and A's business is that B will pay an agreed percentage (eg 20%) of her earnings to A's business.  In return, B and A meet together for professional discussion each month; B is able to telephone A for direct support and advice at any time; and the advertising, book keeping, superannuation, and tax requirements of B's income are managed within A's business.  
  • Midwife C is working part-time in a hospital, as she establishes her own midwifery practice.  C asks Midwife A to mentor her, but she does not want to become a partner in A's business/practice.  A and C come to an agreement that C will pay an amount for professional mentoring, and A will provide C with a receipt for that payment.  The support agreement between A and C is otherwise the same as between A and B.

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