Why Every Healthcare Student Needs a Mentor

Why Every Healthcare Student Needs a Mentor

If you’re a student with an interest in healthcare, chances are you already know how vast the field is. This can be overwhelming for someone still in school and trying to explore all the opportunities at hand. A mentor can offer insight, motivation, and expertise as you navigate all of your options in the healthcare field.

Think of it as a cheat sheet. You get to talk through your options with someone who has already gone through the process of applying to school, graduating successfully, and landing a professional role.

The most valuable advice my mentors give me are usually tips to avoid the same mistakes they made when they were in my shoes. Consider the following ways a mentor can shape your future career.

They can help you make connections

A mentor can assist you with networking in your desired field. They’re probably experts at this by now and have advice on the best way to make connections with other professionals.

Navigating the scene can differ slightly from specialty to specialty within healthcare so getting specific advice can make a difference in you standing out. Your mentor likely has a slew of connections that they’ve accumulated over the years as well; colleagues from school, friends at work, even their own mentors and team members. Having a mentor can speed up the process of networking so you can hit the networking game running.

They can help you make decisions

Maybe you’re deciding between different majors in college or different specialties in medical school. Wouldn’t it be helpful to talk to someone in the field who has an understanding of where these different options can take you? That’s where a mentor comes into play.

They can help you weigh your options and consider the end goal. It’s important to note that a good mentor won’t decide for you. Instead, they’ll likely talk to your strengths, go over the facts, and motivate you but ultimately leave the ball in your court. 

They can provide recommendations

Ever heard that saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”? Mentors can be a great source of recommendations even when you don’t know that you need one. Imagine you’re in your third year of college, getting straight A’s in your pre-medical classes, and volunteering at the local hospital. Seems like everything is going great, right? Well, a mentor could chime in and let you know “hey, you may want to consider picking up a research position in a lab to boost your application for medical school”. This could be something that you didn’t know about but can now make a difference in your future. You can only know so much, having a mentor is a great way to opening your eyes up to possibilities outside of your knowledge.

They can be a source of comfort

Pursuing a career in the medical field, especially a clinical one is a huge commitment and the requirements are lengthy. Many students often experience burn out and it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The right mentor will know exactly how you feel because they’ve been there.

They can help walk you through how to get back on track and provide guidance on how to stay the course. If you’re a student who comes from an underrepresented group, like being a woman or a person of color, having this source of comfort is more crucial than ever. Typically there are fewer people in the field that look like you so having a mentor that understands what it’s like navigating the scene as a minority can be helpful.

They benefit, too

As much as it benefits you as a student to have a mentor, it benefits the mentor just as much believe it or not. That’s the beauty of mentorship. Research shows that mentors typically find it helpful to share their experiences with mentees since it gives them a sense of accomplishment. I mean, who doesn’t like talking about themselves.

Being a mentor actually makes that person more empathetic, which is healthcare means it makes them better at their job. Our job is to help people, and mentors do just that, making healthcare an ideal place for mentorship.

Consider having several mentors that all serve a different purpose. Right now you may need a mentor to help you choose between different schools, in a few years it might be helpful on a job application, and a few years from that it might be to prep for your first big presentation.

Whatever the occasion, having a diverse group of mentors to reach out to can make the career and life transitions just that much easier. Think of people that you know who you find inspiring and start there, your next mentor might be closer than you think.

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About the author

Hajar Ahmed

Hajar Ahmed is a healthcare professional with a background in public health policy and management. She’s passionate about reducing health disparities and helping to implement wellness practices in everyday life. When she’s not off on a new travel adventure or cooking up a storm, she’s reading, writing, and talking healthcare.

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