This article describes a Top 10 list of benefits of having a research mentor and discusses how the mentor-mentee relationship can help advance your research goals.

Research Mentor

The Top 10 Reasons We All Need A Research Mentor 

In healthcare, we use the Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) model for implementing clinical change, and EBP changes are based on rigorous research evidence. When a clinician starts a research study it is helpful to work with a mentor who has been through the process before. One of the biggest challenges for any researcher is that ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know.’  This dilemma is obviously not limited to research.  The journal Inc. has a top 10 list describing why all entrepreneurs need a mentor. This article uses the Inc. list as a spring board to talk about research mentorship. There is an incredible amount of overlap as a successful researcher also needs an entrepreneurial spirit to discover new knowledge. The original Inc article can be found at this url:

  1. Mentors provide information and knowledge.
    • A research mentor needs to have experience in the areas of knowledge that you need. It does not need to be a clinical match. While a clinical match is helpful to understand the literature and the problem, it is not a deal breaker if the clinical knowledge is not there. The research mentor should have the research knowledge and guide to layout the steps in the research process; from idea, to protocol development, Institutional Review Board applications (IRB), grant funding, data collection, analytics and publication.
  2. Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot.
    • Communication with the mentor is built on trust so that the mentor can offer advice on how to improve.  Perhaps that means acquiring new skills or expanding/streamlining the study. It is very difficult to see our own blind spots. Creating openness to discuss ways to improve and learn is vital to the mentee-mentor relationship.
  3. Mentors find ways to stimulate our personal and professional growth.
    • The mentor suggests options for improvement. This can be personal, research related, or career related. It is different for everyone. The intent is to help achieve the research goals.
  4.  Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going.
    • The process of conducting a research study will almost always take much longer than expected. It is very easy to get discouraged and feel that setbacks are impossible to overcome. Mentors are vital at this juncture, to offer encouragement and suggestions to maneuver around the hurdles. There are always choices to be made when setting up a research study and hearing from someone who has “been there before” and can offer new insights.
  5. Mentors are disciplinarians who create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves.
    • Sometimes mentors must set boundaries.  The boundary will vary according to the problem. Perhaps it is about the scope of the study, the funding or time. The options are endless. It is all part of helping with the logistics of the study and troubleshooting finite resources.  The Inc. article describes this as “tough love.”
  6. Mentors are sounding boards, so we can bounce ideas off them for an unfiltered opinion.
    • Brainstorming is great. The purpose of the mentor is to filter which ideas are relevant, achievable, and of interest to you.
  7. Mentors are trusted advisers.
    • Trust is priceless. Once lost it is very hard to regain. Choose your mentors carefully. Be certain your selected mentor has your best interests at heart. There is no copyright/patent protection for ideas. Once developed into a tangible product the tangible outcome may be copyrights/patented.  The same process works in reverse, as the mentor may also share ideas and experiences. Confidentially is at the core of a successful mentor-mentee partnership.
  8. Mentors can be connectors.
    • As described in the Inc article, mentors play a dual role of teacher and connector. Mentors have a wide network of contacts and are willing to introduce you to others who can help you.
  9. Mentors have the experiences you can learn from to prevent making the same mistakes beginners make.
    • It is useful when mentors share their stories of being in a similar predicament and explaining how they overcame or solved problems. A story should break the problem into pieces designed to help a new researcher avoid pitfalls.
  10.  Mentors are free, which makes them priceless in more ways than one.
    • Why mentor? For many people, it is a chance to pay it forward, to give back, to pass on knowledge, and o feel good about helping others succeed. Today, no one succeeds alone. It is about finding the right match for skills and interests.

Check out the Inc. article and see if you agree that entrepreneurs and researchers have more in common than might be expected.

Article By: Mary E. Lough

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