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Not All Mentorship Programs Are Created Equal: What Should You Be Looking For?

Over a year ago, I began creating resources for new graduates looking to pursue travel therapy. After talking to numerous new graduates who found themselves in sticky situations once on assignment, it became clear that high quality mentorship programs are lacking in our industry. If your professors are anything like mine, you’ve probably been told to wait to pursue travel therapy for at least a year due to lack of mentorship. I was fortunate to have incredible mentorship in my first year of traveling as a new graduate, but after countless conversations with other new graduates, this is not the standard. Therefore, I have made it my mission to raise the bar for mentorship in our industry. I’ve interviewed countless companies who claim to be “new grad friendly” and have student outreach programs, but lack a quality mentorship program. We need to hold the industry more accountable. After working your tail off in school for years and years, you deserve quality mentorship whether you decide to pursue a permanent or travel position.

From my interviews, I have learned that unfortunately, there are not many companies with exceptional new grad mentorship programs. I’ve spent time educating companies who lack mentorship programs about the importance of them, and why every new graduate needs mentorship. I want to empower you to ask the right questions when anybody tells you that you are going to be put in a mentorship program or paired with a clinical mentor! What do you look for and what questions do you need to ask?

These are the THREE imperative questions you should be concerned about to start…

1. How are your mentors selected?

Not just anyone should be allowed to be a mentor. Just as you would want to work with a top recruiter, you want to be working with a top clinician. Clinical mentors from the companies with top mentorship programs have stringent qualification criteria. They need to have been practicing for a specified period of time. Agencies collect performance reviews on all of their travelers and only select mentors that have received stellar reviews assignment after assignment. You wouldn’t want just any clinician to be a clinical instructor, you don’t want any Joe Schmo who just volunteers to be a mentor. How do you know they are even a good clinician and will provide appropriate advice? Unless they’ve been vetted with multiple performance reviews, you can’t trust your hard-earned license with them.

2. How do your guarantee my mentor will be held accountable?

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, no recruiter can be expected to answer clinical questions. While on assignment, you want your recruiter to be readily available to you. The same expectation should be true of your mentor. A key question to ask is, “How do you ensure that your mentors are held accountable?”. Agencies can accomplish this in multiple ways with their clinical mentors. Mentors may sign a contract with expectations for their role as mentors. Some agencies will compensate their clinical mentors for their time or offer additional CEU credit. It’s important to remember that these clinical mentors are also working full-time, so it would seem appropriate that they would receive some incentive for the time they are investing into being a rock star mentor! To further ensure reliability and accountability from their mentors, they will often ask mentees to complete performance reviews on their mentor. Many times, there is a mentorship coordinator to ensure that mentors are being held to the highest standards.

REMEMBER…. Your mentor is a lifeline for you while on assignment just as much as your recruiter is!

3. Same Discipline? Same Setting?

Once you’ve ascertained that your mentor is highly qualified and held accountable, you want to ensure that you will be provided with a mentor of the same discipline with clinical experience in the same setting as your assignment. Ensure that if you change settings for your second assignment that you can be switched to a new mentor if your current mentor has not practiced in that setting.

Other questions you may want to ask, but are not necessarily as important…

4. Do you try to match mentees with mentors who are in the same time zone?

Some of the top new grad mentorship companies pay close attention to this. It is unlikely that both the mentee and mentor will have the ext same work schedule. Therefore, by trying to connect new graduates with mentors in the same time zone, it can further streamline the communication process. This is not always possible, but is something to consider.

5. What other benefits does your program offer?

Some new grad mentorship programs offer free unlimited online CEUs. As traveling therapists, we are constantly being kept on our toes! Taking a few online CEUs prior to starting each new assignment is a good way to refresh ourselves and learn more about the patient population we are about to work with.

There are some companies who also offer tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment options. If a company presents this as an option to you, you’ll want to make sure to ask what the requirements are to qualify. Typically you are expected to work a certain number of assignments/hours in a specified time frame. The amount you can earn varies by company.

This is a basic list of questions to get you started. Remember that quality, accountability, and reliability come before all the bells and whistles!

Side Note/Disclaimer: Many agencies will have you sign a contact as a mentee to ensure that you are aware of HIPAA requirements. While communicating with your mentor, it is important to never disclose protected health information of your patients. Agencies will typically have a clause in your mentor’s contract that mandate the mentor to report any violation of HIPAA as a legal safeguard.

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