Why Mentoring Programs are Essential for Healthcare Providers

Many healthcare providers and professional bodies know that mentoring would greatly benefit their employees or members. But few actually offer a mentoring program, and even fewer make available a well-designed and properly resourced program.

Findings from study after study show that more people want mentoring than can access it. In healthcare, it’s no different. In a study amongst 900 mental health professionals, 76% agreed mentorship programs are critical to career success, but only 26% of practitioners said they currently have a mentor. All professionals deserve good quality mentoring, but a tsunami of problems in healthcare in recent times means health professionals need it more than most.

Despite well-researched data linking mentoring with positive mental health outcomes, not enough healthcare providers and peak bodies are taking the time to put mentoring programs in place.

Everyone in healthcare understands the problems, and they are all related:

  1. Chronic staff shortages – these already existed before COVID-19 across many healthcare sectors. It’s not just doctors and nurses; it is predicted that there will be a shortfall in the future of home health aides, nursing assistants, and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.

This is a global problem. Deloitte predicts that by 2030, the global healthcare sector will need an estimated 80 million more workers to meet demand, and about 18 million of those will be needed for low-income countries. Yet even as the demand for clinicians mounts, doctors and nurses increasingly say they plan to reduce their work hours.

Cathy Cribben, who founded Oaktree Mentoring to provide a global mentoring program for nurses and midwives, says that when one country cannot attract enough nurses locally, they recruit overseas, causing shortages in other countries. It’s a global merry-go-round for talent. Whatever you do, don’t get off when the music stops.

  1. Fatigue, overwhelm and burnout. Healthcare professionals work hard in difficult circumstances at the best of times. A 2021 study found that almost half of family physicians had experienced burnout, and 1 in 10 said it was serious enough to make them consider leaving medicine.
  2. Mental health issues. Physicians have a suicide rate 1.4 – 2.3 times higher than the general population. Although medical students enter their studies with similar rates of depression as their peers, their mental health deteriorates throughout the course of their careers. The same picture can be found across many health and allied health professionals. Like their non-healthcare peers, healthcare workers may be reluctant to seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
  3. Many healthcare workers are underpaid and undervalued. According to the World Health Organization, the high degree of feminization in the health and care sector is a key factor behind the lower earnings for both women and men within the sector.  Low pay contributes to high levels of turnover.

Mentoring cannot solve the problem, but it sure can help

These healthcare issues are systemic, and no one can promise an easy solution. As world populations age, we will need more workers in health and allied health, but they are not being trained fast enough, they are not paid enough, and compounding issues such as pandemics just make things far worse. The least we can do is to ease the burden and support them better with good quality mentoring. There are benefits for the organization providing the mentoring program, so it makes good sense.

Mentoring has been found to:

  1. Improve affective wellbeing. When workers feel overwhelmed and isolated, having a mentor to talk to reduces feelings of being alone and gives the mentees a safe space in which to explore their feelings and potential solutions. In a study examining the relationship between mentoring and doctors’ health, it was found that mentoring influenced collegiate relationships, networking and aspects of personal wellbeing, such as confidence and stress management, and was valued by doctors as a specialist support mechanism. It is known within positive psychology that contributing to others increases feelings of wellbeing, so mentors benefit too.
  2. Increase retention. It is commonly found across all professions that people who are mentored are more likely to stay in their organization or profession. In this study, nurses with a mentor were retained at a 25% higher rate than those not mentored.
  3. Increase promotability. In a study by Sun Microsystems, it was found that 25% of participants in a mentoring program had a salary grade change and mentees were promoted 5 times more often than their unmentored peers.
  4. Improve skills and confidence. As mentors transfer knowledge and experience, mentees develop new skills, improve the skills they already have and gain in confidence. In our own benchmarking study of 2020, we found that increased confidence is almost universal amongst mentees and high amongst mentors too. 83% of mentees and 65% of mentors said that participating in a mentoring program had a positive impact on their self-confidence; 75% of mentees and 74% of mentors said mentoring had enhanced their leadership capacity. Mentors also more readily identify as, and are more confident as leaders, as found in this study.

Where to start with mentoring

Whether you are a healthcare membership body or a healthcare provider, supporting your people with a well-designed mentoring program is critical for the reasons just outlined. Many people simply don’t know where to start, so they don’t ever get around to implementing a program.

There are 7 natural steps to good mentoring program design. Don’t skip any!

  1. Pre-Evaluation & Research
  2. Getting Ready
  3. Design
  4. Recruiting
  5. Matching
  6. Training & Support
  7. Evaluation

To find out more about these steps, we have prepared a 7 step guide to help you implement an impactful mentoring program that is unique to your organization’s needs. In it, we explore insights that we’ve gained over the past 25 years designing hundreds of programs, incorporating methodologies that align with International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programs (ISMCP).

When you implement your mentoring program, make sure you provide good quality training to your mentors and mentees. With the high incidence of mental health issues in healthcare, program participants need adequate support from program organizers. This should be supplemented by some easily accessible resources on how to support a mentoring partner who is suffering from anxiety, depression or burnout.

There you have it. If you want to support your healthcare professionals, give them access to a well-designed mentoring program. And make sure you give them the time to participate fully.

©Melissa Richardson 2023

View our webinar: Supporting Healthcare Workers Through Post Pandemic Change

A more experienced medical profession is mentoring a young female. They are both looking at a laptop.


A guide to unleashing the hidden value in your organisation through high impact strategic mentoring programs.

Most human beings and organisations have one thing in common – they both want to do better. But it’s hard for one to achieve without the other. When you can harness both you can achieve great things.

Unfortunately, most organisational structures are hierarchical, which may aid efficiency but not necessarily “real” human interaction.

Solving the human equation is the cornerstone of great culture and the larger and more diverse the workforce, the more challenging it becomes, even before we factor in things like location, technology and pay rates.

Well designed and managed mentoring programs can have a dramatic impact on workplace culture and people engagement. A strategic mentoring program transcends hierarchy, creating relationships and interactions to build individual and hence organisational value.

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the ripple effect