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Thinking of mentoring a dental student?

Giving back through mentorship is a great way to share your experience with the next generation of dentists. A successful mentoring relationship can have a significant impact on a young dentist’s career and be a rewarding experience for you, too. Mentorship is also a fantastic way to develop people management skills if you run a solo practice and are considering hiring an associate.

How much time are you willing to invest?

Being a mentor is an active endeavor. Before you agree to mentor a dental student, be sure that you have the time and energy to see the mentorship through to the end. If you’ve never been a mentor before, you need to recognize that you’ll be spending a lot of time together. The relationship with your mentee is different from training staff in your office. You’ll be guiding the student not just to grow their career and become a better dentist, but also to develop as a person.

Is the student ready to commit?

Conversely, the dental student you choose to mentor needs to understand their end of the bargain, too. Always meet in person with any potential mentee before agreeing to form a relationship. Share and discuss your expectations so the student can decide if the level of commitment matches what they had in mind. Cover how often you’ll meet, where and how often they’ll come to your practice for shadowing.

Find the right fit

Just like any other relationship, you need to find a dental student that’s a good fit for your personality and vice versa. Some dentists prefer to mentor a student from their alma mater, but you can seek out mentorship programs and dental schools near you to find plenty of candidates to choose from. Share your mentoring style to find a mentee who will most benefit from the relationship and who is enthusiastic about working with you.

Set boundaries but grow your relationship

A mentor/mentee arrangement is a professional relationship and should be treated as such, but given that conversations regarding lifestyle goals, work/life planning and other personal development topics are bound to come up, your relationship will include a more personal element, too. Make sure to keep clear boundaries with your mentee. Use the same discretion you do with your patients, where you share certain personal details but always maintain professionalism.

Mentoring a young associate dentist

Not all mentorships need to be with a student. If you have recently hired a young dentist at your practice, you may want to approach them about starting a mentor/mentee relationship, which is different from boss/employee. Just be extra sure to set expectations and boundaries so that the two relationships are delineated. Training and mentoring are different, but there’s no reason why you can’t do both at the same time.