The Value of Mentorship

How SCCM’s Specialty Sections provide opportunity for professional development through mentoring programs.

Ashley Selby, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, was stuck. She was working as a critical care clinical pharmacist in Louisiana, with a specific focus on trauma and neurosurgery. As she began to grow into her career, she wanted a role model to emulate, but she could not find one in her immediate network. Also, the stress of an impending move and job search for her and her husband were weighing on Selby. More than anything else, she just wanted someone to talk to.

She found that person, thanks to the Mentor and Mentee Program established by the Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology (CPP) Section of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). “I didn’t have an upper-level mentor as far as practice or career advancement, and so I was fortunate that I was paired up with someone in the surgical area of the hospital,” Selby said. “We had a mutual understanding of day to-day struggles and long-term goals. My mentor was someone to bounce ideas off of and go to for advice and recommendations.”

The CPP Section created the Mentor and Mentee Program in 2006 as a way to provide critical care pharmacists with opportunities for guidance in their professional growth. The program is open to all pharmacists in the section. Mentorship is offered in six broad categories: clinical practice, professional development, research, academia, precepting, and SCCM/CPP Section involvement. The CPP Section hopes that this program will help eliminate barriers and help colleagues better connect with one another on a professional level.

That was exactly what happened for Selby. She also received the reassurance she needed to pursue a new job, which she recently began at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, USA.

Jackie Johnston, PharmD, BCPS, received a similar type of support from her mentor. Johnston was nearing the end of her residency and was trying to figure out the next steps on her professional path. She had had a number of teaching opportunities during her residency, and she wanted to find an opportunity to practice in both a clinical and academic setting.

Johnston turned to her mentor for guidance, and her mentor delivered. “My mentor was incredibly helpful in my search for employment, and even more so in the process of determining which position most aligned with my personal and career goals,” Johnston said. “[She] was kind enough to share some of her resources and tools to assist in this process.”

Johnston went on to accept her current position as clinical assistant professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University and critical care clinical pharmacist at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, USA, before completing her residency. “[My mentor] has been an essential part of my success today,” Johnston said. “While we have still yet to meet in person, [her] guidance has not only helped me decide on the role that I am currently in, but she has also assisted me in the transition from resident to pharmacist.”

The program is not designed solely for the mentee’s benefit, however. Many mentors are able to gain new insight and achieve their own level of growth through involvement in the program.

That is what happened for Rachel M. Kruer, PharmD, BCCCP, a clinical pharmacy specialist in surgical critical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Kruer started in the program as a mentee, and she had an incredible experience with her mentor. The two talked about challenges facing a new practitioner, research projects, work/life balance, and more. They also collaborated on a research project that was published the following year.

When Kruer was later asked to serve as a mentor, she jumped at the opportunity. Despite being more experienced than her mentee, Kruer saw clear benefits to continued involvement. “Through thoughtful discussion with my mentee,” Kruer said, “I was able to be forward thinking and preemptive in planning to help other new practitioners at my institution prepare for challenges they may encounter as they begin their careers.” 

That is the ultimate goal of the Mentor and Mentee Program. Mentors are supposed to offer guidance to their mentees, who in turn become better prepared to succeed and help the industry—and SCCM—move forward.

“The advice and guidance [my mentor] provided me with has opened my eyes to the type of employee I am and should be, and it has motivated me to push myself to continue developing and sticking to my career plan,” said Gretchen L. Sacha, PharmD, a critical care pharmacy specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Sacha joined the mentorship program in the hopes of expanding her network. She also wanted to learn different practice models beyond what her own institution follows.

She accomplished both of those goals. “This program can open doors for pharmacists that they may not realize existed. I highly recommend it for all new pharmacy practitioners.”