Medical Teacher, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2006, pp. 248–257
Formal mentoring programmes for medical students
and doctors – a review of the Medline literature
BARBARA BUDDEBERG-FISCHER & KATJA-DANIELA HERTA
Department of Psychosocial Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
specific career-advancement tool in the training and further
education of various groups in the medical profession. The main
focus of our investigation was to examine what types of structured
mentoring programmes exist for doctors as well as for medical
students, what short- and long-term goals these projects pursue,
and whether statements can be made on the effectiveness and
efficiency of these programmes. A literature-search strategy was
combinations: (a) mentor* [AND] program* [AND] medical
students, and (b) mentor* [AND] program* [AND] physicians.
Although a total of 162 publications were identified, only 16
papers (nine for medical students and seven for doctors) met the
selected methodological criteria. The majority of the programmes
lack a concrete structure as well as a short- and long-term
evaluation. Main goals are to increase professional competence in
research and in further specialization and to build up a
professional network for the mentees; no statements are to be
found on the advantages for the mentors. Programme evaluation is
for the most part presented descriptively in terms of great interest
and high level of satisfaction. No publication contains statements
on the effectiveness or the efficiency of the programme. Although
the results of mentoring are promising, more formal programmes
with clear setup goals and a short- and long-term evaluation of
the individual successes of the participants as well as the
cost-benefit analysis are needed.
Mentoring programmes have been implemented as a
Mentoring and mentoring programmes
Mentoring was developed in the USA in the 1970s in large
private-sector corporations to support junior staff. Since the
1990s, mentoring programmes have been introduced in
various groups in the medical profession. They are found
most frequently in the field of nursing. Formal mentoring
programmes for medical students and doctors, however,
have only recently been developed. It was, therefore, of
special interest to search for mentoring programmes for
these two medical professional groups in the literature.
Women are under-represented in the higher echelons of
medicine. Therefore, some programmes have been imple-
mented exclusively to support women (Levinson et al., 1991;
Morahan et al., 2001). Other target groups of mentoring
programmes are handicapped people and/or members of
ethnic minorities (Johnson et al., 1998; Abernethy, 1999).
There exist different mentoring models: the classic
one-to-one mentoring between mentor and mentee; group
mentoring, a (small) group of mentees supervised by a
mentor; individual or group mentoring with a number of
mentors (the multiple-mentor experience model); and mentor-
ing among co-equals (peer mentoring).
Objectives and issues
It is the aim of this paper to investigate the following issues:
(1)What types of structured mentoring programmes for
medical students and doctors are reported in the
scientific medical literature?
What short- and long-term goals do these projects
Are statements on both their short- and long-term
Can concrete statements be made on the effective-
ness (i.e. the efficacy of the measures) and effici-
ency (meaning the cost-effectiveness, i.e. the ratio
What is already known?
. Mentoring has proved to be an important career-
advancement tool, especially for women. Over the last
few decades, structured mentoring programmes have
been designed for health professionals, mainly nurses,
but not many for medical students and doctors.
What does this study add?
. The present literature review aimed at reporting what
types of structured mentoring programmes exist for
doctors and students. Only 16 mentoring programmes
– one-to-one, group and peer mentoring models –
could be identified which give the duration of the
programme, the exact number of participants, concrete
goals, evaluation and results as well as data on
effectiveness and efficacy.
Suggestions for further research
. In an era of ‘feminization of medicine’, mentoring
programmes may acquire increasing importance. Of
special interest would be an evaluation of the individual
successes of participants in a control design with and
without mentoring over a fairly long period.
Psychosocial Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Haldenbachstr. 18,
CH-8091, Zurich, Switzerland; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISSN 0142–159X print/ISSN 1466–187X online/06/030248–10 ? 2006 Taylor & Francis
between money spent and success) of mentoring
The search strategy for this paper was set up to identify any
scientific paper on mentoring programmes for medical
students and doctors.
The search strategy was elaborated in the following
(1) An online search dated April 2003 (google) with the
term mentor* generated more than two million hits.
The term mentor* was applied in order to include the
terms mentor, mentoring and mentorship.
To distinguish between scientific and popular literature
and between the medical field and other professional
fields we decided to limit the search strategy on
Medline, which is the greatest worldwide medical
bibliography data base.
For the term mentor*, 3,052 sources were found.
mentor* [AND] program* [AND] medical students, and
(b) mentor* [AND] program* [AND] physicians were
used for the Medline search. The term program* was
chosen to include program(s) and programme(s).
Usingthe search strategy
1966–31.12.2002, we found a total of 162 articles.
The keyword combination (a) revealed 71, and the
keyword combination (b) 91 papers. Of these 162
publications, 19 were listed under both, medical
students and doctors.
Titles and abstracts identified by each of the searches
were read by both authors. Papers that were easily
identifiable as outside the scope of this study were
excluded. The remaining papers were passed onto the
The full version of the paper was read by the two
authors independently to determine suitability for
The following inclusion criteria were established:
(1) The aim of the mentoring project is the advancement
of the mentee’s career with respect to an activity in
patient care, medical basic research, clinical research,
The mentoring programme aims at the advance-
ment and consolidation of academic/professional and
Mentoring does not foster individual capabilities, skills
or knowledge, but represents a combined, integrated
approach to supporting the all-round development of
The education and training level normally considered
appropriate for the mentee at his/her particular stage
The mentee is either a medical student or a doctor.
The mentor is from a medical professional group and
has already pursued a successful career.
(7)During the mentoring programme there exists a fixed
relationship between a mentor and one or more
mentees, or alternatively between a clearly defined
number of mentors and a group of mentees.
The minimum length of the mentoring programme is
The paper involves a final or interim evaluation (the
latter after a minimum period of 6 months) of the
accompanying evaluation of a medical institution’s
structured mentoring programme.
In the last (8) stage, the full versions of the papers
meeting the inclusion criteria were examined, and the
publication data were compiled according to the following
Year published, author and country of origin.
Duration of programme.
belong to (generally, as for example students or
doctors; specifically, as for example women or ethnic
Aims of the programme: Introduction to studies,
Career in health-care institutions, Clinical research,
Medical basic research, Academic/university career
and/or alternative professional fields.
Type of evaluation.
Programme results, possibly details of the costs.
Advantages and disadvantages of the programme.
The aim of this paper was to achieve an overview of the
existing structured mentoring programmes for medical
students and doctors, the goals aspired to, their outcome
and their effectiveness and efficacy. As in other medical
fields, the last few years have seen an exponential increase in
the number of publications on the subject of mentoring. The
first article on the subject of mentoring listed in the Medline
database is from the year 1967 (Escoll & Wood, 1967).
More papers were published in the year 2001 alone (n¼391)
than between 1981–1990 as a whole (n¼335).
Of the 162 papers found by the described search
strategy, only 16 papers fulfilled the described inclusion
criteria. Most of the 162 publications limit themselves to the
description of the current situation and the demand for
specific mentoring programmes. In the 16 selected publica-
tions sufficient information was given to undertake categor-
ization according to the described method. Nine of these
papers describe mentoring programmes for medical students
(Slockers et al., 1981; Lemon et al., 1995; Forrow & Wolf,
1998; Gonzales et al., 1998; Woessner et al., 1998;
Abernethy, 1999; Frishman, 2001; Haq et al., 2002; Kalet
et al., 2002), seven for doctors (Mahood et al., 1994;
Morzinski et al., 1996; Nasmith et al., 1997; Jogerst et al.,
1998; Johnson et al., 1998; Markakis et al., 2000; Pechura,
2001). With some of the papers, missing information meant
that certain individual categories could not be taken into
account. Thus, for example, the exact number of participat-
ing mentees is missing in four publications (Slockers et al.,
et al., 1998;Woessner
et al., 1998;
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