Aust Occup Ther J. 2022 Sep 16. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12839. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Within Australia, the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has led to a growth in paediatric occupational therapists working in community settings. This growth has increased the demand for support from more senior paediatric occupational therapists to novice clinicians. Mentoring has long been valued by occupational therapists as a means to provide this support. Despite its apparent benefit, there is limited research on the contribution of mentoring as distinct from supervision, and its impact on mentees’ skills and confidence in providing care. This study examined the contribution of mentorship to the development of professional capability in paediatric occupational therapy practice from the perspective of mentors and mentees.
METHODS: Interpretive description methodology was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with nine mentors and eight mentees from three Australian states. Data were analysed inductively and thematically.
FINDINGS: All participants reflected on the challenges presented by the complexity of practice, requiring a knowledge base that mentees perceived they did not possess. The essential nature of non-judgemental, emotional support allowed mentees to feel safe to discuss their concerns when they were often overwhelmed by practice. Mentorship was viewed as capacity building, building competence by scaffolding clinical reasoning and supporting theory to practice translation while developing resilience to cope with complexity.
CONCLUSION: Study participants reported that successful mentorship assisted novice practitioners to integrate knowledge and skills required for complex clinical and professional reasoning. The emotional support provided through the relationship supported novice therapists to build their confidence and resilience while promoting professional identity and socialisation into the profession. The study raised questions related to how the profession best supports novice paediatric therapists in the current employment contexts, and the need to review how bodies of knowledge relevant to paediatrics are brought together to be used by both novice clinicians and senior therapists, who support them, for translation to effective practice.
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