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Growing Mentorship Within Neurocritical Care

By Currents Editor posted 01-17-2019 13:57


By Wren Sherrill, MSN, ACNP, and Alexis Steinberg, MD, on behalf of the NCS Trainee Committee

Mentorship is a time-honored practice of developing an individual’s skills, talents and experience. It refers to a special relationship in which someone with more experience helps guide a less experienced individual. A mentor refers to someone who positively impacts a protégé by providing guidance, fostering insight and encouraging growth. Mentorships can be formal or informal and can be found in academia, the medical field and corporations. Often, people have many mentors and mentees in all different areas of life and throughout their lifespan.


The power of the mentor-mentee relationship can yield extraordinary benefits to both people and the organization as a whole. Mentees get advice, encouragement and direction, which leads to increased productivity, improved self-confidence, professional development and overall increased enjoyment of their work life. Mentors often experience improved leadership skills, enhanced job satisfaction through an exposure to new ways of practice or a fresh view on a topic, and the personal satisfaction of significantly contributing to another person’s success. Organizations also reap critical indirect benefits from these relationships. They foster a supportive community, which improves recruitment, retention and commitment. With new members, they help provide a seamless and supportive induction. Given the increasing number of trainees within the field of neurocritical care, there is a growing need for mentorship within the society. Trainees who do not have dedicated neurocritical care units in their program or those with more unique pathways such as APPs and pharmacists require more formal mentorship programs to aid with career development.

The NCS Trainee Section (formerly the Resident and Fellow Section) wanted to bring such a mentorship program to the field of neurocritical care to create a venue for trainees and junior attendings to obtain more accessible mentorship. Thus, in 2017, the first NCS formal mentorship program was created. The first edition connected established neurointensivists from around the world with medical trainees in residencies and fellowships who were interested in the field of neurocritical care. In the second edition, the applicant pool was expanded to include pharmacy, nursing, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The Trainee Section carefully reviews applicants’ resumes and CVs to match mentees to mentors with similar interests (clinical vs. research vs. education, etc). Once the matches are made, the pair is asked to develop a project together. The program is formally one year long, although the hope is for lifelong relationships to be established. Throughout the year, the pair works on their project together, communicating at least monthly. Projects range from case reports to quality improvement projects, to research projects, to developing a neurocritical care fellowship curriculum. (See Table 1 with examples of 2018 projects.) In addition to discussing the project, the mentor advises the mentee on career planning and professional development. To encourage this communication throughout project planning, the Trainee Committee reaches out to pairs with monthly discussion points that are relevant to early career development. (See Table 2 with examples of topics.)

This NCS mentorship program is connecting people across the globe and fostering lasting relationships. It is promoting growth and development of medical professionals within neurocritical care. Both mentors and mentees are creating meaningful relationships, gaining fresh perspectives and expanding their network. During a quarterly survey done during the program, one mentee remarked, “My mentors at [my institution] all have similar backgrounds and training, so it’s nice to get a new perspective.” Another mentee described the program as “a great opportunity to meet very talented people.” Mentors’ responses were also positive. When asked what they enjoyed about the program, one mentor stated, “I feel like I’m impacting another individual’s career in a positive way.”

The 2019 program is starting earlier this year in hopes to have more projects presented at the 17th Annual Neurocritical Care Society Meeting in 2019 in Vancouver. The call for applications went out late October and the deadline to apply was Dec. 12, 2018. Matches will be made in early January with project proposals due in February.

Besides creating a formal Mentorship Program through NCS, the Trainee Committee has tried to foster mentorship through other means. At the 16th Annual NCS Meeting, the Trainee Committee organized a Mentorship Mingle, which is a “speed dating” event between senior neurointensivists and junior attendings, residents or fellows. The event was well attended, with over 30 neurointenisivists volunteering their time to speak to around 40 participants. The goal of the event is to spark mentorship relationships and encourage future communication between participants.

The first few years of a person’s career can set the trajectory for their entire career. Many trainees are in institutes that do not have dedicated neuro-intensive care units or have unique career trajectories, left without accessible guidance from senior healthcare providers within the neurocritical care field. The Trainee Committee created the mentorship program acknowledging the increasing need within the society and maximizing the benefits of being part of a supportive community. Using these connections to improve individual professional growth with the ultimate goal of advancing neurocritical care. The rewards for mentors, mentees as well as the organization as a whole are clear.

Table 1: 2018 Mentorship Program Projects

Development of a neurocritical care fellowship training core curriculum

A unit based EVD guideline

Development of an abstract and poster presentation of a quality improvement

Article on antiplatelet therapy for prevention of endovascular stent occlusion

Developing a neurology protection for PGY1 pharmacy practice residents

A case write-up                                                                      

Research project on education to neuro ICU nurses regarding management of status epilepticus

Research project on endovascular treatment for patients with acute stroke with ESRD and HD

Research project on non-invasive cerebral oximetry for detection of LVO

Article on approaches to end of life decision making in Neuro ICUS

Proposal for research fellowship conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis for DCI in SAH

Grant proposal

A systematic review and meta-analysis

Study of cerebral edema in acute liver failure and acute on chronic liver failure

Table 2: Topics of the Mentorship Program

Discussion of career paths; How you got to where you are now

Finances: salary negotiations, grant funding, student loan repayment

Work-life balance

CV and resume review

Interview advice

Fellowship guidance

5, 10, 20 year plans; goal development

Difficult conversations


Global outreach

#December2018 #NCSRoundup #TraineeCorner #WrenSherrill #AlexisSteinberg​​​​​
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