Growing up, many of us had mentors who shaped our youth. These individuals are integral to our lives as we mature. What many people don’t realize is how important mentors adult professionals, too. We never stop needing guidance in our lives and careers. A mentor can help us achieve our goals and succeed in our careers. This is especially true in emergency medical services, a high-stress field that requires continuous learning. Here’s how to find or be a great EMS mentor.

Benefits of Having a Mentor

Even beyond your formal training, there is still so much to learn. An EMS mentor can really strengthen our career development. Seasoned mentors can guide us along the way and show us the ropes. They can give us feedback on where we succeed the most and what skills we need to improve upon. Overall they can help us with the longevity of our careers in the EMS field.
The Journal of Emergency Medical Services calls ours “a field that is ripe for good mentors—people who have been around the proverbial block, understand EMS (either agency- or system-specific) and know how to share their knowledge with others in a communicative, non-confrontational manner that inspires the mentee to rise to the challenge.”

How to Find an EMS Mentor

Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be hard. A mentor should be someone seasoned in the field. A good mentor has your best interest in mind.
Your organization may offer a formal mentorship program. If so, they help match people with similar interests. However, you can also seek out those relationships on your own. Sometimes they form organically. That doesn’t mean you can’t take the initiative. Approach that colleague whom you admire and ask if they’d like to meet for coffee. Say you genuinely value their experience and wisdom. Chances are, the person will find your interest flattering and gladly oblige.
Don’t limit yourself to seeking mentors only inside your agency. Reach out to others in the EMS community and find the person you bond with the most. You might find them when you take classes or attend conferences, or even connect via social media.
Remember, many people start EMS careers at different points in their lives. A mentor doesn’t have to be older than you. Go ahead and reach out a younger, but more experienced, individual.
A strong relationship with your mentor is the key to its success. Make sure you feed it. Schedule specific times to go over what you’ve learned. Ask them how best to apply that knowledge. A mentor is not there to tell you what you want to hear. Keep an open mind to their critiques.

How to Be an EMS Mentor

One thing to know about being a mentor is, it is not the same as being a manager. (However, you can be both.) If your organization offers a formal mentorship program, sign up. Or keep it simple. Look for newer team members who ask great questions and show an interest in developing their skills. Never force unwanted advice on anyone, though. Simply offer to help, should the person ever need it.
Communication forms the foundation of the relationship. A good mentor actively listens to their mentee. It’s not enough to just hear what they’re saying. You also need to be able to understand the meaning behind the words. While it is important to praise the mentee in the areas they succeed it is also important to help them in the areas they struggle. Remember, you are not trying to mold the mentee into yourself. You are helping the mentee succeed and grow in the field as an individual.  

As many in the EMS world will tell you. mentors truly enhance a career. Being an EMS mentor doesn’t cost you a thing and can help in the success of your unit.

PHOTO: Tirachard Kumtanom / CC0 Public Domain