Deborah Lasher Talks Mentoring

April 27, 2012
Tim Denman

Applied Clinical Trials

At the ACRP 2012 Global Conference & Exhibition held earlier this month Deborah Lasher, Clinical Research Specialist at Medtronic moderated a session entitled “Mentoring Programs—When, How, Now!” The educational session featured three industry insiders who discussed the usefulness of mentoring programs designed to help organizational newcomers become accustomed to their new job and its culture. The panel consisted of Mike Delahunty, Senior Manager, Clinical Operations at St. Jude Medical; Gaye King, Senior Field Manager at Boston Scientific; and Cathy Rogert, Clinical Monitoring Manager at Medtronic.

Lasher recently spoke to Applied Clinical Trials about her experience with mentoring programs for a news piece. The transcript of the conversation follows.

Do you have any anecdotal evidence of a mentoring programs success?

That is a question that we looked at here at Medtronic—do we have any statistics on this showing it is effective? We really don’t, it truly is all anecdotal. As moderator for this panel, I went to the literature and looked up if mentoring programs in service related industries make a difference. If you look at the literature it clearly shows that it does in a number of ways.

Something that kept coming through loud and clear is that it is a way that a company can keep its competitive edge. Personnel and human resources are the most valuable assets in service related companies. Certainly clinical research is no exception.

I hate to call myself a seasoned professional, but I really enjoy mentoring younger professionals because it really is a two-way street. Especially when it come to technology.

I see this in action all the time. It is called reverse mentoring. When you pair teams, you have someone who has been in the business 20 to 25 years and someone who is fairly new from a younger generation that has grown up with technology. I was at one of the universities out west for a diabetes study. We use a lot of technology with our continuous glucose monitoring and our pumps. There is a lot of uploading to websites and troubleshooting. The younger nurse practitioner that was on the study team was the one that everyone kept going to for help. The coordinator that she was working with was a coordinator for decades and was the go-to person for the study, so they made a great team. You see this all the time; younger professionals are being asked to mentor the older professionals in that arena. Everyone learns from each other.

Are there any industry specific benefits to implementing a mentoring program?

In my own experience a lot of mentoring comes from looking at the big picture of a study and always keeping subject safety in mind.

I think where mentoring really can help is talking about the partnership between the site that is conducting the research and the sponsor. That is something you don’t learn from school and you don’t learn from a book necessarily. For instance, you can talk to a mentor after a meeting or a site initiation and ask: How did I do? How did I come across? Did they understand the training?

Communication skills and those unwritten rules and culture that make a partnership effective is where mentoring can really come into play. As a sponsor, you are trying to help the site be successful and trying to influence them without really having a lot of power over them. A lot of these skills come from developing relationships in terms of transparency and trust and all those things that come with a good relationship. Those skills can be learned and modeled. You can talk about them.

How successful has Medtronic’s mentoring program been?

It has been wildly popular. It was been so popular that they have to sometimes turn people away because they don’t have enough mentors. People realize that it is really an effective way to learn quickly and take advantage of the experience of others and vice versa. It is a great way for that reverse mentoring to take place.

I think that one of the obstacles to mentoring and why they aren’t enough mentors is that this is one of those businesses where everyone is maxed out. Really everyone is working very hard and certainly way beyond 40 hours a week. To consider mentoring someone it is a commitment of a couple of hours every month at a minimum. Those that I have talked to that have been in a mentoring relationship have found that it is well worth the time.

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