Twelve years ago FACEM Dr Ina Schapiro arrived to Australia as an international medical graduate (IMG). She had a year, she recalls, to work out just what she was doing – and just what she would do.

When she was offered the opportunity to stay and complete the FACEM Training Program, she had a sense of dread about all the unknowns.

‘My instinct was that it would be great to have someone to talk this through with. Not even another IMG necessarily, but just somebody to talk to about the Australian context – what is the day-to-day, what are the career options and opportunities.’

She reflects that it is quite daunting to land somewhere in the world and discover just how different it all can be.
‘For a lot of countries, there is no emergency medicine in any formal sense. It is a totally new world, and first you must find out what this is and what [clinically] you need to know to practise it.

‘And it slowly dawns on you that there is also  a longer-term perspective with respect to what the emergency medicine career entails, not only a day-to-day understanding about how and when you work, but also where you want your career path to take you’, Ina says.

‘Not to mention what are the options and possibilities if you return to your home country midway through training or as a FACEM.’

Ina also recalls a lot of smaller day-to-day choices she had to navigate – when to take breaks, when to ask for help and how to refer a patient “the Aussie way”, for example.

‘It’s important to know the ins and outs  and it ties in with the culture of a place. Often you don’t get to find out until someone tells you. It can be really difficult.’

She made the choice to stay and also to try to support those who would follow her footsteps, or who just needed somebody to talk to.

‘I had a mentor both as a trainee and when I became a New Fellow and it has been invaluable.’

She says she has found mentoring to fit into several umbrellas that align with College priorities, including wellbeing, diversity, leadership and workforce sustainability.

‘It aligns quite nicely to a lot of the things you see the College is working on and areas that are priorities with our members and trainees too. The wellbeing space is so big now, and I’m glad mentoring can fit into that, but I also see its value in contributing to leadership, workforce and diversity.’

Ina has worked to bring the full value of mentoring to her department.  

‘About four years ago, there was an informal mentoring program where I work as a FACEM.

‘All of our consultants were open to becoming mentors, but it was quite an ad hoc scenario. I thought there were probably benefits from something more structured.’

It was hard to establish that structure at first – the mentee groups each had slightly different needs, and she saw a preference in junior medical officers for peer-to-peer mentoring that wasn’t so apparent with other groups.

‘We decided to start with our trainees and we actually had a really great response. All of our consultants signed up to be mentors. One hundred per cent, and about 95 per cent of trainees signed up as mentees.’

The Quality Mentoring in Flinders Medical Centre ED program was expanded to include a “buddy program”, where interns were looked after by junior trainees and a JMO mentoring part where the more senior trainees are mentoring the JMO group after having been mentees themselves.

The program development included handbooks, template development and workshops for those involved. A year into the program a survey showed the mentoring had been received with overwhelming positivity and had improved workplace satisfaction.

Since then, it has been expanded statewide with a Fellows4Fellows component, where, on a statewide basis, New Fellows can seek a mentor among their senior Fellow colleagues. The Quality Mentoring in Flinders Medical Centre ED program was also recently recognised in the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) Excellence Awards with an Award for Excellence in Valuing Staff.

The citation speaks to a mentoring program that has increased staff morale and that has expanded to care for all medical staff groups from interns to Fellows.

‘Mentoring is a great opportunity. There is a lot of comfort in knowing you have somebody who is open to talking with you, who can work through your experiences and feelings with you, but most of all who can guide you to find your way through the career jungle,’ Ina says.

Ina Schapiro is a FACEM and member of the ACEM Mentoring Reference Group. She tweets @InaRides