Navigating Tomorrow: Insights into the Realities of Medical Oncology Resident Mentors

This text is based on the article The Medical Oncology resident mentor: situation and workload, published in Springer on 30 July 2018

In the intricate world of healthcare, resident mentors play a crucial role in training new Medical Oncology (MO) specialists, whose education spans a minimum of five years, as acknowledged by the EU. These mentors are pivotal in moulding the competence of upcoming professionals, engaging in designing training guidelines, crafting individualized plans, arranging external rotations, and actively participating in the learning process.

A recent investigation led by the Spanish Society for Medical Oncology (SEOM) and the National Commission for the Specialty of Medical Oncology delves into the experiences of Medical Oncology resident mentors, shedding light on their challenges, workload, and impact on teaching quality.

Despite their crucial role, the study reveals a difficult environment. Mentors, fully aware of their responsibilities, often grapple with inadequate organisation and overwhelming healthcare tasks, leaving little time for effective planning and supervision. The study also stresses the importance of aligning mentoring functions with the evolving landscape of medical education, integrating competence-based training systems and objective structured examinations.

To tackle these challenges, the study outlines four objectives: analysing the regulatory framework; estimating time dedicated to mentoring; gauging perspectives from mentors and other professionals; and proposing recommendations to enhance MO residents' training. SEOM aims to improve mentor conditions by advocating and disseminating these recommendations.

The study exposes a sobering reality – 90% of MO mentors feel they lack sufficient time for their duties. On average, mentors devote 172 hours yearly, or 10% of their total time. This commitment often extends beyond the regular workday, with 6.9 hours per month dedicated to mentoring tasks. Significantly, 45% of mentors feel their role is insufficiently acknowledged.

The study highlights the substantial dedication and growing complexity of MO resident mentoring, prompting a call for improvements. This includes tailored systems accommodating professional activities, designated time for mentoring tasks, and recognition measures. It's a plea to acknowledge and support these often-overlooked figures shaping the future of medical oncology.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.