The School of Veterinary Medicine in Dublin (UCD) has introduced an alumni mentoring programme for new veterinary and veterinary nursing graduates. Helen Graham, clinical education support manager, explains how it works
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THE alumni mentoring programme has been developed to support our graduates as they begin their professional careers, taking up positions in Ireland, the UK and further afield. Feedback from our graduates over the past few years has revealed that many find the ‘first year out’ a stressful one, and that there can be a significant gap in terms of personal and professional support; it is this gap that our mentoring programme aims to address.⇓
The programme aims to link new graduates with working veterinary professionals of approximately three to 10 years’ standing, who are able to offer support and advice in terms of personal, professional and career development. The mentoring relationship provides new graduates with a confidential support mechanism that occurs outside of a line-management structure. Our hope is that the relationship between the mentor and mentee becomes a learning and development partnership, with the mentor offering objective guidance, support and development opportunities based on their own professional knowledge and experience.
With input from our External Advisory Board, a working group consisting of internal and external members, and from the UCD Career Development Centre, the aims and objectives of the programme and the structural parameters were defined and agreed. Having achieved that, the aims and objectives of the programme and the structural parameters were defined and agreed. The programme began with a call for participants, which was made to final-year students of veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing and also to relevant alumni from both programmes; the UCD Alumni Relations office assisted with the latter.
Those interested in taking part were asked to complete a short questionnaire and were also invited to participate in one of three training sessions. Training sessions were delivered by Grace Mulcahy, former dean and head of the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Mark Cumisky, career and skills consultant in the UCD Career Development Centre. A session was also organised with Margaret O'Rourke, clinical psychologist and author/director of the SAFEMED and SAFEVET mental health and wellbeing programmes.
‘Our hope is that the relationship between the mentor and mentee becomes a learning and development partnership, with the mentor offering objective guidance, support and development opportunities based on their own professional knowledge and experience’
The programme will run for one year, with participants expected to make contact once a week for the first six months, and once a month for the second half of the programme. Mentors and mentees have also been asked to have at least one face-to-face meeting during the course of the programme; it was recommended to participants that this should take place as early as possible after the programme commenced.
Mentors and mentees were matched based on the information provided at the time of registration, such as areas of interest/experience, location and any personal preferences they might have. Information on who they would be working with was then communicated to participants, along with access to a range of online resources.
In the first year of the programme, almost 80 veterinarians are taking part, with the majority of graduates being located in Ireland and the UK, with some others in New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Graduates participating in the programme have already reported benefits in terms of advice on job applications and interview techniques, and it is hoped that they will see further benefits as they progress through the first year of their career.
For mentors, it is a chance to gain a fresh perspective on the challenges facing new graduates and also to keep up to date with developments in veterinary education. Our mentors are already seeing benefits from their participation in the programme, with many enjoying the opportunity to link in with their alma mater through working on this key project; the chance to network with other mentors is also an important aspect of the programme for many of our alumni.
Participants will be asked to provide feedback at a number of points across the programme, and the data gathered will inform a piece of research around issues faced by new graduates, and also how the profession is currently developing. It is hoped that these data will subsequently feed back into the profession as a whole, and influence some elements of teaching in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine.
Ultimately, the programme has the potential to benefit not only new graduates and the veterinary profession, but also clients and their animals, and, as such, UCD vet school is proud to continue to develop and support this important initiative.