Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 389–401 | Cite as

The core of mentorship: medical students' experiences of one-to-one mentoring in a clinical environment

  • Susanne Kalén
  • Sari Ponzer
  • Charlotte Silén


Mentoring has been used in different health care educational programmes, but the core of mentorship, i.e., facilitating the development of medical students' professional competence, has not been explored in depth in the literature. In order to create effective and meaningful mentoring programmes, there is a need for deeper knowledge of the meaning of formal mentorship and, for this, the students’ experiences are important. A mentoring program was set up where all medical students were offered a mentor during their first clinical courses; years 3–4. The mentors were physicians and their role as mentors was to support the students and act as sounding-boards, not to teach or assess knowledge. This study aimed to get a deeper understanding of the meaning of mentorship seen from the perspective of undergraduate medical students. A qualitative approach with individual interviews (N = 12) and inductive content analysis was chosen to investigate and interpret the meaning of mentorship. The results comprise three overarching themes: Space, Belief in the future and Transition. Having a mentor gave a sense of security and constituted a ‘free zone’ alongside the undergraduate programme. It gave hope about the future and increased motivation. The students were introduced to a new community and began to identify themselves as doctors. We would argue that one-to-one mentoring can create conditions for medical students to start to develop some parts of the professional competences that are more elusive in medical education programmes, such as reflective capacity, emotional competence and the feeling of belonging to a community.


Medical students Mentorship Professional competence Professional development Socialisation Support Transition 



The authors thank the interviewed students and the collaborators in the SAMLÄK Project. This study was made possible by funds granted by ALF, the Regional Agreement on Medical Training and Clinical Research between the Stockholm County Council and Karolinska Institutet.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Science and Education, SödersjukhusetKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and EthicsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

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