A systematic scoping review of ethical issues in mentoring in internal medicine, family medicine and academic medicine

  • Clarissa Wei Shuen Cheong
  • Elisha Wan Ying Chia
  • Kuang Teck Tay
  • Wen Jie Chua
  • Fion Qian Hui Lee
  • Eugene Yong Hian Koh
  • Annelissa Mien Chew Chin
  • Ying Pin TohEmail author
  • Stephen Mason
  • Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna


Mentoring’s role in medical education is threatened by the potential abuse of mentoring relationships. Particularly affected are mentoring relationships between senior clinicians and junior doctors which lie at the heart of mentoring. To better understand and address these concerns, a systematic scoping review into prevailing accounts of ethical issues and professional lapses in mentoring is undertaken. Arksey and O’Malley’s (Int J Soc Res Methodol 8(1):19–32, 2005. methodological framework for conducting scoping reviews was employed to explore the scope of ethical concerns in mentoring in general medicine. Databases searcheed included PubMed, ScienceDirect, ERIC, Embase, Scopus, Mednar and OpenGrey. 3391 abstracts were identified from the initialy search after removal of duplicates, 412 full-text articles were reviewed, 98 articles were included and thematically analysed. Unsatisfactory matching, misaligned expectations, inadequate mentor training, cursory codes of conduct, sketchy standards of practice, meagre oversight and unstructured processes have been identified as potential causes for ethical and professional breaches in mentoring practice. Changes in how professionalism is viewed suggest further studies of educational culture should also be carried out. The host organization plays a major role in establishing codes of conduct, expectations, and holistically, longitudinally oversight of the mentoring process and mentoring relationships.


Mentoring Medical education Ethics Mentoring relationship Mentor Mentee 



The authors would like to dedicate this paper to the late Dr S Radha Krishna whose advice and ideas were integral to the success of this study. The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers whose advice and feedback greatly improved this manuscript.

Authors contribution

Ms Clarissa Cheong Wei Shuen is a second year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Ms Chia Wan Ying, Elisha is a fourth year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Mr Tay Kuang Teck is a fourth year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Mr Chua Wen Jie is a second year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Ms Fion Lee Qian Hui is a second year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Mr Eugene Koh Yong Hian is a final year medical student at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Ms Annelissa Chin Mien Chew is a senior librarian at the Medical Library at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Dr Ann Toh Ying Pin, MBBS, MRCPCH, is a Family Medicine Resident at National University Health System, Singapore. Associate Professor Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna, MBChB, FRCP, FAMS, MA (Medical Education), MA (Medical Ethics), PhD (Medical Ethics), is a Senior Consultant at the Division of Supportive and Palliative Care at the National Cancer Centre Singapore. Lalit holds faculty appointments with the Centre for BioMedical Ethics at the National University Singapore, Duke-NUS Medical School and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Lalit is presently pursuing an MD in Palliative Medicine at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute at the University of Liverpool.


None. This work was carried out as part of the Palliative Medicine Initiative run by the Department of Supportive and Palliative Care at the National Cancer Centre Singapore.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no declarations of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clarissa Wei Shuen Cheong
    • 1
  • Elisha Wan Ying Chia
    • 1
  • Kuang Teck Tay
    • 1
  • Wen Jie Chua
    • 1
  • Fion Qian Hui Lee
    • 1
  • Eugene Yong Hian Koh
    • 1
  • Annelissa Mien Chew Chin
    • 2
  • Ying Pin Toh
    • 3
    Email author
  • Stephen Mason
    • 4
  • Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Yong Loo Lin School of MedicineNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.The Medical Library at the Yong Loo Lin School of MedicineSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Family Medicine ResidencyNational University Hospital SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  4. 4.Marie Curie Palliative Care InstituteUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  5. 5.Division of Supportive and Palliative CareNational Cancer Centre SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  6. 6.Centre of Biomedical EthicsNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  7. 7.Duke- NUS Medical SchoolSingaporeSingapore

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