Being a Paramedic Student is hard - very hard. Christine Turner unveils her research in…
In part one of this peer mentoring series, a review of the current research was presented for a historical and statistical foundation. While very little research exists regarding the benefits of peer mentoring in EMS education, evidence supporting the benefits of peer mentoring in other allied health education fields sets precedence for concluding those same support mechanisms are imperative to EMS student success. In part two of this series, the characteristics of effective peer mentors will be presented. The mentor selection process is paramount to the success of any mentoring program. Not all students have the desire to mentor others; nor do all students possess the unique talents and capabilities to be effective at providing the additional support services needed for others. Potential mentors must be approachable and open to communication. Mentor candidates must also possess an authentic and friendly demeanor along with a good sense of humor, excellent interpersonal skills, and patience (Kramer et al., 2018). Each of these characteristics helps to establish trust and rapport with fellow students, much like they do when treating patients.
Aside from desirable personality traits, the mentor candidate must also have an intrinsic desire to teach and guide their peers (Turner, 2020). When selecting peer mentor candidates, look for those with developing leadership capabilities, mastery of psychomotor skills, and with firm comprehension of didactic material. These students often reveal themselves throughout the education program as they may help explain material or assist others with skills performance.
Other desirable mentor characteristics include empathy, compassion, and active listening skills. Empathy and compassion are essential traits that help mentors truly understand the difficulties, struggles, and concerns others experience. Active listening helps to instill confidence in the mentee that they are truly being heard and understood by the mentor. Honesty, integrity, and altruism are other characteristics that are essential to establishing a trusting relationship with mentees.
Not all students will possess equal amounts of each of these characteristics. Therefore, when selecting mentors, be sure that the target mentees have been identified. One great practice is to select mentors with strengths and characteristics that match the needs of the mentee. For example, if a first-year paramedic student is new to the profession and has an inquisitive nature, pairing that student with a second-year mentor who has a bit of field experience and is emerging as a natural teacher may be a good way to provide the support needed for the newer student. Another example may be pairing students with similar life circumstances such as those with young children. The mentor may be able to provide childcare suggestions, study tricks, or other success tips they have developed during their educational experiences that have helped to balance the demands of home, family, and school.
In conclusion, successful mentoring partnerships provide support where support is needed. Choosing the right mentors based on desirable characteristics is indeed an essential part of the program development process; however, knowing the types of support needed by mentees is crucial. It simply would not make sense to develop what this author has deemed “success teams” by providing a mentor who does not have the right support strengths needed for the mentee.
Kramer, D., Hillman, S. M., & Zavala, M. (2018). Developing a culture of caring and support
through a peer mentorship program. Journal of Nursing Education, 57(7), 430-435.
Turner, C. (2020) Peer mentor program training manual.
Christine Turner, M.Ed., NRP
Christine Turner began her EMS career in 1999 as a volunteer medical responder with her local fire department and began teaching CPR classes in 2001. By 2005, she had completed paramedic training and served several years with a county EMS agency as an FTO and Shift Captain. In 2010, she transitioned to teaching full-time at a community college. She is a Level II paramedic instructor with extensive experience with teaching seated, hybrid, and online classes as well as advising strategies for degree-seeking and transfer students. She has served as a program director and has been through accreditation processes with two community colleges.
She has completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Emergency Medical Care from Western Carolina University (Go Cats!), a Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership from Liberty University (Go Flames!), as well as a variety of NCCCS teaching and leadership training.
Christine remains an active lead paramedic instructor and program director. She enjoys collaboration, problem-solving, and developing plans for world domination. Her favorite past times are spending quality time with her family, dogs, and friends.