Over my career I have known the benefits from working with people who have taken the time to coach me and sometimes act as my Mentor. As a Student Nurse the Hospital’s Senior Psychiatrist became in many ways my unofficial Mentor, I was too young and inexperienced to realise it at the time and he never said that he was my mentor. However looking back that is what he became.
Dr J.A.R.Bickford was a very knowledgeable and wise man, who in his tenure at the hospital transformed it from a ninety five percent locked facility to a one hundred percent unlocked one, he did this at a time when psychiatry was still locked into some very old practices and without asking for extra funding. During my time at the hospital it was open and to all intents and purposes very modern.
The sad thing is the changes he had brought about had become a thing of the past and his transformational approach mainly forgotten, even Dr Bickford didn’t talk about it, he was always talking about the present. He also began the process of me becoming anti-psychiatry, because he encouraged me to think. One day he asked me a question to which I answered “I don’t know”. He said Mr ________, the good news is with that answer you will never ever be wrong. The bad news is you will never ever be right”. He asked me again, I answered and I was right, he didn’t say a word, just wandered off to see a patient.
A few weeks and after a number of other encounters I received an invitation to be his associate at his Out Patient clinic, one of those invitations you can’t refuse. For the next three months I would be driven there in his antique Volvo as I accompanied him to the general hospital in the City where the clinic was held. My role to take notes, make tea, administer the clinic and sometimes I would be asked to offer my opinion.
He never put down my opinion and would often nod and then return to talk to the patient, during the journey back out of the City we would talk about what had occurred during the clinic. I learnt so much about psychiatry, about the importance of communication and interacting with people. Don’t get me wrong, he never ceased to be the white coated Doctor, I the grey suited nurse and the patient….. well, the patient.
Three months passed very quickly and I had two weeks in School, prior to my going back to my next ward rotation a message came asking if I would mind being being his associate once again. The Tutor delivering the message looked quizzical and said the he thought I’d already done it, I agreed and his reply was “bloody hell, this is a first then!” I did do the next three months and it was better than the first three.
Mentorship is built on relationship, mutual respect and trust. It is a synergetic relationship (1+1=2+) that brings insight, guidance and understanding.
The biggest regret is that at the time I didn’t grasp the importance of what was going on and therefore let an opportunity slip, but, the seed was sown and thankfully over the years other people have watered it. I would also like to think that I have planted and watered seeds within others that have helped shape and benefit their careers.