Mentoring the Millennial mind

November 15, 2010

The results of the 2010 Ophthalmology Times Best Programs survey show very few differences from last year despite advances and growth within ophthalmology departments across the United States.

Chicago-Differences in generational characteristics can create challenges for physicians involved in training current residents.

Dr. Aaron provided a series of tips for teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists, focusing on methods for providing feedback, teaching, and meeting the work-life balance expectations of residents. She is associate professor of ophthalmology, Emory University, Atlanta, and has been director of the Emory Eye Center residency program for 11 years.

"These young physicians may not recognize any deficiencies and may interpret negative comments as personal failure," Dr. Aaron said. This background supports the need to establish a culture of feedback early in their training, with frequent reminders about its constructive purpose so that residents will be prepared to receive criticism and not be discouraged or offended by it.

"Putting the meat in the feedback sandwich may be difficult because it may not go over well, but you have to include it if you want the residents develop into good ophthalmologists," Dr. Aaron said.

To optimize the quality of the interaction, comments should focus on behavior rather than be personal in nature. They should also be very specific and include an effort to help the resident identify solutions.

"Don't be afraid to applaud and praise when appropriate, but try to soften the negative by thinking like a parent or coach," she said. "If someone is struggling, identify a mentor. [People] from the baby boomer or traditionalist generations are wonderful mentors for the Millennials, and peer mentoring or group mentoring works nicely as well."

Group mentoring in which a more senior faculty member meets with residents as a group is another good option that diffuses the chain of command while reducing the emphasis on any one resident and also the time burden on a single faculty member.