Entering a Mentorship Scheme

By Dr Emma Arjemandfar / 20 Sep 2022

Dr Emma Arjemandfar looks at the benefits and challenges of joining a mentorship scheme

Having graduated in July 2021 as a recently qualified dentist, I understand what it means to be a mentee within the NHS, receiving guidance, support and training over an extended period of time. Since starting my undergraduate training I have always been interested in facial aesthetics, and have been fascinated by the growth it has seen over recent years. Despite the fundamental importance of facial and dental aesthetics to my clinical practice, there was little to no aesthetic teaching within my dentistry course, and I know the same to be true for medicine and nursing courses at undergraduate level. 

Here, I will outline key considerations I had when choosing a mentorship scheme and discuss the benefits that entering a scheme can provide anyone who is starting out in their aesthetic careers. 

What is mentorship? 

Mentorship may be defined as, ‘the activity of giving a less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school’. The mentor is the more experienced individual, while the mentee is the less experienced.1 Mentorship has moved to the forefront of aesthetic training and education in recent years, with recognition of the need for a framework of support for healthcare professionals moving into the industry. 

Mentorship exists in all other areas of clinical practice, and in just about every established profession and trade across all sectors of the economy and market. A key way in which mentorship contrasts with a standard one- or two-day training course is the continued transfer of skills and experience from the more experienced individual (mentor) to the less experienced (mentee). It is less transactional and requires significant time-investment from both sides, that continues way past the time period of the scheme. 

Choosing a mentorship scheme 

As an aesthetic patient myself, I had experienced both the good and not so good that the industry has had to offer over the years. I was curious about the variety of training pathways available to me after graduating but couldn’t find a clear answer from online searches. Courses ranged from hours, to a day, to months, with no clear guidance on regulations or what was considered ‘gold standard’. 

Like many healthcare professionals, I had sacrificed years to spending long days and late nights studying and was already proud of where I was. So, as my career was about to begin, I felt strongly about not rushing to associate myself with just any brand or organisation. Importantly, as a still-to-graduate dental student, only schemes or courses open to undergraduates were open to me, and this meant that a mentorship scheme over a longer time frame was necessary to guide me onto post-graduate training once I eventually graduated. 

It has been noted that features of a good mentorship include a transfer of expertise and knowledge, provision of support and guidance (both professional and personal), the establishment of excellent rapport and a relationship based on trust, as well as clear expectation setting and regular progress reviews.4 I kept this in mind, creating a list for researching possible providers. 

1. Is it regulated? 

As healthcare professionals, we have a professional statutory regulatory body, whether it’s the General Dental Council, General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council or others. Everything we do both in our private and professional lives can have a bearing on our registration and continued ability to practise. Facial aesthetics is no different, and therefore I was especially interested in a scheme which incorporated regulated and academically accredited qualifications such as the Level 7 Diploma,5 which has been in the spotlight in recent parliamentary reports.6 

The Level 7 Diploma in Injectables for Aesthetic Medicine (PGDip) is Ofqual-regulated and approved by the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP).7 The JCCP aims to create a safer environment for the public undergoing non-surgical treatments with mandated qualifications, premises criteria and insurance. These were the qualities I wanted to convey to my patients in the future, and for this reason I looked for a mentorship within an organisation that was offering the Level 7 Diploma. 

2. Who are the faculty of trainers? 

Training is made by the trainers, especially where this is experiential or practical in nature. As a dental student, I wanted a faculty that was representative in all forms, both professionally and personally. The credentials of the faculty come first and foremost, and I wanted a scheme that had a mix of medical and dental professionals; I researched where they trained, what courses they’ve undertaken themselves and what their educational and teaching qualifications are. For example, I knew that being part of a scheme which also aligned with regulated qualifications such as the Level 7 Diploma meant that trainers would all possess recognised qualifications in teaching itself. 

Beyond the qualifications, I also wanted a faculty that reflected me as a person, with experiences that I could share in and learn from. I found a scheme that was led by a team of trainee NHS maxillofacial surgeons with dual medical and dental qualifications and an array of surgical and non-surgical experience. This meant they had a greater understanding of my dental background. In addition, I had already followed the scheme and lead trainer for some time and was reassured by the team’s contributions to academic journals (including this very one!) and also speaking at educational conferences such as ACE and CCR, as this really solidified their dedication to the field. 

3. What training do they offer? 

As well as the above, it’s important to look into whether the training on offer will be valuable and will teach you what you want to learn. The inclusion of face-to-face training was the non-negotiable point for me, and this indeed turned out to be the most valuable aspect of the mentorship scheme I chose, allowing for consolidation of theory, assessing and marking up patients myself, and gaining invaluable knowledge around consultation skills, consent and post-procedure care. Given the lack of undergraduate teaching in the area, and the still largely unregulated industry, I found the teaching on education and regulation (including an entire webinar on regulation and laws in aesthetics) highly valuable to me. 

The ability for more than a single face-to-face meeting, building on previous training, makes the experience even more worthwhile, allowing a mentee to reflect on previous experiences, come up with more questions and have these answered by the team of mentors. Going beyond an event-based model of learning was of immense value to me. 

Key benefits of entering a mentorship scheme 

Learning techniques 

Having had no prior experience in facial aesthetics, the mentorship allowed me to learn techniques from some of the industry’s top injectors. Gaining their feedback and having the ability to continually practise under their eyes allowed me to refine my technique until it reached a stage where they were happy with it. This not only related to the actual physical injections, but also the consultation, assessment and marking up of faces. The diversity of patients seen really pushed home how important facial assessment skills are, taking into account patient desires, ageing, ethnicity and gender identity, among many other things. 

As a dentist, I particularly enjoyed the focus on facial geometrics as a first step in assessment, being able to draw on my undergraduate training in orthodontics and smile aesthetics to put this into action in facial aesthetics. Only through a mentorship scheme would this continued contact, teaching and support be possible, and even now I am able to contact my mentor to ask about challenging cases, or discuss a complication or unforeseen event. 

Building a community 

The relationship you build with the team leading the mentorship scheme is central to getting the most out of it. As a soon-to-graduate dentist, on my scheme I was reassured and encouraged by the faculty of trainers each with their own successful aesthetic practices who were therefore able to share clinical and non-clinical advice and guidance with me. Being in a small group learning environment was also incredibly useful, and it is easy to underestimate the benefits of networking and building support networks with colleagues in person. 

Aesthetics and dentistry are similar in many ways, and one such way is the potential for lone-working, or within a small team. Building a network as a mentee can thus reap huge rewards when going out into practice in the community and treating patients. This is especially important for complication management. 

Setting you up for the future 

Importantly, beyond the clinical experience and theoretical training, being on a mentorship scheme introduced me to the ideal training pathway in the field, giving me an unparalleled insight into my own future pathway. Understanding the training steps, recognising a regulated and accredited endpoint for basic training, and embracing the mentorship model of professional development has given me motivation and reassurance in this exciting, yet still underregulated area of practice. 

Challenges and considerations 

Time constraints and the location of training were key considerations, especially given the busy schedule of undergraduate healthcare professionals balancing exams, study and clinical placements. The mentorship days I attended were in London, so as long as adequate preparation and travel plans were made, this should not present too much difficulty for most. Finding a scheme with a face-to-face component locally would be fantastic, but it is also important to be taught by an expert faculty, and this commonly means travelling to centres outside your local area. Being able to access the theory remotely and on-demand is something I recommend people considering, as it was this that helped me to factor the scheme into my already hectic professional life. 

Advancing your career 

Getting the balance right between facial aesthetics training and having sufficient understanding of the regulatory, safety and training aspects of the field, is not an easy thing to do. I had previously felt cautious about commencing training by the aforementioned ‘horror stories’ in the media and the confusing training information found when doing my own research. 

Undertaking a mentorship scheme, allowed me to experience a foundation on which I can make a critical and informed decision about my future training. I’m pleased to say that I have already undertaken the foundation course, and I am now in the early stages of the Level 7 Diploma in Aesthetics. 

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