FCI appoint Mentorship Scheme Lead

Richard Smith has been appointed as the lead for the FCI Mentorship Scheme

Odoo • Image and Text

Richard Smith is a recently retired Consultant Ophthalmologist and CCIO, and a Fellow of the Faculty. The FCI have appointed Richard as Mentorship Lead – in this blog he introduces himself and discusses the importance of mentorship for clinical informaticians. 

Having been asked by the FCI to coordinate a group of mentors for clinical informaticians, I had better introduce myself.

I have just retired from full time clinical practice after 27 years as a consultant ophthalmologist at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.  Along the way, I have spent 5 years as a Director of Medical Education, 10 years as Chief Clinical Information Officer, and 4 years as an Associate Medical Director.  I was also a Vice President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists with responsibility for professional standards for 4 years.  When I started as a consultant in 1993, reflective practice was largely the province of GPs and there were almost no formal support mechanisms for senior clinicians within NHS organisations.  However, there was a tradition of informal mentoring for new consultants – a senior colleague or a former boss who would be available to discuss knotty problems or give advice on how to chair your first committee.

Now all has changed; senior clinicians from all professional backgrounds are routinely audited, appraised, revalidated, performance managed, accredited in all manner of extended skills and exhorted to take up a range of leadership roles.  These activities all require self-reflection and are typically accompanied by copious documentation.  Despite (or maybe because of) this, clinical leaders commonly experience self-doubt and feelings of being overwhelmed by the expectations placed upon them in their leadership roles, particularly at times of rapid change.  This is as true for the clinical informatician as it is for the clinical manager.

For the clinical informatician, sources of anxiety in their role may include leading necessary but unpopular change, managing corporate risk and dealing with conflict in teams.  Sounding out a friendly colleague when working through knotty problems or difficult decisions can be hugely reassuring.  Sometimes that resource may be available within the same organization, but clinical informaticians are not numerous in most NHS organisations, and it is logical that the FCI, as the community of clinical informaticians in the UK should have a mechanism for putting clinical informaticians in touch with colleagues who can act as mentors, without treading on the toes of the quality assurance processes mentioned above.

A mentoring network brokered by the FCI is likely to be of particular interest to clinicians who have recently taken on clinical informatics roles.  In general, the mentoring relationship will continue for a finite period and reach a natural conclusion.  It will also, however be open to experienced clinical informaticians, who may appreciate a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship at particular points in their career.

I look forward to helping to develop mentoring as a benefit to FCI members in the coming months.

Richard Smith FRCS FRCOphth FFCI 

If you’d like to get involved in the FCI Mentorship Scheme, either as a mentor or if you’re looking for mentorship, please contact info@fci.org.uk. More information can be found on the FCI website.