Susan Schmunk, CSTR, CAISS

Mentor – A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

Many of us work in positions of leadership, not necessarily in title, but by what we do every day on the job. In the realm of Trauma, Trauma Registrars can work alone, in small groups or at some centers in large numbers. No matter the environment, they are called upon to lead. At the very least their mission is to provide good data for data collection. This requires constant monitoring of data collection sources, such as the electronic medical record, the ambulance transport record, autopsies, etc., and an eye to obtaining the best information available for specific data points.

In some programs this effort is lead by a coach, this may be in the form of a lead registrar, a program manager or a performance improvement coordinator. A coach is different from a mentor as their focus is performance driven. If the data collected is not clear enough or is absent on a given data point then the steps to “clean” this information are set forth. The coaching relationship involves either focusing on improving current skills or providing training for new skills.  The effort is short term.

Mentoring on the other hand is relationship oriented. In this instance the purpose of mentoring would be to develop the individual not only for the current task but to see the bigger picture and apply this thinking to other parts of their daily work. With this step the mentee then becomes a stakeholder in the integrity of the data, not just the particular data point.

Mentoring requires a long-term investment and is built on a foundation of trust. This foundation allows the mentee to share any roadblocks they encounter not only in their work environment but in their everyday life. If the employee is unhappy about their work/life balance, lacks confidence, or feels their job is not important, their work suffers. An unhappy employee may in turn lack focus, provide inferior work product or quit. These outcomes seriously hamper the abstracting of accurate data.

While I have chosen to focus on the world of trauma, this concept can apply to any work environment. In the new year I would challenge you to make the choice to mentor someone in your profession, whatever it may be. You will be fully rewarded both professionally and personally as you see your mentee progress to a well-rounded, happy, and skilled professional.


Management Mentor. (2015). The Differences Between Coaching & Mentoring. Retrieved from