Context

Mentoring has been identified as an important method of supporting newly credentialed athletic trainers (ATs) during their transition to practice. Gaining a better understanding of this relationship could provide valuable insights that may assist employers and professional programs in developing a plan to better facilitate the transition.

Objective

To examine which aspects of the mentoring relationship provided the most benefit during transition to practice of newly certified ATs.

Design

Qualitative study.

Setting

Individual phone interviews.

Patients or Other Participants

A total of 13 ATs who graduated from a professional master's program, were certified from February through July 2016, and obtained employment from July through August of 2016 participated in this study (6 women, 7 men; age = 26 ± 3 years; work settings included professional sports, college, secondary and middle school, and clinic). Data saturation guided the number of participants.

Data Collection and Analysis

Phone interviews using a semistructured interview guide were conducted at 3, 8, and 12 months of work experience. Data were analyzed using a constant comparative approach. Credibility was established via investigator triangulation, peer debriefing, and member checks.

Results

Participants recognized the mentoring relationship as a foundational aspect of the transition to practice. Mentors should be available by phone, email, or text to answer questions, provide feedback, or discuss ideas. Respondents wanted honest feedback, even when that feedback was constructively critical. Feedback was sought regarding topics such as patient care, communication, and networking. Participants needed reassurance and support from their mentors to help validate and improve their self-confidence.

Conclusions

Newly credentialed ATs should seek a mentor who will be available to communicate in various ways and will provide regular and constructive feedback. Future researchers should investigate how mentoring relationships influence other aspects of the transition to practice, such as patient care, overall job performance, turnover, and satisfaction.

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