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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 74-80

Designing and implementing e-anubandh: A mentorship program during the COVID pandemic for medical undergraduate students


1 Department of Biochemistry, NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, Digdoh Hills, Hingana Road, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, Digdoh Hills, Hingana Road, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission17-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance03-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication23-May-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Arti A Kasulkar
Associate Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, Digdoh Hills, Hingana Road, Nagpur - 440 019, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jdrntruhs.jdrntruhs_113_21

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  Abstract 


Background: There is a feeling of uncertainty in the COVID era and the graduate students are facing the challenge of being disconnected from the college. Mentorship has been shown to be essential for the attainment of skills as well as psychological development. The mentor-mentee relationship is a continuous process to dissolve the boundaries, and hence, e-mentoring could be one of the ways in which both the students and teachers connect.
Material and Methods: A mentorship program called e-anubandh was designed and implemented. Six hundred medical undergraduate students were grouped with 47 faculty and 94 senior students. An online session was conducted in groups. At the end of the mentorship program, the feedback and perception of the mentors and mentees were taken using both open-ended as well as closed-ended validated questionnaires.
Results: A total of 308 (out of 438 who participated) students, 94 senior mentors and 47 faculty mentors, completed the feedback questionnaire. The majority considered the initiative taken by the institute worth appreciating. The mentees and mentors found the program useful in building student–teacher relationships. They opined that such programs should be undertaken more frequently and for longer durations.
Conclusion: The e-anubandh mentorship program helped in bridging the gap between the students and teachers created in the COVID era. Both the mentors and mentees were extremely satisfied with this program and such intervention appears to be a promising strategy in the COVID period.

Keywords: COVID, e-mentorship, medical students, medical undergraduates


How to cite this article:
Gupta M, Chari S, Kasulkar AA. Designing and implementing e-anubandh: A mentorship program during the COVID pandemic for medical undergraduate students. J NTR Univ Health Sci 2022;11:74-80

How to cite this URL:
Gupta M, Chari S, Kasulkar AA. Designing and implementing e-anubandh: A mentorship program during the COVID pandemic for medical undergraduate students. J NTR Univ Health Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 10];11:74-80. Available from: https://www.jdrntruhs.org/text.asp?2022/11/1/74/345795




  Introduction Top


The world is seeing a disruption in scientific research as we continue to social distance and follow stay-at-home orders in many countries because of COVID-19. While the academic instructions in our institute continue to varying degrees, using online tools, research at the bench, and standardized patient-care learning remain halted. Another challenge that graduate students are facing is how to create a proper working space environment and manage their time when the household members are working from home. The stress of a complex medical course, emotional instability, and adaptations to new surroundings faced during the lockdown are some of the challenges faced by the students.

Although the students get used to working at a physical distance from each other, they might start to feel disconnected from personal and professional relationships. Altogether, there is a feeling of uncertainty, difficulty in staying focused, and ultimately, stress and increased anxiety. And this scenario also threw challenges at the mentor-mentee relationship which became even more important than the real onsite mentorship program. Mentoring is traditionally defined as a process whereby an experienced, highly regarded, empathetic person (the mentor) guides another (usually younger) individual (the mentee) in the development and re-examination of their ideas, learning, and personal and professional development.[1] The mentors always provide a support system for the students and encourage them to prioritize their health above their productivity, especially in testing times such as these.[2] It is important to fight this physical shift by consolidating relationships between the teachers and students.[3]

As online and distance education becomes more persistent, computer-mediated mentoring allows the learners to connect with their mentors in new ways. So, a short-term goal of the e-mentorship program could be one of the ways that could help the learner become accustomed and increase productivity in this era of online education during the lockdown. E-mentoring (sometimes referred to as electronic mentoring, digital mentoring, online mentoring, virtual mentoring, or computer-assisted mentoring) includes any type of mentoring that incorporates digital technology. It could include sending emails between a mentor and mentee, texting using cell phones, chatting using a messenger program or social media, video conferencing, etc.

In our institute mentoring program called “anubandh,” there has always been a one-to-one physical interaction between the mentor and mentee. The idea of e-anubandh (online mentorship program) was generated due to the physical distances created in the COVID era and guessing the need for dissolving the boundaries of distance to keep the students motivated for studies. It gives details of the process of e-mentorship, its design, and implementation for undergraduate medical students.


  Aims and Objectives Top


Aim: To design and implement e-anubandh, a mentorship program alternate to Anubandh during the lockdown period.

Objectives

  1. To design an online mentorship program e-anubandh for the undergraduate students during the lockdown.
  2. To implement the designed e-anubandh program for the undergraduate students during the lockdown.
  3. To guide the students and keep them motivated during the lockdown period.



  Material and Method Top


After approval of the ethics committee, the study was carried out with the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) professional students. A needs analysis was undertaken to design e-anubandh for undergraduate medical students. A focused group discussion with the senior faculty of various departments, members of the curriculum committee, and medical education unit (MEU) was undertaken to design this online mentorship program.

A total of 600 students (mentees) of all phases of MBBS were selected and were divided randomly into groups of 12-13 each (from the same batch) and a total of 47 groups were created. Each group was allotted a teacher (mentor). The teacher mentors were volunteers from all the 20 departments of the institute. The teacher mentor was teaching the same batch as the mentee studied in. This was done since it was felt that the mentees will be more comfortable with the teacher mentors who taught them. Apart from this, each group also incorporated two senior students of the preceding batch as student mentors.

An online training program of the key factors involved in mentoring like listening and feedback skills and knowledge of professional boundaries was conducted for the mentors. The mentees-mentor meeting was conducted online. The choice of the type of online platform to be used was left to the mentors. This session was held on a pre-decided day and time for each batch. This was done so that uniformity was maintained.

A structured agenda was also provided to the mentors as a guideline which included issues like sharing their experiences during the lockdown, the reflection of the academic activities carried out by the institute, and a pep talk about taking care of themselves and their family along with behavioral intentions of the mentees during the lockdown. After the online intervention, the mentors were asked to submit a report of the activity within 24 h, which included the attendee mentee list, reflection of the process, and content and usefulness of the online mentorship program.

Study instrument

The feedback questionnaires of both the mentors and mentees were constructed by reviewing the literature with more emphasis on the utility for conduction of e-anubandh. The questions were reviewed and revised through a series of collaborative discussions among the authors. There were five open-ended and four closed-ended questions, which were validated by members of the MEU. The responses were recorded by using the five-point Likert scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree for the closed-ended questions.

Collection of feedback

After the conduction of the e-anubandh, a questionnaire-based feedback was sent to the mentors (both teachers and senior students) and mentees through the Google form link. A time limit of 24 h was given for submission of the response. An auto-generated Excel sheet was used for assessing the closed-ended responses. For the open-ended questions, the responses were coded and descriptive analysis was done.


  Results Top


The program e-anubandh was introduced to all undergraduate medical students. Out of 600 medical students, 438 (73%) participated in e-anubandh and 308 (70.31%) filled the feedback and reflections questionnaire. The distribution of 308 student mentees who filled the feedback questionnaire was as follows: 25.6%—first MBBS, 23.7%—II MBBS, 22.6%—III/I MBBS, and 27.9%—III/II MBBS. The feedback and perception of the mentees and mentors is depicted in [Table 1],[Table 2],[Table 3],[Table 4],[Table 5],[Table 6].
Table 1: Feedback of the Student Mentees (N=308) Regarding E-Anubandh (In %)

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Table 2: Feedback Of Teacher Mentors (N=47) Regarding E-Anubandh (In %)

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Table 3: Feedback of Student Mentors (N=94) Regarding E-Anubandh (In %)

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Table 4: Perception of Student Mentees about E-Anubandh: Open-Ended Questions (N=308)

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Table 5: Perception of Teacher Mentors about E-Anubandh – Open-Ended Questions (N=47)

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Table 6: Perception of Student Mentors about E-Anubandh: Open-Ended Questions (N=94)

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[Table 1] represents the feedback received from the mentee students in which 80.8% appreciated the efforts taken by the institute to conduct the e-anubandh program.

As shown in [Table 2], out of the 47 faculty members who volunteered to be a part of the mentorship program, 46 (97.87%) mentors conducted the mentorship program. One mentor could not conduct the program because the students did not respond on the day of the online discussion; 86.9% of the teacher mentors agreed that the e- mentorship program was helpful for building relationships between the students and teachers.

As outlined in [Table 3], the mentor students (99%) believed that the program was very useful as a feedback instrument.

The mentees also found the program interactive (53.57%) [Table 4]. The student mentees and mentors also inferred that there should be activity-based interactions in such types of programs [Table 4] and [Table 6] while the major challenge faced by the teacher mentors was connectivity (42.4%) [Table 5].


  Discussion Top


The word “mentor” originates from Greek mid-eighteenth century, and in Homer's epic, the Odyssey. It was the name of the friend Odysseus assigned as a trusted adviser to his son Telemachus in his absence.[4] In the present day, the word can be used as a verb – “to advise or train,” or a noun defined as “An experienced and trusted adviser.” In medical education, a mentor may have many roles, for example, supervisor, teacher, or coach.[5] However, unlike teaching, mentoring involves developing a relationship that focuses on achieving specific goals.[6] A mentor is employed to counsel and teach a less experienced student or colleague, for example, in near-peer mentoring. The aim is to guide the juniors to achieve a wide array of objectives, such as attainment of practical skills, personal and professional development, research opportunity, and academic development. Mentors also provide emotional support and counseling as well as professional help.[4],[7] Mentoring has been a part of medicine and surgery since the days of studentship. Mentorship programs have shown to be effective means of expression for supporting the transfer of learning performance gaps in students.

Mentors invest in the students' personal and professional development, beyond the domain of teaching.[8] In our setup, a mentorship program “anubandh” has been in place for almost a decade. The Sanskrit term anubandh which means bonding, engagement, and agreement for relationship was given to this mentorship program in 2015. During these years, anubandh was held with the physical presence of both the mentors and the mentees in a structured format where the students were divided in small batches with one teacher mentor and two senior student mentors who interacted with them at least three times in a year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed, apart from academics, the other issues which needed to be addressed were emotional support, improving personal confidence, and capabilities. Medical school mentoring programs are established worldwide with varying aims and objectives. This online mentorship program, e-anubandh, was conducted in this study to get connected with the students and suggest a rational, simple, logical, and feasible method that can be used during the lockdown. The study gives details of the process involved that is applicable in the local situation. The time and duration of any mentorship sessions are generally left to the group to decide as per their convenience. However, during the focused group discussion with the faculties, it was advocated that since this is the first such program to be conducted online, it should have a commonness in the selected time of the day and duration. They also suggested a model agenda that can be used as a guideline by the mentors. The process of obtaining feedback using Google Forms was also defined and the mentors were expected to send the same within 24 h of the completion of the event. This uniformity ensured the completeness of the project in the given time frame. Hence, the focus of the program was on developing a robust yet simple process for e-anubandh, the mentorship program, keeping the objectives intact.

A majority of the students appreciated the efforts taken by the institute to organize the e-anubandh. The platform used by the mentor to conduct the program was also appropriate as stated by the mentees. Most of the mentors and the mentees reported that the mentorship program improved the contact between them, which helped the mentees to discuss their problems with the mentors in a nonthreatening environment.

This is similar to the findings of Kukreja et al.,[9] who reported that the mentees and mentors became more comfortable with each other and friendlier, thus, allowing the mentees to discuss their issues easily. The mentees were also satisfied with the conduct of the sessions and the inputs obtained by the mentors. Similar was the feedback by the mentors and they thought that such sessions during this COVID-19 era helped in building relationships between the students and the teachers.

The importance of e-anubandh can be judged from the fact that the mentees found the program interactive, it helped to build their confidence, they got someone to talk to, and efforts were taken by the faculties to create a group, and then, conduct an online interactive session of all the mentees. The mentors were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic interaction of the small groups created and the interaction and feedback responses during the interaction with the mentees. However, both the mentors and mentees were of the opinion that such interactions should become a continuous and ongoing affair with more time duration. The challenges faced by some of the mentees were connectivity of the e-platform, and also, the initial hitch in opening up and interacting with the peer group. Self-satisfaction and empathy were the two most rewarding and fulfilling experiences which the mentors reported after the program. Overall, the program was rated as excellent to very good by both the mentors and mentees. One of the outcomes that stand out as an achievement is that most of the mentees felt that, lockdown or no lockdown, anubandh should be held using the online mode.

Limitations

The limitations of the present study were that the e-mentorship program was introduced about 2 months after the lockdown started and many of the mentees wished that it could have been conducted much earlier. Moreover, the program evaluation was short-term (for only one intervention). We suggest the frequency of such programs should increase and the same has to be incorporated in the online teaching schedule of the institute which is going on for the students to get a long-term impact of the program.


  Conclusion Top


To conclude, the e-mentorship program was introduced to all the undergraduate MBBS students during the lockdown period. This helped in developing an emotional rapport between the student–teacher relationship (online support system which the students can fall back upon). An empathetic point of view was developed in these testing times and problems and issues were discussed paving the path for more such e-mentoring programs which can in the future aid in developing the students' professionalism, personal growth, knowledge, and skills.

Futuristic plan

A mentorship program online for all the students irrespective of onsite/online teaching-learning is recommended.

Recommendations

We recommend all the institutes to undertake the e-mentorship programs during such pandemic or any other unnatural/unavoidable circumstances leading to the closure of institutes for the morale boosting of the students.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank all the participants who participated whole-heartedly in this survey.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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2.
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Nimmons D, Giny S, Rosenthal J. Medical student mentoring programs: Current insights. Adv Med Educ Pract 2019;10:113-23.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Keshavan MS, Tandon R. On mentoring and being mentored. Asian J Psychiatr 2015;16:84–6.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Frei E, Stamm M, Buddeberg-Fischer B. Mentoring programs for medical students—A review of the PubMed literature 2000–2008. BMC Med Educ 2010;10:32.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Siddiqui S. Of mentors, apprenticeship, and role models: A lesson to relearn? Med Educ Online 2014;19:25428.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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Sheri KT, Too JY, Chuah SE, Toh YP, Mason S, Krishna LK. A framework for mentor training programs: A scoping review of mentor training programs in medicine between 1990 and 2017. Med Educ Online 2019;24:11-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Kukreja S, Chhabra N, Kaur A, Arora R, Singh T. Introducing mentoring to 1st-year medical students of a private medical college in north India: A pilot study. Int J Appl Basic Med Res 2017;7:67-71.  Back to cited text no. 9
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]



 

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  In this article
Abstract
Introduction
Aims and Objectives
Material and Method
Results
Discussion
Conclusion
References
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