A systematic scoping review of ethical issues in mentoring in medical schools

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Background: Mentoring provides mentees and mentors with holistic support and research opportunities. Yet, the quality of this support has been called into question amidst suggestions that mentoring is prone to bullying and professional lapses. These concerns jeopardise mentoring's role in medical schools and demand closer scrutiny. Methods: To better understand prevailing concerns, a novel approach to systematic scoping reviews (SSR) s is proposed to map prevailing ethical issues in mentoring in an accountable and reproducible manner. Ten members of the research team carried out systematic and independent searches of PubMed, Embase, ERIC, ScienceDirect, Scopus, OpenGrey and Mednar databases. The individual researchers employed 'negotiated consensual validation' to determine the final list of articles to be analysed. The reviewers worked in three independent teams. One team summarised the included articles. The other teams employed independent thematic and content analysis respectively. The findings of the three approaches were compared. The themes from non-evidence based and grey literature were also compared with themes from research driven data. Results: Four thousand six titles were reviewed and 51 full text articles were included. Findings from thematic and content analyses were similar and reflected the tabulated summaries. The themes/categories identified were ethical concerns, predisposing factors and possible solutions at the mentor and mentee, mentoring relationship and/or host organisation level. Ethical concerns were found to stem from issues such as power differentials and lack of motivation whilst predisposing factors comprised of the mentor's lack of experience and personality conflicts. Possible solutions include better program oversight and the fostering of an effective mentoring environment. Conclusions: This structured SSR found that ethical issues in mentoring occur as a result of inconducive mentoring environments. As such, further studies and systematic reviews of mentoring structures, cultures and remediation must follow so as to guide host organisations in their endeavour to improve mentoring in medical schools.




Kow, C. S., Teo, Y. H., Teo, Y. N., Chua, K. Z. Y., Quah, E. L. Y., Kamal, N. H. B. A., … Krishna, L. K. R. (2020, July 31). A systematic scoping review of ethical issues in mentoring in medical schools. BMC Medical Education. BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-020-02169-3

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