Original Publication
Open Access

Structuring the Mentoring Relationship: Expectations and Boundaries

Published: September 3, 2015 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10196

Included in this publication:

  • Instructor's Guide.pdf
  • Session Resource-Case Study.pdf
  • Session Resource-Learning Pearls.docx
  • Session Resource-Mentoring Agreement Reference List.pdf
  • Session Resource-BWH Mentoring Agreement Template.pdf
  • Session Resource-Evaluation Template.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Introduction: The Faculty Mentoring and Leadership Program is an innovative, faculty development program that has been implemented annually since it was first designed in 2008. The program consists of a series of nine sessions that were designed primarily as a peer‐learning experience for mid-career and senior faculty physicians, and scientists who serve as mentors. This session can be stand-alone or used in conjunction with other topical sessions that were developed as part of the Faculty Mentoring Leadership Program, a nine-session, peer learning experience for a cohort of mid-career and senior faculty physician and scientist mentors to enhance their mentoring effectiveness. The cases and topics are relevant and adaptable for mentors across the academic continuum. The learning environment is enhanced by the interactive, case-based nature of the sessions with a cohort of faculty from various disciplines. Methods: This 90-minute session usually creates energetic discussion in both small and large groups about how to optimally structure the mentoring relationship. A week before this session, preassigned readings are distributed, and participants are asked to give input via e-mail regarding their experiences and challenges in structuring the mentoring relationship. The session itself consists of facilitated small breakout group discussions of a case with associated case questions. Following this, small groups report back to the large group, with further facilitated discussions focusing on the themes raised by the case and on mentoring agreements. Learning pearls are intentionally distributed at the end of the session to summarize and reinforce key take-home points, many of which the participants themselves will have raised in the preceding discussion. Results: On a 1-5 scale (1 = poor, 5 = excellent) over the five cohorts of the Faculty Mentoring Leadership Program (2009-2014), this session has averaged a 4.59 rating at the end of the 90-minute session and a 4.63 rating in the retrospective evaluation of the entire nine-month course after its end. Discussion: The increased rating at the end of the course may suggest that over the nine sessions participants became even more aware of the value of clearly structuring the mentoring relationship as well as the perils inherent in unclear structure and expectations.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Appraise the importance of, and ways to beneficially structure, the mentoring relationship, including the setting of expectations and boundaries.
  2. Recognize what leads to good and bad mentor/mentee fit.
  3. Recognize the importance of incorporating regular mentor-mentee assessments of the mentoring relationship.
  4. Learn how to use mentoring agreements both to help set expectations and boundaries and to facilitate dialogue throughout the life course of mentoring.
  5. Develop communication skills to foster open mentor-mentee dialogue about issues that may arise and how to address them.

Author Information

  • Nameeta Dookeran, MD, MSc: Clean Slate Addiction Treatment Centers
  • Robert Fuhlbrigge, MD, PhD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Barbara Gottlieb, MD, MPH: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Francine Grodstein, ScD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Audrey Haas, MBA: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Carol Nadelson, MD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Ellen Seely, MD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Frederick Schoen, MD, PhD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Lawrence Tsen, MD: Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Jonathan Borus, MD: Brigham and Women's Hospital

None to report.

None to report.


  1. Association of American Medical Colleges. Compact between biomedical graduate students and their research advisors. Association of American Medical Colleges Web site. https://members.aamc.org/eweb/upload/Compact%20Between%20Biomedical%20Graduate.pdf. Published 2008.
  2. Association of American Medical Colleges. Compact between postdoctoral appointees and their mentors. Association of American Medical Colleges Web site. http://www.aamc.org/postdoccompact. Published 2006.
  3. Association of American Medical Colleges. Compact between resident physicians and their teachers. Association of American Medical Colleges Web site. https://www.aamc.org/download/49820/data/residentcompactpdf.pdf. Published 2006.
  4. Bland CJ, Taylor AL, Shollen SL, Weber-Main AM, Mulcahy PA. Faculty Success Through Mentoring. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield; 2009:65-90.
  5. Borus JF. How to be a good mentor. In: Roberts LW, ed. The Academic Medicine Handbook: A Guide to Achievement and Fulfillment for Academic Faculty. New York, NY: Springer Science; 2013:163-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5693-3_21.
  6. Brigham and Women’s Hospital mentoring agreement template. Brigham and Women’s Hospital Web site. http://bwhmentoringtoolkit.partners.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/BWHMentoringAgreementForm.pdf. Published 2012.
  7. Brigham and Women’s Hospital mentoring toolkit & curriculum. Brigham and Women’s Hospital Web site. http://bwhmentoringtoolkit.partners.org. Published 2015.
  8. Brigham and Women’s Hospital mentoring toolkit & curriculum: full annotated bibliography. Brigham and Women’s Hospital Web site. http://bwhmentoringtoolkit.partners.org/appendix-a-readings-and-articles-full-annotated-bibliography. Published 2015.
  9. Chandler DE, Kram KE. Enlisting others in your development as a leader. In: Rothstein MG, Burke RJ, eds. Self-Management and Leadership Development. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar; 2010:336-361. http://dx.doi.org/10.4337/9781849805551.00020.
  10. Collins E. 360 degree mentoring. Harvard Manage Update. 2008;Reprint No. U0803B.
  11. Community of mentors: mentoring guidebooks. Boston Children’s Hospital Web site. http://www.childrenshospital.org/clinician-resources/office-of-faculty-development/community-of-mentors. Updated 2015.
  12. Detsky AS, Baerlocher MO. Academic mentoring—how to give it and how to get it. JAMA. 2007;297(19):2134-2136. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.297.19.2134.
  13. Giving and getting career advice: a guide for junior and senior research faculty. ADVANCE Program, University of Michigan Web site. http://advance.umich.edu/resources/CareerAdvising-Research.pdf. Published 2007. Updated March 11, 2011.
  14. Kram KE, Higgins MC. A new approach to mentoring. Wall Street Journal. September 22, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122160063875344843.html.
  15. Kram KE, Ragins BR. The landscape of mentoring in the 21st century. In: Ragins BR, Kram KE, eds. The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research and Practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage; 2007:659-687.
  16. Lee A, Dennis C, Campbell P. Nature’s guide for mentors. Nature. 2007;447(7146):791-797. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/447791a.
  17. Mentoring contract. Center for Coaching and Mentoring Web site. http://www.coachingandmentoring.com/Mentor/contract.htm. Publication date unknown.
  18. Sambunjak D, Marusic A. Mentoring: what’s in a name? JAMA. 2009;302(23):2591-2592. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.1858.
  19. Straus SE, Chatur F, Taylor M. Issues in the mentor-mentee relationship in academic medicine: a qualitative study. Acad Med. 2009;84(1):135-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819301ab.
  20. Tsen LC, Borus JF, Nadelson CC, Seely EW, Haas A, Fuhlbrigge AL. The development, implementation, and assessment of an innovative mentoring leadership program for faculty mentors. Acad Med. 2012;87(12):1757-1761. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182712cff.
  21. What is a mentor? In: Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997:1-15.
  22. Zerzan JT, Hess R, Schur E, Phillips RS, Rigotti N. Making the most of mentors: a guide for mentees. Acad Med. 2009;84(1):140-144. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181906e8f.


Dookeran N, Fuhlbrigge R, Gottlieb B, et al. Structuring the mentoring relationship: expectations and boundaries. MedEdPORTAL. 2015;11:10196. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10196