Health Services Research & Development

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Distance Mentoring

The CDA Enhancements Initiative aims to enrich the overall mentorship experience for our awardees, which may include supplemental mentorship by senior researchers who are primarily based at a distant location. Therefore, being prepared to handle the inherent challenges of distance mentoring will better ensure a successful mentoring relationship.

Before the first meeting

  • Arrange a meeting time as soon as knowing who your mentee is. This doesn’t have to the regular meeting time.
  • Try to establish a relationship via email by,
    • Sharing information (e.g. academic background, research interests, hobbies, etc.);
    • Using Myers-Briggs or a similar instrument to get to know your mentee more.
  • Ask mentee to set up an agenda before every meeting to ensure the meeting time will be used effectively.

During the first meeting, try to complete some of the suggested documents below to set your expectations upfront.

  • Complete a Mentoring Agreement to define expectations and goals.
  • Create a Statement of Confidentiality to clear define what can and cannot be shared outside of your mentoring meetings.

  • Use a First Meeting Checklist to make sure you cover all logistics, expectations and goals needed for a successful mentorship and have them written down to avoid confusion in the future.
  • Since your interactions with the mentee will mainly be over phone and email, there are some good practices to keep in mind for more effective communication.

    • Listen actively and avoid interruptions.
    • Pay attention to subtle nuances in tone and pace of speech. It can give you some ideas of how your mentee feels about the subject.
    • Consider how you convey your messages. Without the clues of facial expression, your mentee can easily misinterpret what you say.
    • Check for understanding and reaction periodically during your meeting.
    • Ask your mentee to summarize agreements at the end of the meeting to ensure he/she fully understands the next step.

    When communicating via email, be aware that

  • Email is best for:
    • Suggesting or requesting meetings with your mentee.
    • Scheduling meetings and verifying plans.
    • Maintaining a sense of contact when one or both parties are finding it difficult to schedule a mutual time.
  • Email is not appropriate for:
    • Giving critical feedback.
    • Exchanging impressions on sensitive issues.
  • Following up between meetings will build a stronger bond between you and your mentee.
  • Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting when possible. Alternatively, arrange a meeting at an academic conference that both you and your mentee will be attending. Another option is to come to the informal social events hosted by the CDA Enhancements Initiative program at professional meetings.
  • Video chat like Skype and Google Hangouts allow for a more personal connection.
  • Email each other to check in and share news. Share articles, resources, and ideas relevant to the relationship and work plan. A spontaneous email can serve as a pleasant reminder that you are committed to this relationship and happy with the way it's going.