My Journey of Learning


Fall is my favorite time of year for many reasons; the cooler temperatures after the hot summers, the vibrant colors of the trees, Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) and maybe because it is my birthday but also because it always signifies back to school. I always looked forward to returning to school after the long drawn out summer (it seems with each passing year those summers are becoming shorter and shorter). I would anxiously look forward to back-to-school shopping, not for new clothes and shoes like my friends anticipated but rather back-to-school supplies. While my friends were searching for the perfect shoes and best-looking outfits I was gathering up my perfect pencils, notebooks, and folders. I suspect I drove my mother crazy trying to pick out the perfect folders and although she never mentioned it, I believe she was relieved when I was old enough to take myself back-to-school shopping.

I loved school; not just the social aspect as many peers looked forward to returning and hanging with friends, but rather because I loved to learn. I did not enjoy all subjects, science always baffled me and still does to this day, nor was I an A student. I just enjoy the journey of learning.

Becoming a mentor of new and potentially new CTRs has been a journey of learning for me and an incredibly enlightening experience. While I was under the impression that they would be learning from me; it is I who is learning from them!

What I am learning as a mentor:

I am learning patience, which I will admit is not a virtue of mine. Everyone learns at their own pace.  Just because I know that the grade for C809 is 9 without looking it up, my mentees do not always remember that. It is not second nature to them and I need patience as they absorb the information, learn to navigate the many manuals, and become acclimated to the many software applications. Fortunately for me, I have had the good fortune to work with individuals who give me clear clues when I need to slow down and exercise that patience.

We must be willing to keep up with technology. Mentoring students and potential CTRs in a remote setting opens up a vast universe of opportunities for us and provides a much larger pool of potential.  At Registry Partners we have had great success mentoring remotely. We use Go-to-Meeting, WebEx, Web Cams, conference calls and yes, sometimes, even fax. We also have an incredibly talented, patient and an all-around awesome group of IT specialists to guide us through any bumps along the way. Of course, success not only depends on the technology but also the skill of the mentor and the mentee’s motivation and drive.

It is a fact that the majority of the CTRs in the workforce today are baby boomers at or near retirement age. We need to bring in the younger generation and we need to not only be willing to teach them, mentor them and guide them along, but we need to make the time to mentor them. We cannot in good conscious hand them our manuals and instruct them to begin abstracting. Granted the majority of what we know is from the manuals and we have to be willing to read those manuals in order to do our jobs efficiently but with the advances in the cancer registry field today, simply reading is not going to cut it.

The most important thing I have learned mentoring is that I need to do a better job of giving praise in my feedback. As I provided feedback to a mentee I would point out what she did incorrectly and provide the reference or appropriate page number believing, in my own mind, that I was teaching her and she was learning from her errors. However unfortunately what she was hearing actually was a whole lot of negativity and the fact that she could not do anything correctly. I put myself in her shoes and realized how horrible I must have sounded! It has become my mission to always provide positive feedback.

I have learned so much from those that I am mentoring and I hope in return they have learned a bit from me as well. Obtaining our CTR certification is a tremendous accomplishment and I am proud to be invited on this journey of learning.

This article was written by Registry Partners Oncology Services Division Project Manager, Theresa Real, RHIT, CTR