The formal roles of educational and clinical supervisor focus on education planning and goal setting against required training elements. Assessment of performance is integral to these roles that necessarily involve some elements of developmental support to trainees. Mentoring is increasingly seen as a desirable route to support doctors in training. Definitions vary, but core expectations of mentors are that they encourage personal development and offer psychosocial support to a trainee within a longitudinal relationship. A key question is whether a supervisor is the appropriate individual to act as a mentor to an individual trainee. The supervisor's role as an assessor of performance can pose challenges and potential conflicts when providing support relating to other personal needs of trainees along their career paths. It is apparent from the literature that mentoring is a multifaceted role, with different actions required of mentors and supervisors. There is evidence that mentorship can affect specialty choice, academic output and commitment to organisations. Addressing the challenges posed by an ideal of providing mentoring to all trainees is potentially as important as ensuring supervisors of competence. The potential benefits for the profession are of enhancing the development and retention of trainees of high calibre within the paediatric discipline.