In an earlier article, we explored the rapidly expanding world of physician coaching, what coaching is exactly and its value for medical career development and professional satisfaction today. The coaches I interviewed for that piece are a diverse group. Some are life coaches, others are executive or peer coaches. Some coach broadly, others occupy a highly specialized niche. What physician coaches all have in common, however, is a desire to work with other physicians aiming to clarify and move toward their goals, both professional and personal.
Here let’s take a closer look at some of the specific roles physician coaches can play in order to give you a better idea of when establishing a coaching relationship may benefit you.
1. Development of Technical or Leadership Skills
Like a good athletic coach, all physician coaches focus on skill development in one arena or another. Sometimes the skills are technical, at other times cognitive, interpersonal or emotional.
As reported by the American College of Surgeons, coaches may support peers in acquisition of new procedural skills or refinement of surgical technique. Coaches from the Society for Education in Anesthesia support colleagues in development of workshops and other educational presentations. Similarly, physician executive coaches may assist physicians aiming to develop leadership capacity and advance professionally in that domain.
In every instance, the physician coach functions to help the physician coachee illuminate the gap that lies between where they currently are and where they would like to be, identify the steps required to move from point A to point B and take those steps. Who will make the best coach depends, of course, on what the concern at hand is and where the coachee wants to go.
2. Assistance in Relieving Burnout
Not surprisingly, an entire branch of physician coaching has sprung up to assist physicians confronting the widespread phenomenon of burnout. These coaches recognize that “burnout” is not innate to the physician experiencing it but rather is inherent to the interface between individual physicians and the circumstances in which they find themselves living and practicing. While not all circumstances can be changed, these coaches specialize in helping physicians find those things that can and leverage them to their advantage. With time and hard work, efforts like these can truly pay off for decades to come, both in terms of professional longevity and life satisfaction.
Where burnout can often leave physicians feeling detached and lacking in energy, work with a coach to reflect, to redefine professional and personal goals and to move toward living in alignment with those priorities can restore a sense of joy in the practice of one’s art. As Gabe Charbonneau, MD, founder of FightBurnout.org, recently declared on Twitter, “The problem with thinking wellness is the antidote to burnout is that that’s fundamentally a mistake. The opposite of burnout is not wellness … it’s professional fulfillment.”
3. Guidance Through Negotiations
Many physicians feel woefully unprepared when it comes to engaging in negotiations, be they business negotiations on behalf of their practice or salary and contract negotiations with a partner or employer. Women physicians, commonly saddled with the realities of gender-based pay disparity and lack of recognition for promotion, often feel this doubly. Having frequently received less education in the course of their upbringing concerning how to negotiate and frequently aware of cultural messages suggesting that self-advocacy is unattractive in women, they may feel at a particular loss. If you are struggling with assessing the monetary value of your work and advocating for yourself with confidence, consider hiring a coach who makes these processes their specialty.
4. Support During Malpractice Litigation and Adverse Outcomes
Some of the challenges we encounter in the course of our daily work are nearly unique to us. Among these are medical malpractice lawsuits (and the fear and post-traumatic stress they often produce) and the spectrum of emotions and self-doubt that frequently accompany unexpected, unfortunate patient outcomes.
As a coach who specializes in this niche, I have learned that it can be difficult for physicians to find a non-physician professional who understands the complexities and depths of meaning inherent to these experiences for physicians. In the right context, the support of a coach working in this highly specialized niche can be enormously helpful.
Like all physician coaches, they will provide information, support you in self-reflection, promote identification of the goals and priorities that will serve your well-being in the long run and be there for you as you move toward those goals, step by step.