Research Paper By Prianca Naik
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Coaching has become an up and coming hot topic in the field of medicine. Physician suicide and burnout rates are at an all-time high. Factor in the personal and professional aspect of the current pandemic and one can begin to understand the toll this might take on a physician’s well-being. Coaching is emerging as a modality to help physicians increase their happiness and reduce dissatisfaction.
Coaching brings attention to self-awareness, gives space from one’s thoughts and feelings, and allows clients to take control of their lives. Outside of their professional lives, doctors can work on themselves to achieve increased life satisfaction. New perspectives and examination of personal and professional values facilitate an increase in a physician’s sense of purpose and worth.
For a myriad of reasons, including a historical be tough and never call out sick culture, physicians are often reluctant to seek traditional mental health support. They need a more modern approach to educating and empowering themselves on how to move forward in their careers and at home. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a modality that some doctors seek out, although usually secretly.
In the difficult world of medicine, coaching can be of great benefit. Life coaching for physicians can provide streamlined support that helps doctors to create strategies and structures that will help them reach goals and increase life satisfaction.
Physicians show symptoms of burnout at a rate of double other careers.5. The consequences of burnout are detrimental to patient and physician safety, quality of care. “Burnout is characterized by a low sense of personal accomplishment, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and depersonalization.”3
Furthermore, physician burnout results in worse patient care, patient noncompliance, increased staff turnover, and worsening morale.3
The state of medicine includes worsening demands of the physician with reduced autonomy and workplace control. Medical culture is arduous and expects perfectionism and tirelessness. These expectations often fuel a perpetual inadequacy for doctors. Self-care and mental health are not particularly accepted in the medical field as a whole.
Physician burnout is multifactorial. Electronic medical records, administrative red tape, excessive workload, the complexity of care, and poor work-life balance all contribute towards burnout. Unfortunately, burnout leads to increased errors and suboptimal care. Physician unhappiness often ends in increased job turnover, reduced physician retention, early retirement, and interpersonal relationship difficulty.
Coaching is an effective tool to combat physician burnout:
Coaching is a specific approach that has been proposed to decrease physician burnout. Coaching can assist doctors in sorting out their personal and professional lives as well as making well thought out choices to give them stability and structure. Formal coaching has shown an improvement in physician retention, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, communication skills, and professional ability.6Professional coaching has been associated with improved retention, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, ability to manage complexity, and communication skills.
Coaching provides tools to challenge negative emotional patterns. Besides, coaches encourage clients to focus on understanding their own thoughts and feelings, creating distance from themselves and their mind along with mindfulness. Mindfulness allows people to focus on the present moment and not get caught up in the past of future journey of the mind. Coaches work with doctors to build on their strengths and come up with solutions for seemingly unsolvable problems. Co-creating action steps as well as providing accountability are critical in physician success.
A study published in JAMA in 2019 by the leading experts in physician wellness documented those coaching physicians improve the overall quality of life. This study examined the effect of 6 professional coaching sessions for 88 practicing physicians. Through surveys, they found that emotional exhaustion was decreased by 19.5% in 5 months.
Mindset shifting and taking ownership of thoughts and feelings as coaching tools can significantly benefit doctors. A study demonstrated that third-year medical students with positively primed emotions arrived at accurate diagnoses more efficiently and less disorganization than control subjects.2 Fredrickson and Losada concluded that “positivity can transform individuals for the better, making them healthier, more socially integrated, knowledgeable, effective and resilient.”2
Coaching provides an innovative process allowing physicians to maximize their personal and professional abilities while tackling their life challenges. Through coaching, physicians can begin to take control of their lives and take back power from external circumstances.
“Studies have indicated an inverse correlation between internal locus of control and burnout.”4Coaching strengthens personal and professional skills, including time management, productivity, goal achievement, and teamwork.
How to build a coaching culture in healthcare:
Professional coaching has been used in corporate businesses for a long time. It is now slowly making its way into the medical field. Incorporating coaching into continuing medical credits would incentivize physicians to prioritize their well-being. There are some coaching programs with which doctors can get such credit.
Adding coaching availability to residency training programs would introduce young doctors to the world of self-improvement, self-care, and thought management. Providing a coaching option in private practice as well would be an easy way to integrate it into medical practice. Hospitals could offer group coaching or seminars to physicians regularly along with medical staff meetings.
Coaching physicians is an emerging concept. Professional coaching for physicians can decrease the feeling of professional work burden, improve quality of life, and build inner strength. Improving physician burnout through coaching warrants further investigation to legitimize its use in improving physician and patient quality of life.
Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt TD, Gill PR, Satele DV, West CP. Effect of a Professional Coaching Intervention on the Well-being and Distress of Physicians: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med.2019;179(10):1406–1414. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2425
Fredrickson BL, Losada MF. Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. Am Psychol. 2005;60(7):678–86.
Gazelle, G., Liebschutz, J.M. &Riess, H. Physician Burnout: Coaching a Way Out. J GEN INTERN MED 30, 508–513 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-014-3144-y
Patel, Rikinkumar S et al. “A Review on Strategies to Manage Physician Burnout.” Cureus 11,6 e4805. 3 Jun. 2019, doi:10.7759/cureus.4805
Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014 [published correction appears in Mayo Clin Proc. 2016;91(2):276]. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(12):1600-1613. doi:1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.023
Thorn PM, Raj JM. A culture of coaching: achieving peak performance of individuals and teams in academic health centers. Acad Med. 2012;87(11):1482-1483. doi:1097/ACM.0b013e31826ce3bc