Home Case Studies Health Care Sector When Coaching Physicians with Wellness, Don’t Always Lead with Mindfulness

When Coaching Physicians with Wellness, Don’t Always Lead with Mindfulness

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Times of great change and transformation usually cause people to reflect on their careers and on work- life balance and evaluate what brings meaning and joy to their day. After the great recession, I realized that I wanted to contribute to the business world to grow leaders into meaningful and rewarding careers, and purposely changed my career path to achieve that. When the COVID-19 pandemic reaches a manageable state, I believe that healthcare providers and physicians more specifically, will begin to review their place in the healthcare ecosystem and explore what brings them meaning and purpose. We may experience an exodus of clinicians from healthcare, or at least a restructure of roles in the medical center or physician practice.

Over the past years, physicians have been forced to change the way they interact with patients, embracing new laws, new compliance expectations, electronic medical records, and an ever-changing insurance reimbursement landscape. Academic physicians and those in teaching hospitals may also have the expectation to provide clinical education or contributions to research to maintain a clinical appointment or obtain a higher faculty status.

If one chooses the physician leader track, additional responsibilities may be added, such as:

* Translating institutional expectations to an already taxed physician population

* Managing shrinking budgets and clinical space

* Sustaining patient pipelines and ongoing expected revenue

* Mediating behavioral issues and improving quality standards

And frequently physician leaders are given no training for the new skills they will need to lead people and organizational strategy.

Get the picture? Think about the younger generation of physicians who are spending their evenings documenting patient records and answering emails while spending time with their families and raising their children. Work has taken over what we call “pajama time”, and there is no time left to rest, recover, and rejuvenate. Add now the stress of our COVID pandemic, and we have a recipe for a public health crisis among physicians.

Physicians, who became doctors to focus on healing, caring, and improving people’s lives, are mired in tasks that take them away from their own healing and care, and from the reason they entered the profession in the first place.

How can we help?

Enter coaching. Several recent studies of the effect of coaching on physician wellness have shown promising results. One such study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2019 is based on a clinical trial conducted at the Mayo Clinic. In it, the coaching of 44 out of 88 identified physicians over 6 months reduced absolute rates of emotional exhaustion by 29.3% over the control group and reduced absolute rates of burnout by 22% over the control group. This same study found that compared to two other common support interventions, mentoring and peer support: “Coaching…involves inquiry, encouragement, and accountability to increase self-awareness, motivation, and the capacity to take effective action… We hypothesized that professional coaching would result in measurable improvements in well-being, job satisfaction, resilience, and fulfillment in physicians and measurable reductions in burnout.”

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