Physician Peer Coaching: Support Nobody Else Can Provide

Posted on June 6, 2014 by VITAL WorkLife

Updated June 5, 2020

 Peer Coaches Understand the Unique Challenges

Physicians face a variety of unique challenges in their professional and personal lives. A peer coach, someone who has also faced these challenges, can support a fellow physician, helping them to be happier and healthier. Here are a few practical ways physician peer coaching can help address common problems affecting physicians under stress.
Case Study 1: Considering a Career ChangeTwo doctors smiling_advocate_small

A physician considering leaving medical practice was referred to VITAL WorkLife physician peer coach Michelle Mudge-Riley, DO, MHA. He wasn’t sure he’d saved enough for retirement and wasn’t sure what he could do with his skill set. She said, “I didn’t try to talk him out of leaving medicine but listened to his concerns and frustrations about his demanding workload and personal challenges.”

Having had his issues heard, the physician was able to redesign his practice and call schedule in a way that left him more time to pursue other interests and achieve better work/life balance.

With a little coaching on communication skills, he was able to advocate more effectively for himself. By taking advantage of the financial planning resources available through VITAL WorkLife, he was able to create a retirement plan. By making physician peer coaching available to him, the organization was able to retain a talented and productive physician.

Case Study 2: Communication & Performance Issues

A physician was referred to VITAL WorkLife as part of a performance improvement plan. The physician felt she had been misunderstood by administration and some of the organization’s extenders. She was hurt and angry about being referred and needed a session or two with the peer coach to work through whether she wanted to work on the issues for which she’d been referred or look for employment elsewhere.

“In the end, it didn’t really matter who was right or wrong, it was important to focus on what she could learn from the situation and how she wanted to proceed,” says Mudge-Riley. “Ultimately, she decided she wanted to stay and was willing to try new things in terms of communication.”

It wasn’t an overnight solution, but things improved over time and both she and the organization are pleased with the results.

Case Study 3: Worried About a Lawsuit

A physician from a large healthcare organization was experiencing heightened levels of anxiety over a malpractice suit and wanted to talk to someone who had lived through the same experience.

The physician spoke to a VITAL WorkLife physician peer coach who listened to her problem and helped her “normalize” her emotions, educated her on what to expect in the litigation—and worked with her on a plan for self care. The doctor reported that she found this support very helpful and stated she would have been uncomfortable reaching out to a colleague at her place of employment.

Contact us to access your resources and get the support you need.

Additional reading about the benefits of Peer Coaching:

1 Entezami Pouya, Franzblau Lauren E., Chung Kevin C., “Mentorship in surgical training: a systematic review,” HAND, March 2012
2 Hoover, E.L. “Mentoring surgeons in private and academic practice,” Archives of Surgery, June 2005
3 Wasserstein AG, Quistberg DA, Shea JA, “Mentoring at the University of Pennsylvania: results of a faculty survey,” Journal of General Internal Medicine, February, 2007.

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