How Physician Peer Coaching can Support an Optimistic Perspective and Well Being

Posted on July 22, 2021 by Michelle Mudge-Riley, DO, MHA, RDN

Updated July 22, 2021

Physicians-Prefer-colleagues-88Sometimes a physician needs to talk to someone who understands the unique work culture, responsibilities, opportunities and trade-offs of medicine and can help the physician move forward out of a difficult place of stress or confusion.

That person may be a peer coach. In fact, in a study published in JAMA Surgery, 88% of physicians indicated colleagues were their preferred sources of support1.

What is Physician Peer Coaching?

Coaching is not psychotherapy, it’s more about defining values, setting concrete goals in the here-and-now and going after them, while increasing personal and professional fulfillment. Coaching doesn’t look back and reflect on family systems or childhood problems—instead coaching is forward-facing and action-oriented. Peer coaches help physicians articulate their values and set goals, then act as accountability partners as clients pursue those goals. They also provide resources and information on personal and professional development.

A key strategy for the peer coach is helping a physician who may be stuck in a negative perspective discover and act on a set of alternative possibilities, possibilities that are more optimistic, hopeful and energizing.

While the physician’s external situation may not change radically, their perspective can shift from feeling trapped and without options to seeing where they have control and can effect change. Peer coaching can make the difference between a physician who feels helpless and one who sees a path to greater well being and personal fulfillment. In fact, our recent research shows physicians reported a 58% increase in self-reported well being after using peer coaching.

Listening, Guidance and Support

VITAL WorkLife’s peer coaching program connects physicians with trained coaches who are also physicians. Coaches offer empathic listening, guidance and support to reframe and work through problems, aiming to improve their well being in all dimensions—emotional, relational, professional, physical, spiritual, legal and financial.

Robert Leschke, MD, a peer coach with VITAL WorkLife, notes physicians who feel they have less and less control over their work might be stuck in the feeling they have no control over their professional careers at all. The coach might encourage them to look more closely at the things they do have control over. The goal is to help them let go of what really is beyond their control and focus on the areas where they can make a difference. The result can be a greater sense of optimism and hope. And, of course, gratitude to an organization willing to support its physicians in this significant way.

Learn more by downloading our White Paper and Article, below: 

  Download our White Paper Peer Coaching Impacts on Physician Well Being       Download our Article The Value of Peer Coaching and its Promising Benefits


Hu YY, Fix ML, Hevelone ND, Lipsitz SR, Greenberg CC, Weissman JS, Shapiro J. Physicians' needs in coping with emotional stressors: the case for peer support. Arch Surg. 2012;147(3):212-7.

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