Physician Peer Coaching Success Story

Posted on February 21, 2024 by VITAL WorkLife

The surgeon was highly skilled, with two decades of experience. But one day, a procedure he’s conducted many times before resulted in serious complications. The bad outcome left him rattled and he began to second-guess everything he did. Every time he walked into the OR he felt an overwhelming sense of dread: “What if something goes wrong? What if I make the wrong decision, do the wrong thing?” He felt overstressed, overwhelmed, stuck.

Luckily, the surgeon worked for an organization that made peer coaching available for their physicians.


What Is Coaching?

Coaching is a one-on-one process in which the coach helps the client achieve success in his or her work and life. The profession’s major accrediting institution, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) characterizes coaching as “partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires a person to maximize their personal and professional potential.” It’s not therapy, which aims to heal deep-seated psychological pain, trauma or dysfunction. It’s a process based on the foundation that the client already possesses the skills and resources needed for success. One of a coach’s most important purposes is to bring those skills and resources back into the client’s awareness.

The surgeon chose to self-refer to Derek B. Johnson, MD, FACS, CEPC. Dr. Johnson who is one of a growing group of peer coaches who are also physicians, and whose clinical experience not only fosters trust, but creates efficiencies for physicians seeking help.

Making a Difference

Dr. Johnson, a surgeon himself, worked with his troubled colleague, pointing out that one complication in a 20-year career is actually a very positive record. The pair worked together to help the surgeon manage stress and give up the kind of catastrophic thinking that was holding him in thrall—to stop telling himself stories about his supposed inevitable failure.

As coaching went forward, colleagues noticed a positive difference in the surgeon’s demeanor. His wife noticed it too. As a result, a skilled physician’s confidence was restored and with it, 100 percent of his value to the organization.

For more on what peer coaching is, how it works and what it can mean for the health of a healthcare organization and its employees, read this article by Dr. Johnson, in which he speaks from his deep experience as a physician helping physicians.

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