Could professional coaches help radiologists battle burnout?

Physician burnout continues to be a problem in the United States, and numerous studies have highlighted its impact on radiologists. According to new findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine, professional coaching could help alleviate burnout among physicians and lead to better overall patient care.

Led by Liselotte Dyrbye, MD, and Colin West, MD, both from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the researchers examined how external professional coaches impacted a group of 88 practicing physicians.

“Helping physicians navigate career decisions and manage the stress of their job is crucial,” Dyrbye said in a prepared statement. “While many of these doctors have a good informal support system, professional coaches can address a variety of topics and needs, and provide a safe setting to admit perceived vulnerabilities and uncertainties. We really think it can improve physicians' ability to manage their careers and change the detrimental aspects of their work environments, so that ultimately they can do their job well without feeling overwhelmed.”

The study occurred from Oct. 9, 2017, to March 27, 2018. Participating physicians were split into two groups—a coaching group and a control group—using a computer-generated algorithm. The coaching group received a one-hour professional coaching session and five 30-minute sessions every two or three weeks. Coaches were identified and provided by “an established international professional coaching company with experience coaching physicians.”

Surveys were completed by all participants—even those who did not receive the coaching—before and after the coaching sessions. While overall burnout decreased by 17.1% in the coaching group, it increased by 4.9% in the control group, a sign the researchers said that the sessions made a legitimate impact.

“This study suggests that individual or institutional investment in professional coaching may be one useful approach to supporting the professional workforce,” the authors wrote. “Professional coaching is widely used in industries outside of medicine and has been demonstrated in studies of other professionals to enhance leadership and managerial and interpersonal skills and to foster personal growth.”