How coaching could reduce burnout

August 22, 2019

It’s one of the biggest problems facing the medical field and has an economic impact of roughly $4.6 billion each year. However, tackling physician burnout can feel like a gargantuan task. A recent study examines whether coaching can help tackle the task.

It’s one of the biggest problems facing the medical field and has an economic impact of roughly $4.6 billion each year. However, tackling physician burnout can feel like a gargantuan task. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine examines whether coaching can help tackle the task.

Researchers ran a pilot randomized clinical trial that included 88 practicing physicians, covering medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. The physicians attended individualized coaching sessions that were conducted between October 9, 2017 and March 27, 2018. There were 48 female participants and 40 male participants. Coaching occurred at Mayo Clinic sites in Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Participants in the intervention group attended 6 coaching sessions over the course of 6 months.

Following 6 months of coaching, emotional exhaustion had decreased an average of 5.2 points in the group that received coaching, but the control group saw an average increase of 1.5 points (P < .001). Looking at the absolute rates of high emotional exhaustion at 5 months, the intervention group decreased by 19.5% whereas the control group saw an increase of 9.8% (P < .001). Absolute rates of overall burnout at 5 months also saw a decrease of 17.1% in the intervention group and an increase in the control group of 4.9%. Quality of life and resilience scores saw large increases in the intervention group versus very small increases in the control group. Depersonalization, engagement, meaning in work, or job satisfaction showed no significant difference between the 2 groups.

The researchers concluded that professional coaching could be an effective way to help some physicians tackle emotional exhaustion and professional burnout.