Physician coaching to enhance well-being: a qualitative analysis of a pilot intervention

Explore (NY). 2014 Nov-Dec;10(6):372-9. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2014.08.007. Epub 2014 Aug 22.


Context: Physicians in the United States increasingly confront stress, burnout, and other serious symptoms at an alarming level. As a result, there is growing public interest in the development of interventions that improve physician resiliency.

Objective: The aim of this study is to evaluate the perceived impact of Physician Well-being Coaching on physician stress and resiliency, as implemented in a major medical center.

Study design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 physician-participants, and three coaches of a Physician Well-being Coaching pilot focused on three main areas: life context, impacts of coaching, and coaching process.

Participants: Interviewees were physicians who completed between three and eight individual coaching sessions between October 2012 and May 2013 through the Physician Well-being Coaching pilot program.

Analysis: Qualitative content analysis of the 11 physician interviews and three coach interviews using Atlas.ti to generate patterns and themes.

Results: Physician Well-being Coaching helped participants increase resilience via skill and awareness development in the following three main areas: (1) boundary setting and prioritization, (2) self-compassion and self-care, and (3) self-awareness. These insights often led to behavior changes and were perceived by physicians to have indirect but positive impact on patient care.

Conclusions: Devaluing self-care while prioritizing the care of others may be a significant, but unnecessary, source of burnout for physicians. This study suggests that coaching can potentially help physicians alter this pattern through skill development and increased self-awareness. It also suggests that by strengthening physician self-care, coaching can help to positively impact patient care.

Keywords: Health coaching; physician burnout; resilience; stress management; wellness; work–life balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Awareness
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Empathy
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Self Care*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • United States