Executive/life coaching for first year medical students: a prospective study

BMC Med Educ. 2019 May 22;19(1):163. doi: 10.1186/s12909-019-1564-4.


Background: Student physicians are particularly prone to high rates of poor mental and physical quality of life, including depression, anxiety, and fatigue. We prospectively tested whether a structured, theory-based executive/life coaching program tailored to first year medical students in the United States was feasible, tolerable, and would be recommended by participants. Secondary goals included impact on coaching goals, resilience, and perceived stress.

Methods: This single-arm intervention study evaluated a program of two group and two private coaching sessions during the first year, second semester of the Georgetown University School of Medicine Class of 2019. Survey data (global and tailored questions, Connor-Davidson resilience scale, Friedricksson-Larsson stress question) were collected from participants at baseline and post-intervention.

Results: 37/40 students completed the intervention; 32 completed the pre-post surveys. Most (32/37) were willing to recommend the program (16/37 were very willing) and 29/37 recommended inclusion in the curriculum. Responses to tailored questions showed significant increases in self-efficacy regarding stress management (p < 0.001); increased awareness of thoughts about stress and management of those thoughts (p = 0.05). Reported improvements in time management (p = 0.10) and energy for relationships and school (p = 0.089) did not achieve significance. Global resilience rating was not different (p = 0.186), but significant changes were seen in control (p = 0.029) and spiritual influence (p = 0.005) factors. Although the Friedricksson-Larsson item was not significantly different (p = 0.242), 40.6% of participants reported decreased stress and 40.6% reported unchanged stress during this most challenging preclinical semester. Substantial ceiling effects were seen in study measures.

Conclusions: We showed that a tailored executive/life coaching program for first year medical students in the United States is feasible, tolerable, and safe; adherence was excellent. Global utility ratings and willingness to recommend coaching provide substantial support for efficacy. Better measures and larger-scale clinical trial designs are needed for formal proof.

Keywords: Coaching; Curriculum; Education, Medical; Evaluation studies; Executive coaching; Life coaching; Mentoring; Preclinical education; Resilience; Students, Medical.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Curriculum
  • District of Columbia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mentoring*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult