Coaching for primary care physician well-being: A randomized trial and follow-up analysis

J Occup Health Psychol. 2020 Oct;25(5):297-314. doi: 10.1037/ocp0000180. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are integral to the health of all people in the U.S. Many PCPs experience burnout, and declines in well-being. We conducted a randomized controlled trial of a six-session positive psychology-based coaching intervention to improve PCP personal and work-related well-being and decrease stress and burnout. Fifty-nine U.S.-based PCPs were randomized into a primary (n = 29) or a waitlisted control group (n = 30). Outcome measures were assessed preintervention, postintervention, and at three and six months post-intervention. Hypotheses 1a-1h were for a randomized controlled trial test of coaching on PCP burnout (a), stress (b), turnover intentions (c), work engagement (d), psychological capital (e), compassion (f), job self-efficacy (g), and job satisfaction (h). Results from 50 PCPs who completed coaching and follow-up assessments indicated significantly decreased burnout (H1a) and increased work engagement (H1d), psychological capital (H1e), and job satisfaction (H1h) for the primary group from pre- to postcoaching, compared to changes between comparable time points for the waitlisted group. Hypotheses 2a-2h were for stability of positive effects and were tested using follow-up data from participants in the primary and waitlisted groups combined. Results from 39 PCPs who completed the intervention and the six-month follow-up indicated that positive changes observed for H1a, H1d, H1e, and H1h were sustained during a six-month follow-up (supporting H2a, H2d, H2e, and H2h). Results indicate that coaching is a viable and effective intervention for PCPs in alleviating burnout and improving well-being. We recommend that employers implement coaching for PCPs alongside systemic changes to work factors driving PCP burnout. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Mentoring / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Personnel Turnover
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Work Engagement