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Coaching program linked to emotional benefits for female residents

July 1, 2022

Female residents who participated in a six-month group coaching program had lower scores on measures of emotional exhaustion and imposter syndrome and higher self-compassion scores than residents who did not take part in the program.

Burnout among physicians has been recognized as a crisis, but proposed solutions have had mixed results.

The authors of this study wanted to find out if group coaching could improve well-being among female residents, who are affected disproportionately by burnout. They piloted a web-based program led by two physicians who were certified as life coaches.

Female residents were recruited from the University of Colorado. Fifty were randomly assigned to the coaching program and 51 to the control group.

Coaching took place from January through June 2021. Participants could participate in two group video calls held weekly; a forum where they received written responses to requests for coaching; and/or self-study modules on topics such as goal setting, receiving critical feedback and imposter syndrome.

The primary outcome was burnout, which was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Secondary outcomes included imposter syndrome, self-compassion and moral injury, which were measured with various scales.

The mean age of participants was 29.4 years, and 80% were White. They were at various levels of training, and 19% were surgical residents.

Follow-up surveys were completed by 68% of the intervention group and 88% of the control group.

Compared to baseline, mean scores on the emotional exhaustion subscale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory were lower in the intervention group and higher in the control group. Both groups had higher mean scores on the depersonalization and professional accomplishment subscales, but the differences were not significant.

At the end of the program, mean scores on the imposter syndrome scale were significantly lower for the intervention group but were higher for the control group. Self-compassion scores also improved more in the intervention group. Both groups had lower moral injury scores, but the difference was not significant.

“Our findings are consistent with prior coaching studies that showed a positive effect in some but not all aspects of physician well-being and that support the theory that more than 1 intervention may be necessary to target multiple facets of well-being,” the authors concluded.

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