If it’s one thing I wish I knew about when starting clinical practice, it’s professional coaching. As the first physician in my family, I learned to navigate our healthcare world mostly on my own. I graduated from an Ivy league college and medical school with the purest intentions to heal the sick. After completing my medical training at some of the best hospitals in the country, I felt very confident that I could help others with my knowledge and skills. After devoting over a decade of grueling training, I was excited to finally help people on my own!

Little did I know that my success in clinical medicine required more than just my fancy degrees and years of training. Shortly after practicing, I began to experience things that I was not prepared to handle on my own. Things like working under high productivity demands without necessary resources, convincing administrators to invest in these needed resources, managing conflict with colleagues who have different values, dealing with problematic office staff and sometimes a toxic office culture, navigating office politics, coping with poor management, and most importantly, overcoming gender bias. I was not prepared for the reality of clinical practice that involved much more complexities than diagnosing diseases and getting patients better.

After struggling in this environment for some time, I inevitably hit a low point. The added stressors beyond direct patient care were damaging my core. Not only did I not like the unhappy doctor I was becoming, I did not like the unhappy mother, wife, daughter, and friend I was becoming. More importantly, I didn’t like the option of leaving clinical medicine as the only cure to my personal struggles. I knew I needed to get help. But where? Who could I trustfully turn to? Who could I talk to in confidence that could help me with something like this? I felt incredibly vulnerable and hopeless.

Luckily, through a business course I took at a prestigious university near my home, I learned all about the benefits of Professional coaching. Professional coaching, long utilized in the business world, and only recently recognized as a useful tool for physicians (see recommended articles), helped me in more ways than I could ever imagine. My coach was brilliant, empathic, easy-to-talk to, incredibly positive and supportive, like the best friend we all need. She also had years of business world experience and was incredibly skilled at helping me strategize solutions to my clinical struggles rooted in business problems, not medical problems. Her help empowered me to have the leadership skills necessary to make positive changes in my workplace and my personal life that ultimately helped me stay in clinical practice. I also learned more about my personal strengths, my personal values, and my coach helped me address self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that were limiting my potential.

I do not work in a perfect clinic, I’m not the perfect doctor, and I am far from having a perfect life, but I can with 100% confidence say that my work environment, my doctoring, and my sense-of-self has significantly improved with professional coaching. I’m a more joyous person overall. I feel more capable of creating positive change. I feel more in control over living the life I dream.

I now wish for all my physician friends to connect with a professional coach!

Recommended articles about professional coaching:

Physician Burnout: Coaching a Way Out by Gazelle, et al. (J Gen Intern Med)

Effect of a Professional Coaching Intervention on the Well-being and Distress of Physicians by Dyrbye, et al. (JAMA)

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