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Academic Coaching Catching on in Med Schools

More healthcare educators and administrators now want to create coaching programs than ever before, according to a Medical Education Online study.

The survey of medical schools found nearly all either have a coaching program (mostly introduced in the last five years) or are in the process of developing one.

Over 30 medical schools participating in the AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium were studied. The initiative aims to help change the medical educational model to address gaps in training and prepare doctors for newer healthcare practices.

Participants representing 32 medical schools in attendance at the AMA conference were surveyed by email about their undergraduate coaching programs. All schools taking part in the coaching conference had been previously chosen by the AMA to receive innovation grants to help them redesign their curriculum, introducing a much more flexible program.

The 19-item email asked about program demographics, coach characteristics, coach training, and program evaluation.

The survey saw a 100% response rate, with 53% already running a coaching program, and 44% currently developing one. 69% of those surveyed could correctly identify the description of coaching (the coach helps the student find a strategy by asking clarifying questions) to identify how their individual program worked. 82% of the already existing programs had been developed in the last five years.

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The most common identified programmatic goals included professional identity formation (80%), professionalism (76%), and academic performance (76%).

In 84% of cases, coaches did not formally assess students in any domain; 76% did not observe students clinically. A large majority of programs (88%) employed formal coach training.

The study said: “These results demonstrate that coaching is being used to improve performance, professionalism, and professional identity formation in UME. This sample of coaching programs informs the discussion of coaching in medical education as educators strive to implement effective coaching programs.”

Coaching in high-performance professions is an initiative that has gained some attention in recent years.

There is no global job description for coaches as such – many changes between teaching, advising, and feedback. In medical education, this often involves teaching technical skills, nontechnical skills, monitoring academic performance, and teaching around wellbeing.

All of the programs surveyed had multiple goals to help medical students improve, rather than a single focus.

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The study read: “Although this approach makes intuitive sense, literature to date has largely focused on coaching interventions with a singular goal.

“This finding has important implications for how institutions structure new coaching programs and select their coaches. For example, if a coaching program has multiple goals, coach-coachee dyads will need adequate time to address multiple goals and coaches will need to be well versed in multiple content areas.”

The study was co-written by Maya M. Hammoud, MD, MBA- the AMA’s special adviser on medical education innovation. She is also a professor of learning health sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School. Other co-writers on the study were Hammoud’s colleagues, Margeret Wolff, MD, MHPE; Sally Santer, MD PhD; and Megan Fix, MD; Nicole Deiorio, MD.

The authors recognized the study does not suggest one main approach to coaching in medical education, but it noted a great range of variables other schools can consider when developing their own programs.

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The authors noted that once program goals are determined, schools must take time to implement coaches and discuss the compensation they will receive.

It concluded: “Our findings from a geographically diverse US sample of medical schools suggests that coaching is increasing in medical education. The findings of coaching programs’ structure, focus, assessment, faculty development, and budget may help inform the development of other coaching programs.”