Stressed Doctor

Long shifts, high patient loads, critical work, little appreciation, and feelings of being ineffective. Those are descriptors of medical professionals worldwide today. Medical professionals are burned out.

Definition by the World Health Organization:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Having negative feelings, cynicism towards their work
  • Lacking efficacy in their work

Symptoms of burnout are nearly twice as common among physicians than among US workers in other fields. A Washington Post survey reports 62% of healthcare workers to suffer from burnout.


If you are in a position to significantly reduce burnout in the medical community, would you do it? Let me help you with some data.


A randomized study published in 2019 in JAMA, documented the success of individualized coaching as one method to reduce burnout in the physician community.


The numbers are in brief. The physicians receiving coaching at the fifth-month mark showed a decrease in emotional exhaustion by 19.5% while the control group showed an increase by 9.8%. That is a difference of 28.3%. The absolute burnout rate decreased by 17.1% in the intervention group and increased by 4.9% in the control group. That is a difference of 22%.


What was the intervention? Six individual coaching sessions, one 1-hour session followed by five 30-minute sessions at intervals of 2-3 weeks. A total of 3.5 hours of coaching costing approximately $1400.


This study was conducted prior to the COVID pandemic. How do you think the burnout rates have changed over the past 2-years?


What are the costs of burnout? I will start with a list you can add or subtract from based on your personal experience. I recommend you estimate a price tag of burnout for your organization. You could do this for a small team or an entire health care facility.


Effects of Burnout                   Cost

  • Turnover                         5-1.2x annual salary of individual being replaced
  • Medical errors
  • Absenteeism
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Family conflict
  • Workforce wellness


There are a number of interventions to address burnout starting at system-wide interventions and ranging to individual facilities, small teams, individual leaders, and individuals affected. Coaching is one intervention that has been proven effective and worthy of consideration.


Coaching Considerations

There are several coaching interventions worth consideration. They are individuals which is one-on-one coaching. One coach per individual to work one-on-one with that individual. Group coaching is coaching individuals in a cohort format. Each individual is working on their individual goals. The last is team coaching, coaching the team towards its goals.


Individual coaching one-on-one with the individual affected has been proven to be effective. The top consideration for individual coaching should be with direct supervisors. Why? Because supervisors set the culture and work conditions of health care workers and directly control many drivers of burnout:

  • Workload
  • Control
  • Rewards
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Values

Intervention at this level has the greatest potential for direct impact


Group coaching could allow an organization to save significant expenses by bringing a cohort of six to twelve individuals together for coaching. This could be for direct supervisors, executives, team leaders, or individuals on the line most affected by burnout. A positive secondary effect of group coaching is the bonding and cohort mentality that is formed. It has the potential to break down barriers and build cohesion within the organization.


Team Coaching is an intervention with the team as the client and team performance as the metric. The coaching focuses on team objectives, structure, support, and team norms. Working with the team on the before mentioned areas can directly reduce the negative effects of the seven drivers within the team.



Create a pilot program to implement the coaching intervention with the potential for the greatest impact in your area of responsibility. That may be individual coaching for yourself, team members, or the whole team. Group coaching for a selected cohort or team coaching for the team.


Gather some data and set metrics to measure. Gauge the level of burnout you and your team are dealing with as one of your starting metrics. Determine other metrics to measure your return on investment. Think, workforce wellness, medical errors, job satisfaction, patient outcome, absenteeism. Put the intervention to the test with a small contingent that makes sense for 4-6 months and measures your results.


Cost considerations

Think of your professional development budget for courses, continuing education, conferences, and travel. Bring into your calculation hours away from the workplace and travel. Coaching is a low-impact intervention. In-person events can be arranged at your site. With current technology, virtual coaching has become the norm. It is even possible to make time for members of your workforce to be coached during a workday while on a shift. As an intervention, it is highly flexible and customizable to the needs of every organization and individual.


What would be the impact on you and your organization if you were able to reduce burnout by 20 percent?