In the medical field, several opportunities for coaching exist. Coaching can help patients overcome the burden of their illness, which could be physical, mental, or financial. Coaching can benefit doctors, nurses, and other staff to cope with the pressures of their job. Caregivers too can benefit from coaching.

How can doctors add Coaching to their repertoire? Is it time to include coaching in the medical ecosystem? The following talk by expert coaches and domain experts from Health and Nutrition space highlights the role of Coaching in the Medical Field

Venkatadri Ranganathan is the COO, Nutritional Science Business, Tata Chemicals Ltd. MCC (ICF). He has worked for over 30 years across various roles in Hindustan Unilever, Tata chemicals, and Rallis India. Venkatadri is a Mechanical Engineer and PGDM from IIM Lucknow. He is on various committees and advisory boards in CII, IMC, BCCI, CSIR, and Welingkar Management Institute. 

Dr. Prithika Chary is a senior Consultant Neurologist and Neurosurgeon, Kauvery Hospital. She had been practicing neurology since 1978. The first and only lady in India to be qualified and practice as both a Neurologist and Neurosurgeon. She initiated comprehensive services for epilepsy in Chennai by starting EPICENTER ( Epilepsy Institute of Centre for Treatment, Training, Research & Education). An NLP Practitioner, life and brain health coach, Dr. Prithika Chary, empowers and enables girls, women, and the economically underprivileged. 

Rosarii Mannion is the Global Board Director of the International Coaching Federation. She is a national HR Director, a strategic consulting Partner with global organizations. She aims at maximizing organizational performance, staff engagement and promotes coaching. She has won awards – ICF Ireland Business/ Executive coach of the year and the Legal Island HR Leader of the Year. The chartered Fellow, CIPD, a qualified Mediator, Executive and Conflict Coach, she holds a BA, HDip, MA, and MSc, currently serving as Treasurer on the Professional Coaches Board, ICF

Traditionally, Coaching has been effectively used in executive coaching. The nursing staff at hospitals have a lot of disturbing scenes such as injuries, accidents, and even deaths. Particularly during the times of covid, they have seen a lot of unnatural, unusual happenings. Nobody knows what would happen and at what moment. A patient may easily get into depression which could worsen the condition. The nursing staff is the witness to all of it. The greatest challenge for them is to remain mentally balanced and provide assurance to patients, both together at the same time. Coaching is the best way to resolve the mental issues of the doctors/nurses and help them build hope within the patients.

Need for coaching in health care

Dr. Prithika Chary believed coaching was an important and integral part of health care, long before it professionally became necessary in organizations. Our likes, preferences, and needs of life indeed are dynamic. The evolution of these needs is part of growth, support, and guidance. Coaching, in my opinion, provides all of these.

The goals of coaching in healthcare are aimed at clinical outcomes, quality of life for patients and doctors, integration of work and life, enhancements in personal and professional achievements. 

The industry of healthcare is very complex and fast-growing with the advancement in technologies. It is uncertain. Each individual is responsible and accountable. 

The doctors are involved in the management of the problem, treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, and serving society which is an important aspect of the healthcare industry. While the journey seems adventurous, the challenges involved bring complexity. 

The doctors are taught to be autonomous. They cannot wait for others to guide them in times of emergency. They have to make conscious decisions on the spot and get it right every time. A wrong decision can cause loss of life. The staff at hospitals go through a lot of stress, anxiety, mental trauma while they handle patients and their personal lives. A good health and wellness coach according to Dr. Chary is a healthcare professional, who is trained in behavior change, motivational strategies, and communication techniques. 

In my limited interactions with the Medical fraternity, I have surmised that some of the staff do not wish to undergo coaching, due to the feeling of knowing everything. The concept of Coaching staff/doctors etc. is not well accepted because the medical field is more tilted towards subject matter expertise and clinical practice. Coaching only helps in becoming better individually. Therefore, the doctors’ community must not resist coaching. It is the suggestion which the speakers provide, to which I equally resonate. 

Dr. Rosarii Mannion believes, “Our health Service are equal to Human Services  – provided by PEOPLE, for PEOPLE with PEOPLE. This must reflect in the society we serve”.

Coaching is an aligned intervention for doctors and patients. Coaching is immensely valuable for healthcare professionals, organizations and service users. There is substantial evidence that proves if coaching is done in the right manner, the same is reflected onto the patients and even the mortality rate.

A real-life example – How Coaching bridges the gap

The session then got redirected to personal examples and anecdotes from the lives of speakers. When they say a picture speaks a thousand words, then imagine how much can a real-life anecdote communicate, because a story paints thousands of beautiful pictures. So, allow me to share one such anecdote from the life of Mr. Muthu. 

Mr. Muthu has diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia. Despite seeing Dr. James five times a year, he was confused about his six prescriptions and was not making any progress. Dr. James then introduces him to Marry, a health coach. She worked with Mr. Muthu on his life goals, lifestyle, time management, and empowerment. Marry helped build knowledge, skills, tools, and confidence to be an active participant in his care. 

Coaching intervention can help in moving from old power to renew power

Miss. Rosarii feels because of the generational shift, there will be more of Gen Z coming into the workforce. They have been raised in the era of “New Power” who will be open for coaching. They are progressive, they want to support, engage and perform to the best of their abilities. The picture below describes the attitude of new generations. 

Health Coaching supports more Holistic Care

  • Makes participants more confident and assertive.
  • Allows patients, client services to negotiate better.
  • Supports better cultural and emotional intelligence.
  • Allowing the parties to actively participate as part of solution finding to health issues.
  • Foregoing ‘Transactional’ mindset to building positive and open relationships.

According to me, the following proverb beautifully sums up the role of coaching – “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. Coaching empowers people. It doesn’t directly give a solution, rather co-creates the solution. It builds, enhances the skills to deal with problems that arise in lives and take active ownership.

Creating the need for coaching in doctors

As I mentioned earlier as well, naturally, doctors are resistant and they do not wish to be coached. But Dr. Prithika opines that doctors undergo copious amounts of stress and they need stress management coaching. When coaching is incorporated as a part of healthcare training, doctors will be able to manage the challenges and strike a balance in work and life integration, when the end of the day brings satisfaction that they have enjoyed the work. 

She consciously points out a major threat to doctors – the patients suing in courts. She feels 90% of the cases against doctors are due to poor communication skills. In an attempt, she often takes communication skills coaching to doctors and medical students. Organizations must make sure that they provide the doctors with all that is required to manage their professional and personal lives. They have to move in at the right time and engage doctors to take up coaching.

How can coaching professionals help in empowering the patients?

There are coaching professionals who are actively involved in interacting and coaching the patients. This practice is prevalent but the patients do not completely believe in a person, who isn’t from medical background coaching them. Therefore, the coaching process must involve medical practitioners who may be senior nurses or knowledgeable pupils who have the authenticity and have gained the faith of the patients, if not the doctors themselves.

The coaching has to be done in a defined, continual process from prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, quality of life, and return to personal and professional efficiency. 

How can Executive Coaching be aligned with the needs of medical coaching

While coaching patients is one game, coaching executives and senior leaders/managers is a different ball game. Miss Rosarii assumes coaching in the Medicare field relates to stress, weight reduction, chronic conditions, whereas Executive coaching pertains to the empowerment of staff who have changing roles, performance enhancement, improved leadership abilities, social skills, etc. Since the relationships and outcomes are different in each case, the way of approach also needs to be different. The recipient of coaching in the medicare field is more accepting and directive. It’s not directional in the case of Executive Coaching. Anyone who wishes to implement coaching into medical organizations must check the certification and accreditation as given by ICF, so as to build trust and credibility in Coaching as a profession. 

Counseling vs Coaching – Recommendations to the coach

This question by a visitor intrigued me because I have seen the prominence of Counselling and Therapy in the healthcare field rather than ‘Pure and Classical Coaching’. The coach must concentrate on empowerment of the patients or medical staff, providing them with appropriate tools & techniques. As a certified coach, who has a code of ethics and has undergone training, no one must venture into areas where they are not properly qualified. It’s part of training, no one mixes counseling and coaching. A coach knows the needs of the client and serves in accordance.

In view of Dr. Prathika, the important way to approach the client is by Motivational Interview. Active listening is an important tool that needs focus in healthcare coaching. Both as a Medicare professional and Executive coach, patients need to be encouraged and empowered to be able to listen actively.