Coaching for Faculty: The Secret to Unlocking Professional Success

coaching for academic faculty unlock professional success

Dr. Garcia is a freshly minted faculty member at Big Name University Medical Center. She’s excited to have finally finished residency and dive into her career as a full time (and fully paid) attending. After spending her first year acclimating to the new department and achieving board certification, Dr. Garcia finds herself at a bit of a crossroad. She likes teaching, but are not sure residency or medical student education leadership is for her. The same goes for clinical operations and research – interesting, but there hasn’t been any “a ha” moment to illuminate her calling. She heard that “saying yes” to opportunities is important, but after a year of “saying yes,” Dr. Garcia feels swamped: she is serving on the residency clinical competency committee, a department committee for managing boarding, and collaborating on a departmental research initiative. Despite this, she receives no salary support to lower her clinical time, and is starting to feel like there is no real forward progress in her career.

It ain’t easy being an attending

Attending life has its challenges.

New residency graduates suddenly have to adjust to the daunting responsibility of independent practice and meeting clinical performance metrics. Those who take the academic route face unclear promotion expectations, uncertainty about their niche, and a double-whammy of high clinical burden and a tacit expectation that you “prove” your worth as a teacher by taking on more tasks before being rewarded with salary support. Senior faculty face entirely different challenges; once-sharp clinical skills may have dulled over time, or the academic career hits a dead end – be it through stagnation, boredom, or waning interests. And as study after study tells us, everyone is susceptible to burnout. It should be no surprise that academic clinical educators are at high risk for burnout, stalled career advancement, and abandonment of academic medicine altogether [1, 2].

Systemic changes are undoubtedly needed for these system-wide issues. But what can Dr. Garcia – or you – do? Well, instead of passively waiting for Godot, you can seize the initiative and bend the arc of your career into alignment with your values, strengths, and passions, and, by extension, toward fulfillment. And that’s exactly the purpose of a coach.

A coach? Aren’t they for learners, or leaders, or long-jumpers?

Yes… and also for faculty just like you. Each of those groups has their own flavor of coaching (academic, executive/leadership, and performance, respectively). But in your case, professional development coaching might be just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s start with the obligatory definition of coaching. The International Coaching Federation defines a coach as partnering with clients:

“…in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”

Personally, I like keeping it simple:

When you’re stuck in life, a coach is a great tool to help you get unstuck.

By working in partnership with you, they ask thought-provoking reflective questions; help you discover your core values and develop valuable personal insights; guide you to creating authentic and actionable goals; and help you be accountable to achieving those goals. This Journal of Graduate Medical Education article “Choosing When to Advise, Coach, or Mentor” [PDF] provides a succinct review [3].

But isn’t coach just another name for “mentor?”

In short, no.

Mentorship can be incredibly beneficial to one’s career, and many mentors use coaching skills while guiding their mentees. But mentorship differs from coaching in a number of ways.

Mentors are typically senior, have shared expertise in a content domain, and serve as a font of knowledge for their benefit. Unfortunately, evidence shows that many, if not most, faculty struggle to find, receive, or maintain satisfactory mentorship [4, 5].  What’s more, what happens when you’re more established? When you’re advanced in your career, correct answers are less clear, and there might not be any senior mentor to guide your hand.

Coaching, by comparison, starts from the premise that you are the world’s foremost expert on your own life, and that within you lies all the creativity and resourcefulness to overcome any challenge. Sometimes, though, we can’t see the forest from the trees. A coach helps you gain insight and illuminate the obstacles in your way. Once your perspective is clear, you can create a plan to succeed. A coach, then, acts as a partner (not a guide), helping you think, reflect, and act. Figure 1 is a helpful idea of how a coaching partnership will look, but the key difference from mentorship is that you are the source of all insight and action, not the coach.

coaching analysis flowchart

Figure 1: The Coaching Partnership

Clearly there can be overlap between these important academic relationships, but, at its core, coaching is distinguished by: [3, 6]

  1. Being driven by an agentic coachee that is ultimately responsible for choosing to take action
  2. Not requiring the coach to be in the same field as the coachee
  3. Not being centered around transfer of expertise from a more knowledgeable or experienced party to the recipient

So what should coaching be used for?

The most supportive data for coaching in medicine is for physician wellness and mitigating burnout [7]. Beyond that, evidence suggests that coaching is positively associated with:

  • Achievement of professional goals and personal empowerment [8]
  • Self-confidence [9]
  • Stress management [9]
  • Reflective capacity for interpersonal interactions [9]
  • Better teaching skill transfer [10]
  • Teacher identity development [10]
  • Better learning environment [10]
  • Faculty academic productivity [11]

The breadth of associated outcomes here show the multifunctional and flexible nature of coaching. When you’re stuck, a coach is a great way to help you get unstuck.

What should I look for in a coach?

Before jumping into details, it’s important to share 2 important and interrelated points.

  1. The bedrock that undergirds the work of coaching is the relationship between the coach and coachee. Thus, think of a finding a coach as akin to finding a partner. You wouldn’t settle down with the first person you go on a date with, right? Seek out multiple coaches, talk about your needs with them, and see which one is the best fit for you specifically. Similarly, successful coaching requires you, as the coachee, to feel psychologically safe with your coach. Internal coaches may be free and easy to access, but you may not feel comfortable being truly vulnerable with someone at your institution or, worse, to whom you report. Conversely, external coaches may provide complete anonymity and psychological safety, but they will require some kind of financial remuneration – be it from you, your CME funds, or your department/institution.
  2. There is very little regulation in the coaching world. You, after reading this article, could think this coaching thing sounds swell and launch a business tomorrow calling yourself a coach. In order to make sure you’re working with someone who has received specialized training or has sufficient coaching experience, ask for a certificate from a training program and/or accreditation by one of the governing bodies of coaching, like the International Coaching Federation or Center for Credentialing and Education.

The following table provides a brief guide of the responsibilities that can also help guide your search for a prospective coach:

Communication StrategyPose probative, open-ended questions to build professional rapport and stimulate coachee reflection.Provide answers stemming from open, genuine, vulnerable self-reflection.
Goal SettingEncourage effective coachee goal-setting practices (e.g., SMART, WOOP).Assume responsibility for crafting and monitoring progress on their own goals.
OwnershipKeep the coachee at the center of the experience, striving to help them arrive at their own answers whenever possible.Acknowledge ownership and control over the quality and outcome of the experience
MindsetPositive psychology:

  • Provide nonjudgmental empathy
  • Encourage learners to identify and engage in their strengths
  • View coachee with positive regard

Acknowledge when an issue is outside of their skillset (and recommend appropriate assistance).

Continuously strive to be more self-aware and accountable.

Be open to new advice, suggestions, or input that may not immediately align with existing perspectives.

Reframe struggle as an indicator of growth and not failure.

  • No conflict of interest between parties (e.g., assessment, advancement, allocation of resources)
  • Open, honest, respectful communication
  • Meeting punctuality and responsiveness to communication
  • Commitment to tasks that are collectively agreed upon during sessions
  • Maintenance of confidentiality

Ok, I’ll bite. How do I go find a coach?

Because coaching is still in an “early adoption” phase within medicine, you’ll have to be proactive to find a suitable coach. This short Journal of Graduate Medical Education article, Coaching for Clinician Educators [PDF] covers how to prepare for, find, and succeed with a coach [12]. Full disclosure: I am one of the authors, so take my recommendation under advisement!

With that aside, here are some general tips for finding a coach:

  1. Look internally: Many institutions are starting internal coaching programs. Ask around within your department to see if this is an option.
  2. Contact a coach training programs: There are numerous coaching programs that train professional coaches, possibly even at your home institution. Coach trainees are required to accrue many hours of practice, and often do so at a discount from market rates. This could be an excellent way to have a coach outside of your immediate orbit, but also not have to pay a significant amount.
  3. Look online: A casual internet search will connect you to any number of coaches. You can seek coaches who are emergency physicians, physicians of other specialties, or have no affiliation or background within healthcare. The more you look, the more options you’ll find.
  4. Ask around: Some of your colleagues may have used a coach, know a coach, or are themselves a coach, without you ever knowing.
  5. Remember your CME stipend: Check with your institution, but in most instances coaching is an acceptable form of CME or professional developmet expenditure.

The Takeaway

Coaching is one of many tools at your disposal to unlocking success in your career. It’s especially useful when you’re stuck, be it through gaining a new perspective, making a hard choice, or breaking the paralysis of analysis. Give it a try and see if it can help you!


  1. Chapman AB, Guay-Woodford LM. Nurturing passion in a time of academic climate change: the modern-day challenge of junior faculty development. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2008;3(6):1878-1883. PMID 18945997
  2. Elster MJ, O’Sullivan PS, Muller-Juge V, et al. Does being a coach benefit clinician-educators? A mixed methods study of faculty self-efficacy, job satisfaction and burnout. Perspect Med Educ. 2022; 11(1):45-52. PMID 34406613
  3. Marcdante K, Simpson D. Choosing When to Advise, Coach, or Mentor. J Grad Med Educ. 2018; 10(2):227-228. PMID 29686766
  4. Jordan J, Coates WC, Clarke S, et al. The Uphill Battle of Performing Education Scholarship: Barriers Educators and Education Researchers Face. West J Emerg Med. 2018 May;19(3):619-629. PMID 29760865
  5. Bentley S, Stapleton SN, Moschella PC, et al. Barriers and Solutions to Advancing Emergency Medicine Simulation-based Research: A Call to Action. AEM Educ Train. 2019 Nov 27;4(Suppl 1):S130-S139. PMID 32072117
  6. Wolff M, Deiorio NM, Juve AM, et al. Beyond advising and mentoring: Competencies for coaching in medical education. Med Teach. 2021; 43(10):1210-1213. PMID 34314291
  7. Boet S, Etherington C, Dion PM, et al. Impact of coaching on physician wellness: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2023 Feb 7;18(2):e0281406. PMID 36749760
  8. Pearce MJ. Professional Development Coaching for Health Professions Graduate Faculty: A Pilot Implementation. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2022; 42(4):291-293. PMID 34966110
  9. McKnight R, Papanagnou D. Coaching junior faculty for the uncertainties of academic professional practice. Int J Med Educ. 2021;12:179-180. PMID 34592715
  10. Bajwa NM, De Grasset J, Audétat MC, et al. Training junior faculty to become clinical teachers: The value of personalized coaching. Med Teach. 2020; 42(6):663-672. PMID 32130055
  11. Schulte EE, Alderman E, Feldman J, et al. Using the “Coach Approach”: A Novel Peer Mentorship Program for Pediatric Faculty. Acad Pediatr. 2022;22(7):1257-1259. PMID 35381378
  12. Branzetti J, Love LM, Schulte EE. Coaching for Clinician Educators. J Grad Med Educ. 2023;15(2):261-262. PMID 37139204

Disclaimer: The author, Dr. Jeremy Branzetti, is the founder of Academic Educator Coaching and is a certified professional coach.

20 Tips for Career Success and Longevity in Emergency Medicine

career success and longevity in emergency medicine EM
Photo by Snapwire on

The practice of emergency medicine (EM) is consistently challenging. At any given moment during a shift, emergency physicians are responsible for making numerous decisions about multiple patients. Many of these decisions are time-sensitive, some a matter of life or death. Physical, intellectual, and spiritual fatigue can set in during or after a shift. Our consultants, clinic physicians, or hospital administrators rarely understand the roller coaster we ride. Out of necessity, those of us practicing EM look for ways to navigate the peaks and valleys that make up the natural rhythm of the emergency department.

I was recently celebrated for more than 30 years practicing EM in the same ED. Following this virtual luncheon, one of my talented new colleagues (David Cisewski, MD) asked me to share my secrets for longevity and career success. I figured others might be interested as well, so I crystalized 20 tips for emergency physicians (and perhaps all physicians) looking to achieve more joy, professional satisfaction, and wellness throughout their careers. I’ve separated them into 3 categories: Attention to Self, Mastery of Skills, and Finding Joy and Purpose.

Attention to Self

  1. Change your attitude from “woe is me” to “WOW is me” (Pearls from the Practice of Life). Dr. Peter Rosen used to say “Nobody woke up this morning and decided to ruin your day. Don’t get angry at your patients… Happiness is your choice.”
  2. Be positive whenever possible. Bring a positive attitude to the ED every shift. Start each day (or at least each shift) by asking yourself “Will I make war or peace with this day?”
  3. Nurture your health. Focus on and improve your diet, exercise, sleep, and spiritual wellness. Avoid drugs, tobacco, alcohol, energy supplements, and soporifics. Protect your time off, and schedule time for activities such as reading or exercise. Make time to connect with family and friends, as social isolation and loneliness put your health at risk. Some people now refer to these as the “new smoking” (Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, also Relationships #8).
  4. Practice mindfulness. Some form of daily meditation, yoga, relaxation, or self-reflection such as journaling (which does not mean posting on social media) is beneficial. The proper use of and participation in the right social media groups and networks can provide support for some physicians. The positive effects from these activities can be present throughout your shifts, and often contribute to wellness and better sleep.
  5. Know when you need help. When you need help, get it without feeling shame or guilt. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. This must be a cultural shift in EM (and the medical profession in general). The more normalized that seeking help becomes, the better for us, our patients, our colleagues, our friends, and our families. Despite being trained to act heroically, we are nevertheless human and need (and deserve) support.

Mastery of Skills

  1. Work to improve your technical, communication, leadership, efficiency, delegation, charting, and relationship skills. Embrace beginner’s mind – there is always something new to learn. Commit to developing emotional intelligence (EQ), which is as critical to your success, longevity, and mental well-being as are the technical skills you learned in residency.
  2. Learn continuously. Every patient, consultant, EM colleague, advanced practice provider, nurse, and staff member has something to offer. Learn from reading textbooks and the medical literature. Discover what leaders in our field or at your medical center think or believe. Attend lectures and conferences related to EM or other areas of interest (including non-medical topics) to develop your intellect. Grow your knowledge base. As a bonus, you will have more interesting things to discuss with others.
  3. Relationships matter. Nurturing and cherishing them will help you feel satisfied during your career and throughout life. Foster and maintain healthy professional relationships. Get to know your co-workers in the ED. In addition, network with people outside of the ED (physicians and non-physicians). Always make sure to strengthen and prioritize relationships with your family and friends. Disengage from and avoid toxic relationships.
  4. Show interest in others. Be curious about what’s important to them, their lives, their families, and their interests. This gives your mind and heart a needed break from all things EM. Plus, it is the right thing to do and the best way to live.
  5. Develop good listening skills and show empathy. Understanding empathy (and being good at using it) will not only help you in your practice, but also with your relationships.
  6. Connect with patients and their stories. See your patients as people with lives outside of the ED. Patients are not just the “abdominal or chest pain in room 10.” (A Piece of My Mind. Gomer, JAMA 2004 and The Name of the Dog, NEJM, 2018).

Finding Joy and Purpose

  1. Celebrate your successes (even small ones) and your good fortune. Consider changing how you “define” success if your current definition doesn’t make you happy.
  2. Take one day at a time and, when possible, one moment at a time. Look forward to the future but immerse yourself in the present.
  3. Take pride in your work, your training, and your skills. Don’t lose confidence when you make an error. Instead, assume responsibility for your errors and don’t blame others. There are no failures, only growth opportunities. Commit to learning from your mistakes and from the mistakes of others.
  4. Work hard with intentionality and purpose.
  5. Remind yourself of the privilege and honor to care for patients who neither choose you nor have a prior relationship with you. Patients and their families are often afraid or have problems that they simply can’t handle without help. Be humbled by their courage to seek help, and that they’ve placed their trust in and hopes with you.
  6. Mentorship. Seek mentoring early from experienced, trusted faculty who will commit to your success with passion, integrity, and confidentiality. Mentors do not all need to be from your discipline, of the same gender, or of similar training, cultural, or socioeconomic backgrounds. It is reasonable to have more than one mentor supporting your growth. Throughout your career, keep in touch with mentors, and add new ones as necessary. When you are ready, take on the responsibility of serving as a mentor to “give back” to a colleague. (Mentoring in Emergency Medicine, Ch. 4, in Practical Teaching in Emergency Medicine, 2nd ed).
  7. Look forward to each patient and each shift as an opportunity to “cure sometimes, treat often, and comfort always” (Hippocrates).
  8. Express gratitude and offer sincere thanks. Think about thanking at least one person each hour. This doesn’t have to only be for major things; it can be for simple things and can be directed to anyone – patients, families, nurses, consultants, staff, colleagues, EMS personnel, and environmental services who clean up after us. Be sincere and specific with your gratitude. Even better, use people’s names as a show of respect.
  9. Keep a happy folder on your computer and establish a happy “area” in your office or home that has patient cards, gifts, perhaps your diploma, any recognition or important mementos, family items, and inspiring photos, quotes, or books. These items will likely make you smile, so refer to them regularly or as often as needed. Honor the impact you’ve had on others.

I hope these pearls help readers enjoy long and productive careers. I recommend reviewing the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath from time to time to remind yourself of medicine’s greater purpose. I also suggest Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Although somber at times, Frankl beautifully relays the significance of finding meaning during life’s most challenging experiences. Our work in EM and healthcare in general is demanding, difficult beyond description, yet remarkable. As such, it has the potential to transform us in meaningful and lasting ways. I wouldn’t trade my last 30+ years in EM for any other profession despite the exceptional focus and effort it requires. Only by challenging ourselves do we learn the depth and breadth of what’s in our hearts. I hope that everyone reading this is fortunate to feel similarly about their career choices and clinical practices.

Good luck with your careers!

(special thanks to Laura)

By |2021-10-05T13:08:15-07:00Oct 13, 2021|Academic, Life, Wellness|

The Leader’s Library: Keep Going | Sign up to join the book club discussion

Keep Going book club Leader's Library

As we submit our responses to the daily health screen for the thousandth time; realize, after having removed a mountain of PPE and sanitized our hands, that we left our phone in the patient’s room and would need to re-don everything; repeatedly observe the inevitable struggle with mute/unmute on Zoom; with all of these regular tasks and activities enveloping our lives these days, it’s hard to feel creative. Is the practice of emergency medicine a creative endeavor? How can we increase not just our creative or scholarly output, but also our internal sense of artistry and creation?

Podcast Preview of the Book

Brief Summary of Book

In Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, Austin Kleon attempts to answer this question (somewhat prophetically, given the book’s 2019 publication)– how can we, even in trying times, continue to nurture our creativity? Throughout the engaging, full-of-art book, Kleon outlines his argument for how, regardless of occupation, each of us can thrive in our creation of new, meaningful output:

  1. Every day is groundhog day.
  2. Build a bliss station.
  3. Forget the noun, do the verb.
  4. Make gifts.
  5. The Ordinary + Extra Attention = Extraordinary
  6. Slay the art monsters.
  7. You are allowed to change your mind.
  8. When in doubt, tidy up.
  9. Demons hate fresh air.
  10. Plant your garden.

Although Kleon himself writes and draws for a living, his suggestions are also applicable to the practice of emergency medicine, especially for those of us who are in academic, educational, and leadership positions and who need to constantly be creating to stay afloat. The book has an almost Zen quality to it, centering around mindfulness and reframing how we experience the life in front of us, rather than focusing ourselves on chasing an unachievable ideal or becoming absorbed by the mundane. For example, when we’re feeling a creative block, Kleon suggests that we set aside time to draw, like a child does, applying instrument to medium simply to enjoy the process and without an end product in mind– he writes:

“Drawing is simply another way of seeing, which we don’t really do as adults… we’re all going around in a cloud of remembrance and anxiety… and the act of drawing helps us live in the moment and concentrate on what’s really in front of us.”

A cloud of remembrance and anxiety! Yes! That is what the past year has felt like.

If you’re looking to rise out of your personal cloud of remembrance and anxiety, and explore how to infuse your career with creativity to just Keep Going, come join us for the next version of The Leader’s Library! All leaders (past, current, and future) in emergency medicine, of all professions and all locations, are welcome to participate. The book is short and full of drawings, so don’t worry that you won’t have time to read. This will be the most playful and fun iteration of TLL yet! Can’t wait to create with you!


Summary of Book Club Discussion

Book Discussion Group

When: May 25-27, 2021*
Platform: Slack app
Size: 40 registrants

* The Leader’s Library runs asynchronously on the Slack app– jump in whenever you have time!

Signup Process

Deadline to sign up: May 9, 2021

We would absolutely love to learn and grow with you. Sign up now to secure your spot!


  • Felix Ankel, MD: Emergency Physician, Regions Hospital. Medical Director, Education, HealthPartners Institute, Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School (@felixankel)
  • Nikita Joshi, MD: Emergency Department medical director, Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland, California (@njoshi8)
  • Peter Tomaselli, MD: Assistant Residency Program Director, Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital/Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (@pjtomaselli)
  • Victoria Brazil, MD, MBA: Medical Director of Goal Coast Simulation Service; Co-Producer of Simulcast and Harvard Macy Institute podcasts, Emergency Physician, Bond University (@SocraticEM)
  • Dina Wallin, MD: Assistant Medical Director of PEM, San Francisco General Hospital; Director of Didactics, UCSF-SFGH EM residency, San Francisco, California

Learn more about the other Leader’s Library book clubs.

Listen to all of The Leader’s Library podcasts

By |2021-07-01T18:55:21-07:00Apr 30, 2021|Book Club, Leaders Library, Wellness|

How I Stay Healthy in EM: Christian Rose

We would be remiss to not acknowledge the unique challenges we as emergency providers have faced over the last few months. Prevention of burnout and active wellness management is more important now than ever. This month on our “How I stay Healthy” series, we’re featuring Dr. Christian Rose, clinical informatics fellow at Stanford University and staff physician at Kaiser Permanente. He shares some guiding principles when facing difficult clinical decisions, his belief in the power of connection, and his favorite noise machine!


By |2020-07-29T14:17:31-07:00Aug 21, 2020|Healthy in EM, Life, Wellness|

Physician Wellness in the COVID-19 Era | Wellness Think Tank

wellness think tank physician wellnessThe COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in many ways, and for trainees in medicine, the new day-to-day experience of residency continues to adapt and take shape. COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected clinical experiences and educational curricula for residencies. Personal wellbeing for EM residents has become even more important with the new stressors of being on the frontlines. How has the resident experience changed in the ED? How are residents dealing personally and professionally with the new state of things? What strategies, interventions, and resources that residents are utilizing to combat burnout?


By |2020-07-28T07:03:27-07:00Jul 31, 2020|Life, Wellness, Wellness Think Tank|

Work Grief: A Primer for Emergency Medicine Providers

griefHeartbreaking patient situations are the backbone of Emergency Medicine. Whether it’s a new cancer diagnosis, telling a family member that their loved one has died, or the creeping dread that a mistake that we’ve made will negatively impact one of our patients, we all experience extraordinary stress in our day-to-day clinical practice. Most clinicians are not tasked with routinely sharing news about the violent, unexpected, and horrific life-changing situations that occur in the emergency department, and yet we are given so few tools to help us manage this firehose of grief. This article is intended to share some of the best practices of grief management with clinicians who are immersed in grief, even if unawares.


By |2020-05-22T12:34:22-07:00May 22, 2020|Palliative Care, Wellness|

9-Minute Workout for the Frontline Provider

Providing medical care for patients at the frontline can be physically demanding. Exercise is an important part of a routine that can help mitigate the physiologic stressors that come with providing care at the frontline, but in the setting of decreased time and space, providers may have difficulty developing new routines. We worked with a physiotherapist to create an exercise regimen for frontline providers that requires little space, little time, and can still help keep us healthy in the face of an ever more challenging work environment.


By |2020-04-26T11:21:26-07:00May 15, 2020|Life, Wellness|
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