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Coaching Helps Women Physicians Overcome the Unique Challenges of Being a Woman in Medicine

By Tracy Asamoah, MD

Whether you’re feeling frustrated and stressed, experiencing burnout, or just feeling stuck, a physician coach might be just the partner you need.

Women physicians face unique challenges on their medical career path. Often juggling many personal and professional roles, many women physicians struggle with feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, and overlooked. Some experience self-doubt about being able to manage their roles effectively.

In recent years, more attention has been given to the impact of physicians’ experience of work-related stress and burnout. However, the impact on women physicians’ experiences is unique to their male peers. For example, a recent survey shows that women physicians experience greater rates of burnout. The Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020 found that 48% of women physicians endorsed burn-out compared to 37% of their male counterparts.

Additionally, women physicians face an uphill battle when seeking advancement into leadership positions. Even though currently, more women than men attend US medical schools, women make up only 16% of medical school deans, 18% of department chairs, and 25% of full professors. Parity in pay between women and men physicians also continues to lag.

At home, women physicians also are more likely to carry a greater share of household duties, such as childcare, than their male colleagues. Without respite at work or home, many women physicians are left feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and for many, burned out.

Many of these concerns point to systemic issues that require organizational changes for true reform to occur. Providing support, creative work solutions, active investment for career advancement are all part of the solution. Unfortunately, these changes, as is often true for system-wide shifts, have been slow to take shape.

More recently, physician coaching has come to the forefront as a readily accessible and easily engaged method of supporting physicians.

The field of coaching is not new, executive and leadership coaching being an integral part of leadership development in business for decades. Over the years, coaching has exploded with forms like health coaching, career coaching, and life coaching becoming more popular.

More recently, coaching has emerged as a promising way to support physicians. In addition to career and leadership development, physician coaching can support physicians with workload management, patient and colleague interactions, and stress and burnout.

Coaching offers a unique opportunity to support women physicians. Whether or not you’re struggling to find the balance between your personal and professional lives, attempting to navigate the path of career advancement, or desiring greater clarity on your identity as a physician, coaching can be a powerful tool.

How does coaching help?

Coaching supports clients in two important areas: clarity and action

Clarity Coaching often starts with clarifying your vision of who you want to be. Through the coaching process, you can grow your awareness of your patterns of decision-making and problem-solving. You can learn to optimize your strengths and skills allowing you to move forward, shifting your approach to your life circumstances.

Action Coaching is all about developing actionable steps that will help you grow towards your vision. Insight is great, but the power of coaching comes in building on that insight to create movement towards your vision. Your coach will ask you exploratory questions and encourage you to become action-oriented.

If you’re a woman physician facing conflict, uncertainty, or just feel dissatisfied with where you find yourself at this point in your life and career, coaching might be just the tool to help you move forward.

Dr. Tracy Asamoah is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, writer, and physician coach. She has a passion for helping professional women realize and move towards their greater purpose and idealized selves.


MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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