Do you need a career break but not sure what to do?

Dr. Laura Blackburn shares the importance of career break coaching for the wellbeing of doctors and why is career coaching is relevant to us all.

Career Break Coaching, Career Coaching for Doctors – Do you need it?

Suicide rates in the UK increased and over the last four years from 2011 to 2014; the Office for National Statistics have reported 430 healthcare professionals taking their own lives in their hands.

Doctors are one of the most vulnerable groups due to their nature of work. The pressure of their work leads to higher rates of burnout, substance abuse, depression and suicide.

At Medic Footprints, we firmly believe that doctors’ wellbeing is very important, so is finding the right alternative careers. So we catch up with Dr. Laura Blackburn of Transition Solutions on the importance of coaching for the wellbeing of doctors and why is career coaching relevant amongst us in this day and age.

Why do doctors need coaching?

For me, the role of coaching in medicine is to create the time and space needed for doctors to explore their values, motivations and thought processes. As a coach you act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off that they many not voice to anyone else; a mirror so they can see themselves in a different light; someone to challenge them to explore deeper and to not only reach their potential but beyond. We’re so used to pushing through to the next clinic, ward round, on-call, rotation, exam, interview, service development etc. that we very rarely find the time.

It’s not about the high-flyers. It’s not about trainees that are struggling. It can open the doors to real transformational change for everyone.

We work within a volatile, uncertain and high-pressured environment as part of an ever-changing team; frequently relocate whilst training; have an ever-growing work-load outside of service provision with exams, audit, research, education and supervision; then often return to this environment after career breaks of up to 3 years with little bespoke support. Coaching can be a powerful prophylactic tool; intrinsic to creating a fulfilling and sustainable career.

How has receiving and giving coaching helped you on your career journey?

My first formal coach-mentoring experience was through the British Society of Gastroenterology. The opportunity to take part in their National Supporting Women in Gastroenterology (SWiG) pilot came during a period of maternity leave, many will be familiar with the loss of confidence that can occur at this time.

Coaching supported me in bringing clarity to my motivations and values and finding my own creative solutions. 

This meant that I was able to move forward with confidence and conviction. I gained my PgCert in Clinical Education, my NTN in Gastroenterology and returned to work in my first medical registrar post.

Tell us more about why you chose to pursue qualifications career coaching?

I have spent the last year working for Health Education England (East of England) promoting coaching and mentoring both regionally and nationally, supporting coach-mentor schemes already running and accelerating the development of new schemes. I also worked with a team to develop a support day for those returning after a career break. Basically, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about coaching and mentoring; to consultants, trainees, stakeholders, frankly anyone who will listen. I’ve also been coaching and mentoring professionals, including doctors, for the last few years. I’ve been fortunate to have seen many times the positive impact that the process can have on confidence, realising goals and more importantly happiness. Pursuing a qualification in coaching and mentoring provides the knowledge and theory to underpin that experience, and in doing so support others would enable me to access the knowledge I needed to build upon this experience to support, encourage others I coach more effectively.

What other alternatives are there for one on one coaching?

There are different types of coaching formats and they all have their own pros and cons. One to one coaching gives the most individualised experience. However, it also tends to be the most intense as you are the sole focus of the relationship. To me this is a benefit, as it is most likely to produce lasting change. Group coaching is a good option and often less expensive. The bonus is peer support, and the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences. It is difficult to continue group coaching past one session due to differing availabilities of participants. Limiting coaching to a single session is less effective unless something is in place to facilitate your further development. This could be online engagement, workbooks or virtual coaching. Finally, accessing online coaching workshops or groups may provide the chance to access coaching in way that can fit around your commitments as and when. Bear in mind though, that this flexibility can also be achieved through one-to-one coaching using Skype or even by phone.

Whatever format you choose, you can get the most out of it by committing and engaging fully and being authentic and open to change.

What kind of problems do doctors tend to present with?

Doctors share many similarities with other professionals in that they look to improve confidence, productivity and strive for a better work-life balance. There are some more unique issues that are brought to the table:

  •  Specialty choice.
  • Whether to take time out of practice.
  • Exam preparation and re-sitting.
  • Developing clinical leadership.
  • Support following a career break.
  • Constructing a portfolio career.

There are many more, but if I could choose two areas that I believe the NHS should be obligated to provide one-to-one coaching, it would be career coaching for doctors and when returning from a career break.

What advice would you give to doctors seeking out a coach?

  • Think locally – Speak to your Postgraduate Department, Human Resources, and your educational supervisor as they may know of some local provision. Other options would be if there is career coaching provision or whether they could refer you to the Professional Support unit for input.
  • Think regionally – Contact your region to see if there is any provision. Even if not, the contact will let them know it’s something you’re interested in. Regional Leadership Academies may hold a Coaching and Mentoring register that you could be eligible to access.
  • Think nationally – Contact Associations and Societies that you have membership with and see if they provide a coaching or mentoring service.
  • Think creatively – It can at times it can be beneficial to have an external coach or mentor who can look at things from a different perspective. An online search is a good place to start and get help you access a variety of registers. Look at whether you like their approach, that they offer a free meeting/phone-call first and whether they have a qualification and/or are a member of a society such as ICF or EMCC.

Do you need coaching or career break coaching?

Experience 1hr of coaching with Laura by watching her at the Career Coaching for Doctors session during our recent conference. (Members only – but you can join!)

Get in touch with Dr. Laura Blackburn:

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