Physician Communication Coaching: How Psychologists can Elevate Skills and Support Resident Education, Professionalism, and Well-being
Many factors influence resident physician communication, including rigorous training demands that can contribute to professionalism issues or burnout. The University of Rochester Physician Communication Coaching program launched for attendings in 2011, and expanded to residency programs within 11 clinical departments of our institution. In this model, psychologists serve as coaches, drawing on their expertise in communication skills, behavior change, and wellness promotion. These coaches conduct real-time observation of patient encounters, coding communication with an expanded Cambridge-Calgary Patient-Centered Observational Checklist. Residents receive a written report with individualized feedback. From 2013 to 2020, 279 residents were coached. Since 2018, residents have been formally surveyed for feedback (n = 70 surveys completed; 61% response rate), with 97% rating the experience Very Helpful or Helpful. Of the 70 completed surveys, 54 (77%) included qualitative feedback that has also been positive. Due to the feasibility and growing demand for communication coaching from other residency and fellowship programs, in 2018 two authors (SM and LD-R) developed a 2-year, part-time program to train communication coaches.