What is Surgical Coaching?

In Surgical Coaching, a surgeon partners with a Surgical Coach and receives individual, one-on-one guidance for improving their personal performance. Surgical Coaches have been trained in the principles of coaching: setting goals, action planning, and holding surgeons accountable. Surgical Coaches are also all trained surgeons, so they bring their expertise on the discipline. 

Through Surgical Coaching, surgeons can improve their surgical technique, build their teamwork and leadership abilities, and tackle stressful decisions. 

How does Surgical Coaching help surgeons improve their performance?

A surgical coach guides a surgeon to think differently about their actions and outcomes. The coach also holds surgeons accountable for making changes and reflecting on how those changes affect performance. For surgeons who want to make changes to their practice, but are struggling to figure out how, a Surgical Coach can help make a plan and stick to it.

In the video below, Dr. Caprice Greenberg, breast surgeon and President of the Academy for Surgical Coaching shares her story about how she improved her re-excision rate through working with a surgical coach.

How is Surgical Coaching different from teaching and mentoring?

Coaching is different from mentoring and teaching. A teacher provides knowledge to a student. A mentor guides their mentee through career choices and life decisions. In these relationships, there is a hierarchy and a transfer of knowledge. A great coach is a co-learner, not an expert, and is attending to the surgeon’s needs, rather than their own. 

Coaching skills are valuable for surgical educators as well as surgical coaches. As Dr. Cara King explains in the video below, coaching her fellows allows her to get inside their thinking, so when they are in the OR, she can teach more effectively.

Who makes a great Surgical Coach?

Surgeons with a broad base of knowledge and who are respected in the field are often good coaches. However, being a great coach also has to do with personality.  A great coach is adaptable and can understand and motivate their peers through coaching. Great coaches also possess strong communication skills and high levels of self-awareness.


Funding for the original development of this project was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and Department of Surgery from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.