Nov 19, 2020
Surgeons, researchers, educators, innovators, and improvers of all kinds… Welcome! This is the official blog of the Academy for Surgical Coaching. The Academy is a not-for-profit organization that empowers surgeons through surgical coaching to improve clinical performance, well-being, and patient care.
Through our blog, we aim to give you informative, easy-to-read entries about surgical coaching and related topics for surgeons such as professional development, continuing education, continuing certification, performance improvement, coaching evidence updates, and much more. Our work in surgical coaching is grounded in a decade of scientific research, and thus our writing reflects this critical lens.
We’ll start by covering the basics of what surgical coaching is and what a Surgical Coach actually does. For those interested in diving deeper, future posts will review topics related to the business, learning theory, and technology that supports surgical coaching. Importantly, we want to hear from YOU about what you’d like to learn from us. Submit your requests here.
What is Surgical Coaching?
Surgical coaching is a process for surgeons’ professional development that is characterized by a partnership between a surgeon and a trained Surgical Coach. Through structured, longitudinal, one-on-one reflections with a Surgical Coach, surgical coaching engages surgeons to focus on individualized performance improvement efforts. Coaching is different from teaching or mentoring in that it requires both individuals to put aside the traditional hierarchical mindset in surgical education and function as equal partners.
Surgical coaching fills a major gap in professional development opportunities for practicing surgeons. Other existing forms of learning in practice include didactic sessions, weekend courses, or self-study, which are often limited for surgeons as one-time events with minimal follow-up and little ability to tailor to one’s own practice, which can lead to erratic translation into practice. Coaching, on the other hand, embraces adult learning principles with frequent, spaced learning, timely feedback, and analysis of gaps to focus improvement efforts.
In an enlightening call to action in 2019, the American Board of Medical Specialties issued its Vision for the Future of Continuing Board Certification. The report urges member boards, including the American Board of Surgery, to replace the ineffective, traditional mechanisms for recertification with meaningful strategies that emphasize professionalism, formative (i.e. continuous, low-stakes) rather than summative (i.e. one-time, high-stakes) assessment, lifelong learning, and improvement in practice. These characteristics for ideal professional development activities couldn’t have been a more perfect description of what surgeons experience when working with a Surgical Coach.
What Does a Surgical Coach Actually Do?
Surgical Coaches are practicing surgeons who undergo dedicated training to adopt the core principles and key skills of coaching. In a surgical coaching partnership, a Surgical Coach guides a peer surgeon to improve their performance by using effective communication skills and an empowering approach to support the surgeon’s goals. The Academy runs coach training courses several times throughout the year.
Through coach training, a Surgical Coach learns to facilitate goal setting with a surgeon, ask powerful questions to spark reflection from the surgeon, provide constructive feedback in a respectful manner, and guide action planning to help the surgeon define concrete next steps to improve. After coach training, Surgical Coaches are eligible to be matched up with surgeons who approach the Academy looking to work with a coach.
At the Academy, surgical coaching engagements range from 3 to 12 months in duration, depending on the individual surgeon’s performance goals and timeline. Each coaching session lasts about 1 hour, in which the coach and surgeon meet virtually to discuss the surgeon’s progress toward their goals. While the surgeon receiving coaching is the decision maker in this professional development process, the coach is responsible for supporting the surgeon to implement the practice changes discussed during their coaching sessions.
In the spirit of coaching, a Surgical Coach is also expected to improve their own coaching skills. To realize this cycle of continual improvement, the Academy supports our coaches’ development with ongoing feedback and coaching resources. In this way, we are always improving and supporting surgeons’ performance improvement efforts.
How Can You Get Involved with Surgical Coaching?
- If you want to personally engage with surgical coaching, you can contact us to get a Surgical Coach or to be trained as a Surgical Coach.
- If you want to start a surgical coaching program within your organization, you can leverage our experience and expertise to get your program off the ground!
- If you want to stay in touch, add yourself to our email list for periodic updates on the Academy’s major moves and upcoming events.
If you are not quite ready to engage with the Academy directly, we encourage you to keep surgical coaching on your radar by following us on social media:
We are an enthusiastic group with an eye for evidence-based implementation of surgical coaching. Contact us to learn more! We look forward to working with you.
Jason C. Pradarelli, MD, MS
Medical Director | Academy for Surgical Coaching