Introduction: Female physician trainees are disproportionately affected by burnout compared to their male counterparts. This phenomenon is multifactorial, but growing evidence suggests that perceptions of stressful work relationships, demanding attendings, and a culture where resident needs feel inconsequential lead to exhaustion, negativism, and reduced personal efficacy. We hypothesize that a structured professional coaching program targeting women residents would lead to decreased burnout in this at-risk group.
Methods: We conducted a pilot randomized clinical trial involving 101 female-identifying resident physicians in GME at the University of Colorado between January 1, 2021, and June 30, 2021. Residents were recruited from a broad array of specialties, including both non-surgical (n=82) and surgical (n=19). The intervention consisted of a 6-month, web-based group coaching program developed by trained life-coaches (TF and AM). The primary outcome, of burnout, was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Secondary outcomes included Imposter Phenomenon, Self-Compassion, and Moral Injury. Statistical analysis was conducted from July 1, to September 25, 2021 on an intent-to-treat basis.
Results: Among the 101 female residents in the study, after 6 months of professional coaching, emotional exhaustion decreased in the intervention group by a mean of 3.26 points compared to an increase of 1.07 points in the control group by the end of the study (p=0.03). The intervention group experienced a significant reduction in presence of imposter syndrome compared to controls (-1.16 vs +0.11; p=0.002). Self-compassion increased in the intervention group by a mean of 5.55 points compared to a reduction of 1.32 points in the control group (p < 0.001). No statistically significant differences in depersonalization, professional accomplishment or moral injury were observed.
Conclusions: Professional coaching may be a sustainable intervention to decrease emotional exhaustion and feelings of imposter syndrome while increasing self-compassion amongst female physician trainees. This could lead to increased resident wellbeing, personal efficacy and development.
Source of Funding: University of Colorado Department of Medicine Program for Academic Clinician Educators