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Archive December 2019 XX, No. 12

Professional Development: Could Your Surgeons Use a Coach?

Peer-to-peer instruction makes physicians better practitioners and people.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief


EXPERT EYE Coaches teach about new technologies and how to be better teammates outside of traditional learning channels.

Tiger Woods works with a coach who tweaks his near-perfect swing. Stefani Germanotta takes voice lessons to be Lady Gaga. Glenn Close receives professional training to turn in Oscar-worthy performances year after year. Tiger, Gaga and Glenn are all elite performers, but still rely on expert advice to remain at the top of their chosen professions. Shouldn’t surgeons be coached on how they can perform better, safer surgery, especially when the stakes are much higher than sports and entertainment?

“Surgeons receive incredible amounts of training in medical school and throughout their residencies, but their skills could plateau after they’ve been operating independently for a number of years,” says Jason Pradarelli, MD, a general surgery resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., who advocates for peer or expert surgeons to coach colleagues on how to improve their surgical techniques or professionalism. “But it’s rare for experienced surgeons to invite another surgeon into the OR to observe them operating and provide feedback about their performances.”

Coaching — across all types of careers — is being viewed as a more appealing and acceptable form of professional development. There’s still cultural resistance to the idea in surgery, however, partly because some surgeons cling to the antiquated belief that they’re infallible leaders of the OR. Others might simply believe they don’t need to improve upon already successful careers.

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