Coronavirus and the Well-being of the Physician Community

Michael Brown, MD

Today, I was talking to a colleague of mine, Sue Kiernan. She is an executive coach who is thinking about what she can do at this time of crisis for the health system. She recognizes the pressures clinicians are normally under, and she sees how the current situation can contribute to even more stress. We talked about the concept of volunteering “In the Moment Coaching.” This is coaching for physicians and other healthcare professionals who think they might benefit from a 30-minute conversation with a professional coach. One short phone call is not going to change the world, but at the very least, the call provides a brief opportunity to focus clinicians on their well-being rather than just on the problems they are seeing and dealing with all day. There is no long-term contract and no fee for these coaching discussions. She envisions this as her way of contributing.

After talking with Sue, I was inspired to volunteer similar services. I am starting by reaching out to people within my healthcare network to let them know I am only a phone call away. I am also checking in with a few coaching colleagues to see if they might be interested in providing similar services. So far, they appear to appreciate having the opportunity to help as well. Along with Sue, we are creating the website which will have an updated list of coaches who are willing to make themselves available. Clinicians are encouraged to contact anyone on the list, and coaches who wish to be added to the list can contact me directly to do so. Please feel free to share this information with anyone whom you feel might find it helpful.

At this point, we are not sure how this will proceed. We see the potential of this service, but do not want to create an expectation that we will not be able to meet. We see more upside than downside, so we are proceeding and will adjust later as necessary.

Difficult times are made less difficult with the support of others. Those who accept help not only benefit directly, but they will also feel better knowing that others care. Those that provide help not only feel good about their contributions, but they can also feel a greater sense of agency by seeing that they have the power to make a difference. I, for example, already feel better knowing that I am trying something to help.

Finally, especially in times of social distancing (or perhaps more accurately “physical distancing”), it is more important than ever to remember the importance of mutual support. Together, we are better.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.