More and more physicians are leaving clinical medicine to pursue a career as a physician coach.

Dr. Helane Fronek, a physician coach, will be speaking at the SEAK Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference on October 22-23, 2016 in Chicago on physician coaching.

Here is a recent interview with Dr. Fronek:

Q:  Dr. Fronek, how did you get into coaching of physicians? 

In 2008, I joined the ranks of the many burned out doctors in the US. At the suggestion of a friend (I had never heard of a coach back then!), I hired a coach and found that the process of coaching was fun, interesting, and extremely helpful in helping me find what I really loved to do. While working with my coach, I realized that this profession fit me perfectly and that I, too, wanted to become a coach. Early in my coach training, I decided that I wanted to work with other physicians who were struggling to find the personal and professional fulfillment they thought being a doctor would provide. I feel so much kinship with and respect for physicians, as we put so much time and effort into helping other human beings. It makes me sad that so many physicians are struggling, and it’s truly a joy to help them love being a doctor again. I can’t think of any work that I would rather be doing.

Q:  Does the specialty of the physician looking to get into physician coaching matter? 

Not really. The personality and skills of the aspiring coach are most important. There are some consulting firms that look for physicians who have certain specialties, such as emergency medicine, because many of their clients come from that specialty. And while an ED doctor may have a better appreciation of the particular stresses inherent in the ED, he or she may also have the handicap of assuming that the stresses of a particular client are the same as those they have experienced themselves. There are physician coaches from all specialties, as well as non-physicians who are very skilled and effective at guiding their physician clients through the process.

Q:  Can you continue to practice clinically and act as a coach for physicians as well? 

Absolutely. One of the beauties of coaching is its flexibility. You can continue to practice medicine, you can travel – you can coach from anywhere as long as you have phone or internet service. Some clients feel more comfortable working with a physician who is practicing, because that person understands some of the current stressors – EHR, meaningful use, patient satisfaction scores, etc. On the other hand, by focusing primarily on coaching, a coach can be more available to clients, spend more time improving his or her skills, etc. We generally do one thing at the expense of another! I have been coaching since 2010 and have continued to practice clinical medicine, do some clinical research, write for two medical journals, and teach 1st and 2nd year medical students. I recently decided to leave clinical practice so I can have more time available for my clients.


Q:  What types of certifications are available to physician coaches and do you need to be certified to be a successful physician coach? 

You do not need to be certified to be a successful physician coach – but certification programs and processes do attest to a certain amount of training and experience. You cannot be successful without those. Certain training programs offer their own certification, such as Coaches Training Institute’s (CTI) CPCC (Certified Professional Co-Active Coach) credential, which requires 6 months of additional training, supervision and mentoring and both a written and oral examination. The International Coach Federation has a hierarchy of credentials that require a certain number of hours of experience as well as passing a written exam at the lower levels and an oral exam at the higher levels. The Physician Coaching Institute offers the Certified Physician Development Coach credential that reflects completion of its own six-month training program. Because physicians go through so many levels of credentialing, they tend to believe in the meaning of credentialing and trust coaches who hold recognized credentials.

Helane Fronek, MD is a professional coach who focuses on helping other physicians conquer burnout, become fully engaged in a life they want to be living and love being a doctor again. She holds multiple coaching certifications including Certified Physician Development Coach, Certified Professional Co-Actie Coach and Associate Certified Coach In addition to her coaching activities, Dr. Fronek serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC-San Diego School of Medicine and sees patients at La Jolla Vein Care in La Jolla, California. Dr. Fronek received her MD from Northwestern and trained in Internal Medicine at UC-San Diego School of Medicine.