An Interview with Medical Coaching expert - Dr. Ashe Coxon

An Interview with Medical Coaching expert - Dr. Ashe Coxon

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The role of Medical Education and Coaching in healthcare

Recently, Wavelength met with Dr. Ashe Coxon to gather her views on our research Whitepaper The Changing Face of Clinical Careers and the role of coaching in assisting doctors and organisations plan for future medical careers.

About Dr. Ashe Coxon

Dr. Ashe Coxon, (MBBS FRACGP DCH MClinEd Grad Cert Career Development), is a General Practitioner and career counsellor and is the founder of Medical Career Planning. Ashe started to develop an interest in career development for doctors whilst attempting to construct her career pathway in her early postgraduate training. On completion of her General Practice training, she began her Master of Clinical Education and worked in medical education with GP registrars. Her passion for career development in doctors grew and she completed her career development degree with the aim of assisting doctors with their personal career journey. For more on this, check out our previous talk with Ashe, where she discusses how she helps doctors explore alternative career paths.

What do you think our research tells us?

The data showed that digital health (42%), medical education and coaching (33%), and health management (31%) were the top areas of interest outside of traditional pathways. However, these top three areas are very, very different from what we learn as doctors, as we go through medical school, and in our pre-vocational and our training years.

Doctors spend so many years in university, are so highly skilled, so highly trained that they often seek a new challenge. Once they’ve mastered the art of their clinical skills, they're ready to extend themselves into these different areas.

Do you think the top areas of interest align with the skills that need to be strengthened?

I believe that we should be upskilling medical students and doctors far earlier in their careers in areas such as management, administration, leadership, digital health, and education. So many clinicians end up in these fields, however, they often take a long time to realise that these areas exist, let alone that they are viable career options.

What role does coaching play in supporting doctors to explore divergent careers in medicine?

I think one of the benefits of coaching, particularly concerning divergent careers, is that so many doctors do not realise their potential, their transferable skills, or what they can do. Very often, doctors think that they only know one particular area of medicine, when in reality, throughout the entire journey of medical school and those first few years of hospital, they've been learning problem-solving, communication, leadership, and management skills, without realising it.

Therefore, when it comes to helping someone transition into non-traditional medical roles, we need to draw on their experience as a medical practitioner to understand what skills are transferrable.

For instance, most doctors don’t think they have managerial and leadership experience because they have never held an official leadership position. However, they've probably been left on nights on their own, and have probably had to manage lots of resuscitations on their own, or they've been managing their interns and medical students, which is a leadership role in itself.

In a nutshell, most of what I do in coaching is helping a person to identify where their skills actually lie and if they aren't aware of it, you can make them aware of the skills and say, for example: "Look, you might be a rotational doctor working in ED right now, you might only ever need to use your clinical skills, but please don't forget that you have management skills. You're a problem solver, so you can be a system problem solver. You're an entrepreneur. You're a leader. So, when the time comes for you to work on these skills, don't feel under-confident that you don't have these skills. You do. You're just not currently using them."

What about colleges and the health care organisations themselves, do they have a role to play?

I think coaching is incredibly important. Many doctors haven't spent time with a counsellor or a coach to figure out what their interests are, what their values are and what their skills are, they just go along with their treadmill of training.

Concerning digital health, I think a lot of organisations are providing digital health training, however, this training seems to be focussed on upskilling their doctors in using systems that are already in the hospital, as opposed to getting doctors trained and ready to think about digital health as an entire concept.

I also think that health management administration, leadership, and management training need to be integrated into junior doctor learning. We know that most doctors are probably going to end up in a management position at some stage in their career and quite often, they are just learning as they go rather than receiving formal training.

What do you think the future looks like for medical coaching? Do you think it will be embedded within healthcare organisations or colleges?

I would love it to be! When I first started five years ago, there were very few people in the sector. It's quite common now to see coaches/counsellors or career practitioners in medicine. It’s not as common as I would like, but it’s moving in the right direction. Many services now employ coaches, however, there is a lot of room for improvement within organisations and institutions.

There aren’t many coaches working within healthcare organisations at all, and I think that this is something that really needs to be worked on. There's a lot of coaches in the private sector, working with doctors who are in their mid-to-late career, who have gone down a path and realised that perhaps, they need some coaching, or realise that they've gone down the wrong pathway for them.

Ideally, I would love to see people having the opportunity to engage with a coach or a counsellor before they even realise they need it. Having someone available that is trained to identify a doctor in need, work with them and help guide them in their career would be hugely beneficial.

A good place to start would be when doctors start their careers or begin to choose their RMO rotations for the next year. There also needs to be a lot more work done with doctors that are in training programs and who decide to leave before completion of the course.

Some hospitals do exit interviews, but not all, and these interviews don’t necessarily provide a lot of insights. This is where organisations and colleges can jump in and say, "this training program may not be for you, and we think you should start engaging with a coach or a counsellor to work out what is for you", which currently, as far as I'm aware, doesn't happen. They just leave and that's the end of it.

What does the medical career of the future look like?

I think we're all worried that everything's going to rapidly change. In reality, there are going to be many jobs that are going to be very similar in a decade or two, but there's also going to be new niche areas always emerging. If I had to take a guess, I would say that 85-90% of the medical workplace and workforce will remain the same.

There will be more jobs, more opportunities, and more niche areas that you can get into. We're going to be able to diversify more in the future, but it doesn’t mean that everyone has to be doing something different. Not everyone is going to have to learn about artificial intelligence or get a technology degree. I think the bulk of the medical work will remain the same, but if you've got that interest in doing something different, exciting and new, then now is a really good time to explore new opportunities.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and provide such an in-depth insight into the world of medical coaching and its impact on doctors’ careers. We look forward and hope to see more healthcare organisations implementing the use of a coach in the future.

If you are interested in pursuing a divergent career in medicine, please get in touch today. Our team is always happy to have a confidential chat about your career aspirations, even if you’re just starting to explore alternative medical careers. 

For more fascinating insights, check out our Divergent Medical Career research – Download the full whitepaper here.

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