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When should primary care physicians consult a career development coach?


In many career fields, finding a job is an independent activity that can be done online. But for physicians, it can be a much longer and more in-depth process that often requires the help of a professional, such as a career development coach.


In many career fields, finding a job is an independent activity that can be done online. But for physicians, it can be a much longer and more in-depth process, which often requires the help of professionals.

Ashley Wendel, MA, CMC, PDC, is a physician development coach and a healthcare organization consultant. She says often physicians need to consult a career coach before getting started at a new job.

“I’ve had clients come to me because they’ve identified a role that somebody has put on their plate, and they need to make sure they’ve got what it takes to do that job successfully,” Wendel says.

But many other physicians will consult a coach when they have identified a new job or even a new career that they want to pursue. For those physicians, Wendel says the coaching process involves two significant steps: skill and value assessment, and career mapping.

“I work with them to make sure they understand the skill set they need in the non-clinical environment, because in a lot of ways they’re completely different from those of a practicing physician,” she says. “If you think about it, a physician’s work is autonomous. They don’t always have to be team players, and in a critical care area, they’re not supposed to be. You don’t want someone getting consensus when they have a patient in the ED. So they have to switch that mindset off, when they go into a team based environment.”

When building a career map, she says, physicians need to consider where they want to be several years from now, and what they need to get there. For some physicians, that may require an additional degree, while others may need to bolster their leadership experience by serving on committees.

The length of the coaching process depends entirely on the physician. Wendel says for some it may take only a month, while for others, it could take up to 6 months.

But she advises physicians not to rush through the process, especially the skills and values assessment.

“A lot of times they want to skip that piece,” she says. “But unless you’ve done that, you might go a 100 miles a minute in the wrong direction.”

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