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Original Investigation
February 1, 2017

Strategies for Building Peer Surgical Coaching Relationships

Author Affiliations
  • 1Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Program, Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • 2Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • 3Department of Systems and Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
JAMA Surg. Published online February 1, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.5540
Key Points

Question  What strategies are used by peer surgical coaches to develop effective peer-coaching relationships with their coachees?

Findings  In this qualitative study, peer surgical coaches used a range of concrete strategies to align role and process expectations about the coaching process, establish rapport, and cultivate mutual trust with their coachees during introductory meetings. Potential coaching pitfalls were identified that could interfere with each of the 3 relationship-building components.

Meaning  By identifying concrete strategies used by coaches to operationalize these concepts, we provide empirically based strategies to inform other surgical coaching programs.

Abstract

Importance  Peer surgical coaching is a promising approach for continuing professional development. However, scant guidance is available for surgeons seeking to develop peer-coaching skills. Executive coaching research suggests that effective coaches first establish a positive relationship with their coachees by aligning role and process expectations, establishing rapport, and cultivating mutual trust.

Objective  To identify the strategies used by peer surgical coaches to develop effective peer-coaching relationships with their coachees.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Drawing on executive coaching literature, a 3-part framework was developed to examine the strategies peer surgical coaches (n = 8) used to initially cultivate a relationship with their coachees (n = 11). Eleven introductory 1-hour meetings between coaching pairs participating in a statewide surgical coaching program were audiorecorded, transcribed, and coded on the basis of 3 relationship-building components. Once coded, thematic analysis was used to organize coded strategies into thematic categories and subcategories. Data were collected from October 10, 2014, to March 20, 2015. Data analysis took place from May 26, 2015, to July 20, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Strategies and potentially counterproductive activities for building peer-coaching relationships in the surgical context to inform the future training of surgical coaches.

Results  Coaches used concrete strategies to align role and process expectations about the coaching process, to establish rapport, and to cultivate mutual trust with their coachees during introductory meetings. Potential coaching pitfalls are identified that could interfere with each of the 3 relationship-building components.

Conclusions and Relevance  Peer-nominated surgical coaches were provided with training on abstract concepts that underlie effective coaching practices in other fields. By identifying the strategies used by peer surgical coaches to operationalize these concepts, empirically based strategies to inform other surgical coaching programs are provided.

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