October 19, 2021

Wellness Coaching for Residents

Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts

  • Michael Fishman, MD
    Assistant Professor of Radiology
    Section Chief, Breast Imaging
    Director of COBRA Radiology Coaching Program
    Wellcoaches® Certified Health and Wellness Coach

“Coaching is generally focused on a specific challenge. I wanted to give residents a chance to receive confidential support for whatever they’re going through.”

- Michael Fishman, MD


After being certified as a wellness coach, Michael Fishman, MD, implemented a coaching program for practicing radiologists to support residents. It was based on a successful program at Massachusetts General Hospital used in departments outside of radiology.

At the start of the year-long program in 2020, Fishman helped to train 10 faculty members as coaches. A three-hour training session given to the faculty by experienced coaches taught core coaching skills and provided exercises to use with trainees. Leadership covered the cost of the training. Coaches were expected to meet with their residents quarterly throughout the year to help them with short- and long-term planning. 20 residents were randomized to receive this coaching opportunity, and Fishman sent three surveys to the participating residents and faculty coaches to share their thoughts on the activities — one at the start, one six-months in, and one at the end of the year. Residents and faculty had the opportunity to decline their randomized pairing if they were uncomfortable being open and vulnerable. That ended up being a non-issue.

Discussions at each quarterly session focused on the residents’ needs. According to Fishman, coaching sessions sometimes cover topics that radiologists don’t learn in medical school, including aspects of well-being and even coming to terms with what success means in various areas of residents’ lives.

OUTCOME: Given that the coaching program was implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed additional stress and responsibilities on coaches and trainees, Fishman was unsurprised to receive few final surveys. However, initial feedback was positive.



Fishman wanted to let the coaches and residents work together with few reminders or requirements, so it is unknown whether all coaching sessions occurred. Being more deliberate in oversight would have ensured the pairs completed the quarterly sessions. It was a balance between making the sessions not seem forced but at the same time wanting to see them occur the way the program was designed.