What does a ‘physician coaching certification’ mean?

in Physician Coaching Insights

A frequent question I get whether it is necessary to have a “certification” to coach physicians and the healthcare team.  And what does “certification” represent anyway? It’s a great question and understandable, given there are hundreds of coaching schools that offer a “certification” — how do you sort it all out?

First, let’s start with the gold standard in the coaching profession,  the International Coaching Federation (ICF).  Why start there?  Coaching is a relatively young profession and the ICF was one of the first self-regulating bodies that formed in order to take on the daunting task of defining professional coaching standards.  Over the past 25 years, the ICF has prevailed in not only defining coaching ethics and competencies, but also establishing criteria for what it takes to become a credentialed coach.

Of the 150+ coaching schools that are accredited by the ICF (the Physician Coaching Institute being one), most will offer students a certification upon completion.  In our case, the Certified Physician Development Coach™.   Some schools will also offer a shorter training that may not meet their internal criteria for a “certification,” typically because the training is a stepping stone on the pathway to certification.   For example, our Healthcare Peer Coaching Fundamentals™, which is 15 coach-training hours, is a foundational training course, and it also meets the prerequisite to join our  advanced level Certified Physician Development Coach™.

Our philosophy is that  coach training hours should match the scope of what the coach will be doing with the training.  For example, we expect students who complete our 15-hour Healthcare Peer Coaching Fundamentals™ will learn skills and techniques  of professional coaching  at a level where they can competently facilitate a 30-45 minute peer-to-peer coaching conversation (assuming they practice the skills!).   The scope of this peer coaching is for  “drop-in” or “ad hoc” coaching conversations with a peer or colleague. Coaching beyond that scope requires additional training.

What else is there to learn through advanced training and certification?  A lot!

First, the next levels of training introduce the coach to advanced coaching competencies and techniques.  Second, the advanced training in our Certified Physician Development Coach™ program introduces specific field-tested physician coaching tools and structures whereby a coach learns to partner with a physician client over a  3,  4, or 6 month period of time, facilitating a personal or professional development program—well beyond a single coaching session.   Graduates of our advanced program also learn how to conduct team coaching.

Furthermore, coaches earning the Certified Physician Development Coach™ are typically planning to set up a part time or full time coaching practice.  Therefore, they also delve into the ethics and nuances of client agreements.

The accumulated 95 hours of coach training leading to our coaching certification also aligns with the ICF tiers for a ‘credentialed coach.’  After completing training from our Certified Physician Development Coach™ program, a coach can elect to earn another credential from the ICF.  The first tier is the Associate Professional Coach (ACC) and requires 60 hours minimum of coach training hours (which must be earned through an ICF-approved school).

In our view,  a “physician coaching certification”  should meet these four criteria: a) backed by coaching-specific training hours,  b) approved by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), c) informed by physician-focused coaching processes and physician client case studies, and  d)  comprised of sufficient training hours (70+) such that a graduate can readily achieve the first tier of ICF credentialing.