Interview with Dr. Jen Barna

In today's episode, Dr. Jen Barna returns to the podcast to explain the value of coaching.

Jen Barna, MD is a board-certified radiologist and founder and CEO of DocWorking.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to

The Value of Coaching

Dr. Barna's unique program, which now offers CME credit, combines pure support and brain-based learning tools with ongoing success coaching. This program is created to support your success, well-being, and ability to grow both personally and professionally.

Her learning tool is constructed from tiny modules that are intended to take 5 to 10 minutes of your day. 

She also has a small coaching group program with physicians from across the country. She has seen them achieve their goals. Additionally, it propels them into leadership positions.

Dr. Barna's website created a quick quiz that will help you determine your position on the continuum between well-being and burnout. And there are videos with advice for overcoming it.

Forming New Habits

When forming new habits, Dr. Barna's coaches use the “knowing-doing gap.” It is by working with a trusted thinking partner to identify the “knowing-doing gap” that enables participants to:

  • make alterations to diet and exercise,
  • employ strategies to effectively manage your time,
  • adopt tools for managing stress,
  • better interact with people at home or work, and
  • promote self-awareness and personal development.

By adopting and implementing these tactics, the value of coaching becomes quite evident.

Dr. Jen Barna's Advice About the Value of Coaching

We can build new habits – when we are feeling stuck and we're looking for a way to move forward we can identify where we have agency to effect change in our own lives. We have more power than we think we do and we're not alone… you may just need to work with a trusted thinking partner to allow you change your perspective… sometimes just a small shift is all you need to see options in front of you that have been invisible until now.


Dr. Barna's program combines peer support with coaching from trusted thought partners. The value of coaching is easy to underestimate, but it's been shown to help us achieve our goals and advance our careers more quickly. Dr. Barna provides listeners to the Physician Nonclinical Careers Podcast with a Coupon Code (PNC100OFF) for those who decide to join DocWorking Thrive, which provides a $100 discount off the usual price.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

EXCLUSIVE: Get a daily dose of inspiration, information, news, training opportunities, and amusing stories by CLICKING HERE.

Links for Today's Episode:

Download This Episode:

Right Click Here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton

Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 274

Why Physicians Should Not Underestimate the Value of Coaching

- Interview with Dr. Jen Barna

John: I know several coaches pretty well, and I've interviewed several coaches for the podcast and I've been kind of impressed in a negative way why some physicians are so tentative about using a coach. I have used coaches in my life several times. And I think back to when I was a chief medical officer, it was sort of standard, the CEO, the CFO, all the C Suite people had coaches. We actually all shared one for a while. That's why I wanted to get back with our guest today, Dr. Jen Barna, because she has this business that provides coaching and a lot of other support for physicians. And so, I wanted to talk about this subject again. Hello, Jen, how are you?

Dr. Jen Barna: I'm great, John. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's great to be back here with you.

John: Yeah. We talked about this a little bit. Well, we obviously talked about your business and what you do in coaching in general back in episode number 233, but I thought I wanted to learn more, get some more specifics about what your experiences have been. I think it's going to be a fun conversation and hopefully can get the physicians that are listening and other clinicians to think about whether a coach might be appropriate given their particular situation. First of all, let's have you give us an update on DocWorking THRIVE. That's your business, that's the website at So, tell us what's been going on there recently.

Dr. Jen Barna: DocWorking THRIVE is a program that's unique because it allows you to use your CME budget to get ongoing success coaching combined with peer support and brain-based learning tools. These are all designed to support your wellbeing, your success, and importantly, to keep you in the driver's seat of your own life with continued personal and professional growth in the direction of what matters most to you.

And what that means is we combine coaching support so that you have trusted thinking partners to help accelerate your progress toward what matters most to you combined with peer support so that you no longer feel isolated and you can leave guilt and shame behind. And what I mean by brain-based learning tools is digital courses that are created in small bite size modules that are designed to take only minutes per day because we need to be able to make progress in just 5 to 10 minutes.

And as healthcare workers, we don't have a lot of extra time. We design them all specifically for that purpose. It's like filling a toolbox with tools you can use and continuing to practice using them so that you retrain your brain to access them whenever they're needed. And it's been tremendous, John, to just get to know other physicians from across the country and see people making progress toward the goals that matter most to each of them, and to learn from each other as well as the coaches in the small group coaching sessions and on the platform.

John: That was one of the reasons that I wanted to have you back here, and I thank you for that because when I think of coaching, I think, okay, I'm going to pick up the phone or I'm going to call somebody again on Zoom call, and I'm going to have a face to face or maybe even just audio connection with someone and just do one-on-one coaching.

But the more I learn about DocWorking THRIVE is that there's so much more to it. And I don't think we really got into all that last time, and I'm trying to understand, but what I'm hearing though is there is some peer interaction on a regular basis. And I know I get emails because technically, I'm a member of your program, although I don't use the coaching, but it helps me to just kind of keep track of what you're doing. And I get these emails that invite me to maybe a short presentation or something having to do with working with peers. So, tell me a little bit more about that, because I think in the abstract, it's kind of hard to envision exactly what that means.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. Everything that we do was created by our experience coaching team who had been working with physicians, some of them for over a decade. They really know from experience what works to help physicians move forward. And they had seen peer support as a key component to that and the ability to take these courses as resources. So, we combined all three. And the reason I find that to be so useful is because coaching is something that can benefit us throughout our careers wherever we are in life. And it really can be both a professional growth tool as well as personal growth.

And in healthcare, I think we deserve coaching, as you mentioned, in a similar way to how executives, athletes, actors use coaching throughout their careers. We have earned that working in such a stressful environment. It's really needed in order to help us stay on a sustainable path. And that has to be defined by each of us on our own terms. But when we work with others who are in the same field or in the same career, even if they're in different specialties, it really gives us some perspective on some of the things that we struggle with and we tend to be isolated in our struggles.

We think that we're alone, but we're really not at all alone as we begin to realize when we start talking with each other in these small group coaching sessions. So, the invitations that you're getting are just reminders about your monthly small group coaching sessions. We also have what we call one minute coaching sessions that are an email that comes to you with a one-minute coaching video every single week to just give you something you can put to use right away, no matter how busy you are, even if you're too busy to come to the small group coaching sessions.

But I do find that once people start coming to the sessions, they really begin coming routinely because they get a lot out of it. And the first thing people tend to say is, "I know I need it, but I don't have time for it." But once they begin to invest just that five minutes a day and start to make that part of their routine, begin learning the tools, it's kind of like when you're studying philosophy or something else or medicine for that matter.

It's something that you build over your whole career. You're building up this skillset and every time you revisit a concept, whether it's in a coaching session with peers, whether it's in a one-on-one coaching session, or whether you're seeing it in a course, maybe you're seeing it on the platform and some comments going back and forth between coaches and people in the program. Every time you see that and you see it in a slightly different way, you build on your understanding of the concepts. And of course, our goals change over time as well. What we're striving for can be accelerated with coaching, the path to get to that. But what that might be that we're aiming for will of course change once we reach that goal. There's always the next goal.

John: Yeah. I think unless you've been through some version of that, you don't really understand it. I can give you an example. When I was a CMO, then we had this coach and I remember the most challenging thing. I would walk in the room and he would just ask a question like, "Okay, what's your biggest challenge today?" It reminds me of going to therapy. My foot would start tapping and I'd be like, "Okay, I actually have to think about this." And invariably there's always something that I was working on there.

And just bringing that up and then walking through it, explaining what the problem was, a lot of times just defining the problem gives you the solution. And that's just how it is with coaching. It's not like they're telling you what to do like a consultant. It's like, "Okay, we're going to find out where you need this little push or understanding and let's work on that." And it does accelerate everything. That's definitely been my experience.

Dr. Jen Barna: Absolutely. And it really teaches you to think in a way that's based on your own values. And so, you start by just defining what is most important to you, and then you begin to shape your decisions around that. I spent years as a physician trying to solve things on my own before I discovered coaching. And I thought I had solved a lot of things, and I had solved a lot of things. But when I started working with coaching, the progress I made was so, so much faster than what I had done on my own for years. That really was what motivated me to bring these coaches together to create this platform.

Because as we work as individuals, sometimes we can't see all of the options that we have available to us. There might be a solution sitting right in front of you, but you're not able to see it. And so, when you're working with a trusted thinking partner, it opens your eyes or maybe can slightly shift your perspective so that suddenly you see these options that you didn't realize were there for you. And that's part of how you can really accelerate your progress.

John: It seems like there are certain situations where coaching would be extremely useful. I think it's usually when there's a big change that's in the offing or there's a desire for a big change, whether it's in a career or I think one example would be in starting a business or side gig, which is really something new even though you're still maybe practicing part-time. How does that play out in DocWorking THRIVE? Or do you have physicians that are facing those kinds of challenges that come for coaching?

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah, we definitely do. I think anytime you're going through a transition, as you say, starting a side gig, entrepreneurship, accelerating your success. Accelerating your success can be a game changer. It can be the difference between succeeding and failing. And of course, it's also a normal part of reaching success to have failures along the way and finding ways to cope with that can be another opportunity for coaching.

But also, to help you brainstorm when you get stuck and hold you accountable and as I said before, help you shift your perspective to see solutions. People who are going through any kind of a career change can certainly benefit from coaching. We see people who are making progress, moving toward a leadership position. A lot of times as physicians, we get promoted into leadership positions and we're expected to lead without any kind of training about leadership in and of itself.

But also, there are so many other areas where coaching can help people to accelerate their progress, even in personal transitions. People who are struggling with work-life balance or finding a way to integrate work and life outside of work, which was always the struggle for me. People who are wanting to improve relationships, including work relationships and personal relationships, marriage and other relationships, or people who are going through a relationship change like a divorce.

We have a parenting coach on our team, for example. Parenting can be an area where people can use some coaching. She likes to describe herself as helping people to parent the child they weren't expecting. And one of our DocWorking THRIVE members, a nephrologist, father of twins said that would be every child.

John: Exactly.

Dr. Jen Barna: And also coaching can be a huge help when you're wanting to form new habits. As doctors, we know a lot, we know what we should do but sometimes there's that gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do. And the coaches call it "The Knowing-Doing Gap." They can help us by being our trusted thinking partners to find ways to overcome that knowing-doing gap and form new habits around things like changes in nutrition or exercise or something I see people really appreciating is ways to manage their time more efficiently and tools to process stress. Everything ties back to how we spend our time and how we interact with other people both at work and at home. And coaching can help you to prioritize the ways you do those things help you build self-awareness and really grow as an individual.

John: I think you mentioned one aspect of coaching or one type of coaching need, but I want to ask, kind of dig into it a little bit further. And that's on the professional development side. And I'll tell you why, because I get people that ask me, they've already made a decision, they're going to do a nonclinical job. In fact, they might be working as a medical director like two thirds, three quarter times. So, they're basically doing medical directing and they're doing a little bit of practice, which is pretty common. But they're like, "Well, I've been doing this for two years and I've been unable to figure out how to advance."

And the ironic thing to me is they will ask me about spending $60,000 or $80,000 on an MBA, and I'm thinking, "Well, maybe coaching would be helpful. It's going to cost a lot less and it's going to help you organize your thoughts and come up with a plan. Maybe you need an MBA, maybe not." But the thing that is ironic is the fact that they're so reluctant to pay for the coaching. That's the thing that kind of kills me when they're willing to shell out all this money for an MBA or an MMM or some other expensive degree. What's your experience been with that?

Dr. Jen Barna: Well, I do think it's interesting that in healthcare we're behind other sectors. Other sectors recognize that coaching can help you with success, whereas in healthcare, we traditionally have thought of it as something that you do kind of at the end of the line. When you have such a serious problem that you're thinking about counseling is more appropriate in those situations, which is different from coaching.

But coaching really can help us, as I said, throughout our careers and I really see it as a need for a paradigm shift. And that coaching should be normalized for healthcare workers throughout our careers. Again, combined with peer support and ongoing access to evidence-based digital learning tools, because it helps us to stay connected to the meaning and the purpose of the work that we do, whatever that is for you. And staying connected to the relationships that we care so deeply about. These are the things that make life worth living.

And so, coaching can also help us to find a way to work that is sustainable. Whether it's a nonclinical career, whether it is in your clinical career or some combination of those, because you do have the option to do both. Coaching can support living our lives in a way that prioritizes what's most important to us. And I think that's really critical to helping to prevent burnout and to finding a way to happiness and sustainability in what we do.

John: I remember the advice of a good friend and colleague of mine. We were both involved with the American Association for Physician Leadership. We chaired committees for them and we used to go to meetings together and so forth. He told me something once that just blew my mind. He said, "When I take a new job", as what he was doing in CMO or some similar position, he says, "I always put in my agreement or my contract that my employer's going to provide coaching for me." I thought that was so brilliant. Like, "Ah, it's so obvious" but I never thought of that and I thought that's just great.

Something to keep in mind, even if people are moving up into these positions and you have the opportunity to have your employer help cover the cost, that's awesome. It's kind of like getting CME credit. There's more benefit to it. It kind of takes the financial hit off a little bit because not only are you learning and advancing, but you're getting CME credit or having someone else pay for it or what have you. So, I think we need to figure out how to work this into our lives.

Dr. Jen Barna: We actually do have a new hire success program that we do promote to healthcare organizations to put people into it. It's a yearlong program, and it provides not only the small group coaching and everything else that I've talked about so far, but we also do what we call care calls where we call the person who's going through the transition as well as their significant other and just check in with them outside of coaching to just see how things are going.

And one thing that we do that I think is a really important part of this program is we begin right when someone signs their contract. If the healthcare organization is working with us, ideally, we start as soon as the person signs their contract. Because as physicians often, and other healthcare workers as well, but particularly for physicians, it can be a very long gap between when we sign a contract and when we start the work. And we begin working with people to build these skills from the time they sign the contract, so that when they are starting that job, they're really starting with their best foot forward again with the concepts of what matters most to them. And also, with the strength of being able to communicate in ways that are more effective so that if there is a problem, they can negotiate how to solve the problem with their new team and have the confidence to be able to do that.

And one thing of course, that I think is really important to recognize is that as healthcare workers, we work in a system that is broken. We're not personally responsible for fixing the broken system that we work in. It's going to take years. I hope that it can be fixed somehow, but I think we have to be able to put ourselves in the driver's seat of our own lives and be able to recognize where we can affect change in our own environments. There are many places within our lives where we can make choices, and that includes in our work lives as well as our personal lives. And so, we can maintain some control so that things can move in the direction we want them to go. And then ultimately, hopefully we can be part of the solution. But as individuals, we don't need coaching because we are broken. We need coaching because we want to have success and live fulfilling lives.

John: Absolutely. One of the things, I get questions, of course, from people all the time about coaching. "Should I get a coach?" 90% of the time it's going to be yes. But they also always ask me, "Well, how do I pick a coach? It seems like it's kind of a crapshoot. There are thousands of coaches out there technically depending on what you're looking for." And I give them my advice, but I guess I would like your advice from your experiences. Is there a method to the madness of trying to align with the best coach or the best coaching service?

Dr. Jen Barna: Well, one of the reasons I created DocWorking the way that I did is to help to troubleshoot that exact problem because we're already facing overwhelm in a lot of the things that we do every day. And it can be overwhelming to try to sort through thousands of people and find the right person for you. And that's why I brought a team of the best of the best together so that you can go to this and you have a team of coaches and you have access to the best in the industry.

I would say far and away that experience is the most important factor that I would look for in finding a coach. Just like you want a doctor with experience, if you have an illness, you want to coach with experience who has helped people like you, and you really want to find a program where you can get ongoing support, not just a few one-on-one sessions or a couple of one-on-one sessions.

You want that support to combine the coaching, peer support, and brain-based learning tools because you need access to all of those. The reason you want the support to be ongoing is because we don't master these skills overnight or in one weekend or in a few weeks. We can accelerate our progress quickly. We can see people make changes very fast and move toward answering something or making a decision that they were having trouble with, but we continue to refine and build the skills over time.

You can think of it like going to the gym and learning to use the equipment. You don't stop there, right? You have to make it part of your routine. And if it's done right, it only takes a few short minutes per day. You do build those skills like building muscles. The idea is to retrain your brain so that you can access these tools in the heat of the moment anytime you need them.

John: All right. Jen, we're going to get close to the end here in a minute. Let me first make sure I don't forget, again, how do we find you again? Give us that website. And I think I saw there's a pop-up there about a quiz. Maybe you can explain what that is because I checked it out earlier today.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. We have developed a very short quiz. I think it takes maybe two minutes, maybe less than two minutes. It's a quiz to see where you are on the continuum from wellbeing to being burned out. And the quiz as you take it and answer the questions, you'll get a score and the score will be emailed to you and it'll group you into one of three sections.

And then depending on whether you have none to mild versus mild to moderate versus severe, you'll get some information that'll help you to take some steps right away. We'll send you a video of one of our coaches who will talk to you based on what your score is and just give you some ideas that you could use to get started right away, to put yourself in a position for success. Whether it is addressing burnout and moving away from it, or whether it is preventing burnout. If you're in a good place and you're not needing to move away from burnout, of course, we want to keep you there. So, some tips for that as well.

John: Very nice. Yeah, we like to use as much free advice as we can get. We're trying to figure this stuff out. I did want to mention something else before we go too, and that's the podcast, DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. Thanks for mentioning it. The podcast has been truly a joy and a fun way to meet amazing people like you, John. And we have a combination of doctors telling stories about their lives, many people who are at the top of their field, who've been through burnout, and they've found a way back to do the work that they love doing. Again, whatever that is. For some people that's a side gig. For some people it's nonclinical. For some people it's clinical. Also coaching topics that people can put to use right away. So, it's a joy to hear all of the different perspectives on the podcast, and I would certainly be thrilled to hear some feedback from your listeners if you guys have a chance to check it out.

John: Yeah. I think it's pretty interesting and informative. I was listening to a recent episode and I thought to myself, "Wait a second. That does not sound like Jen Barna to me." Because you have different hosts that are part of your team.

Dr. Jen Barna: Right. My co-host is Jill Farmer. She's our lead coach at DocWorking, and she is a nationally known coach who has been coaching physicians for over a decade. She leads our team of coaches and she is absolutely tremendous. She was previously, her work prior to becoming a coach over 10 years ago was as a TV news anchor. And so, she has been through some of the same types of stress and overwhelm as we have as physicians, and she has become known nationally as a time management expert.

John: Okay.

Dr. Jen Barna: And she has guided many physicians in leadership positions to put themselves in the driver's seat of their own lives and to deal with so many situations that we encounter including helping people. We've actually also developed a program to help people who are struggling with charting. There are so many different areas that coaching can really help.

John: Nice. Yeah. I would recommend definitely listening to the podcast. I love podcasts, obviously, not just because I produce one, but it's just so convenient when I'm taking a walk or driving the car. I love to learn something new. Let's see, I'm going to let you go soon. I think we had talked last time maybe and it came up before we got on here today, about possibly having some kind of a coupon code if someone does end up using your services, they could use it to get a little bit of a discount.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes, absolutely. I have a special coupon code that I'd love to offer to your listeners, John. It's PNC100OFF.

John: Okay, cool. PNC is for Physician Nonclinical Careers, my podcast. PNC100OFF.

Dr. Jen Barna: Exactly. PNC100OFF. That'll give you $100 off if you decide to become a member of DocWorking THRIVE.

John: All right. I will put that in the show notes and in my email so people will not have to write that down at the moment, but they can if they want to and not have to look at my show notes. All right. I do have one more question and that is any final advice for listeners who are either in a nonclinical job or clinically working and they're stuck as I guess the way I'd put it. Either there's something wrong and they can't figure it out or they know they need to make a change and they can't figure that out. Any advice for someone to help them in that situation?

Dr. Jen Barna: Sure. I would say we can build new habits. When we're feeling stuck and we're looking for a way to move forward, we can identify where we have agency to affect change in our own lives. We have more power than we think we do. And we're not alone. It can feel like you're the only one who's stuck and maybe you're even ashamed to admit that you're stuck, but you'll find out when you talk with your peers in a safe environment that what you're experiencing is probably not as unusual as you think. And you have a lot more options than you think. It's not all or none. You may just need to work with a trusted thinking partner to allow you to change your perspective. And sometimes just a small shift is all you need to see options in front of you that have been invisible until now.

John: Excellent. Yeah. I think the idea of just reaching out to somebody, even if it's a trusted colleague or someone, just to bounce things off and then you can start opening up your mind to what's possible and then look for some real professional assistance if you need it. All right, Jen, this has been very helpful, very interesting. I hope that the physicians listening here will take this to heart in terms of remembering that coaching can benefit pretty much all of us, unless we're in the verge of retirement, perhaps.

Dr. Jen Barna: We even have physicians who are post-retirement in our group.

John: Well, that's good. Then there's something going on there too. So, you never know. Whatever you're doing, maybe they're trying to do things and they want to do it a little quicker, which I guess is important when you're in retirement. To me, I've often said that the older people should be moving faster than everybody else, not slower because we have less time. But that's another story.

Dr. Jen Barna: That's another episode.

John: Yeah, to get to that. Okay. Anyway, let's end it there. Thanks, Jen, for being here today. I really appreciate all the information you've shared with us today and the coupon code. I'm sure I'll have you back on the podcast somewhere down the line.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you so much, John. I'm looking forward to having you back on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast as well. Absolutely.

John: Oh, that would be fantastic. Great. All right. Thanks. Bye-bye.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you. Bye-bye.


Many of the links that I refer you to are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you.

The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life, or business.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. I do not provide medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counselor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.