What is coaching, and why is it an important learning tool for public health?
The public health workforce does not have time for theory, and wants practical application. Coaching is a way to get to the practical application of learning that is often missing from self-paced and classroom learning alone.
Background: The strategic skills have been encouraged by The Debeaumont Foundation’s “Call to Action”, PHWINs, and health departments and associations interested in Public Health 3.0, Health Equity and the social determinants of health.
HRSA has encouraged the PHTCs to work specifically on the strategic skills of Systems Thinking, Persuasive Communications and Change Management.
NEPTHC has developed multi modal programs in the first two strategic skills and is now working on the third. Coaching is an incredibly important component of our training programs,
So what is coaching?
Coaching pairs a team who is interested in trying to go beyond learning the concepts about a skill or beyond one day trainings with an expert coach, to guide them through their real attempt on a real project with a real problem to solve. Teams are usually small. (Individuals can also be coached too, and we have done this for writing training.) The coaching process is structured. There are templates/homework, that are a few hours of work, but not burdensome, and then team meets with coach over phone or zoom. Our Systems Thinking time frame is usually 90 days, but the coaches have had to be flexible for the “messy parts” that come with learning. The process can evolve or stretch out. In some cases, the projects have turned into paid work for our coaches for teams who have had the resources and wanted more support.
Importantly, sometimes teams get started and can’t complete. We know this will happen, so we share the image of the leaky bucket. Not all teams complete coaching. There are a variety of reasons, some as simple as other crises at work. We maintain, that even if a team gets started and does not complete the work, still learn something.
Our evaluation results from coaching are good but slim. We encourage you to wach the videos of two success stories from coaching, and share a bit of evaluation results here.
For more information on Coaching provided by NEPHTC, please see the NEPHTC presentation on Virtual Coaching for Health Departments: Getting To Practical Results, at the APHA conference portal.