Caring for our Coordinators

Program Director’s Corner – December 2019

Caring for our Coordinators

David Lieb, MD
Program Director, Endocrine Fellowship Program
Eastern Virginia Medical School

There was an interesting study published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education last issue regarding program coordinators training.

Shah, Naffouje and Ejaz published the results of an important national survey of program coordinators (PC) in graduate medical education (J Grad Med Educ, October 2019). They were interested in surveying PCs to identify any predictors of better performance of their programs. They developed a 58-question survey that was sent out to over 1500 PCs nationwide. 712 PCs responded (47% of those that received survey). Both university-based (59%) and community-based programs were represented. Only 17% of those surveyed received specific coordinator training through the GME office at their institution, with another 15% receiving only peer training. An additional 9% of PCs reported having received both GME and peer training.

I was surprised that only 40% of those PCs survey reported any form of orientation. Only 51% of those receiving GME training found it helpful, compared to almost all of those receiving peer training. All who received training, rather it be from GME directly, or from peers, reported better performance, as defined by lower rates of delayed resident/fellow starts, higher graduation rates, higher rates of resident duty hour compliance, and higher rates of ‘readiness’ for internal GME reviews and GME visits. Having had prior administrative experience, and longer duration as a PC were associated with improved PC performance.

I would have been interested in measures and predictors of PC happiness and burnout. Such data, though limited, does exists for program directors. A survey for family medicine program directors from 2018 (Fam Med 2018 Feb;50(2):106-112) found that 27% of family medicine residency program directors surveyed were ‘highly emotionally exhausted’ – and that this correlated with lack of personal time, an unhealthy work-life balance, and the ‘inability to stop and think about work’. Financial stress also correlated with high rates of emotional exhaustion and feelings of depersonalization. I would imagine that our program coordinators suffer from similar feelings, and it would be important for us to know about the prevalence of such feelings in order to determine methods for improvement.

At my institution, Eastern Virginia Medical School, we have a Graduate Medical Education Program Administrators Committee. This committee meets regularly and is made up of all of our residency and fellowship program coordinators. They discuss all issues important and pertinent to the responsibilities of program coordinators, and help raise awareness of important issues that need to be addressed. This includes significant concerns such as professional titles and salary. Through this committee and our Graduate Medical Education committee, we nominate and award a ‘Program Coordinator of the Year’, and provide a significant amount of peer mentoring and orientation. Our regional institutions also host an annual Regional Program Coordinators Workshop, that includes presentations from DIOs and PCs on topics including professionalism and communication, ERAS and ACGME milestone updates, and CCC/PEC committee pearls. These meetings are well-attended and appreciated by both new and more experienced PCs.

I believe that such committee and meeting involvement provides program coordinators with a much needed source for learning, social interaction and resume building. I certainly feel that way about the PD committees in which I take part. They give me a stronger sense of personal identification as a PD, and I imagine it’s the same for PCs.

There are multiple ACGME resources available for PCs. Some resources for program coordinators include:

Journal of Graduate Medical Education Coordinator Page:

ACGME Website Resources

ACGME Coordinator Advisory Group

I would love to have some of our endocrinology Program Coordinators comment – what do you all think we can do to improve your opportunities and experiences? What do your institutions do for PC orientation? In the past we had a regular PC Corner similar to our PD Corner in the newsletter – if you are a PC that would like to write a post about your experiences, please let me know at I’d love to hear from you and I know that others would, too!

Happy Holidays to everyone!


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