How do you learn to be a practice coach?

Focus on quality improvement and organizational change, for starters.

Most organizations prefer that practice coaches have real work experience  as health professionals or practice administrators. There is general agreement that all coaches need skills in the fundamentals of quality improvement and organizational change. Coaches also need knowledge and expertise in the core content areas of primary care improvement, including areas such as access to care, improving continuity of care, improving the care of chronic conditions, implementing electronic health records, and assisting practices in using registries to manage patient populations and panels. An honest self-assessment of expertise can help to identify areas of focus for continuous training. 
Training coaches is an ongoing process. Some basic competencies should be in place before starting coaching, but some can be learned only through experience in real clinic practice settings. Most coaching programs use some sort of apprenticeship to get the coach started. Even for the most experienced of coaches, it is essential to provide ways to vet ideas and share best practices throughout the assignment. This will ensure that coaches are refining skills, identifying strategies that might work in their settings, and finding support and camaraderie with peers faced with similar challenges. 
An excellent resource has been recently released by the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ). The Practice Facilitation Handbook is designed to assist in training new practice coaches as they begin to develop the knowledge and skills they need to support meaningful improvement in primary care practices. 
Compiled by Jen Powell, an AF4Q technical advisor working with the Improving Performance in Practice (IPIP) Technical Support Team. 
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