Health Coaching – An Exciting Role for Nurses

As a nurse, your primary goal is most likely helping people and ensuring that they get and stay healthy. Nurses are an indispensable ingredient in the world of healthcare, and as the time goes on there is beginning to be a need for helping patients in other ways. Entering the field of health coaching could be just what you need in terms of job satisfaction and success. Interested in learning more? Read on!

What is Health Coaching?

Essentially, health coaches are like personal trainers for health. When a person goes to a gym for a personal training session, they are accompanied by a professional that knows what needs to be done to achieve a certain goal. That trainer will show the person what they should do, how they need to do it, and then guides them as they go through the exercise. They give the client encouragement, motivation, and praise for a job well done.

Health coaches are similar in that they help the client (or patient) to do the things that they need to achieve optimum health. Like the gym-goer, clients likely know what needs to be done in a basic way but have a hard time with motivation or breaking bad health habits. A health coach will be able to motivate clients with whom they have built a good relationship and help them set goals and make plans to reach those goals. Instead of a distant health professional, a health coach becomes an integral part of helping clients become healthier.

The Health Coaching Process

The practice of health coaching consists of four parts: Establish the Relationship, Motivational Interviewing, and Wellness Vision, and Goal Setting. These parts are essential in working with clients and helping them achieve success with their goals. Let’s take a deeper look:

  • Establish a relationship – It is likely that clients have heard the same health instructions as their health coach will give them. It is likely simple enough, but the client may resist breaking bad habits. Therefore, it is essential that the coach build a strong relationship with the client. Only when there is a sense of trust will the client follow through on instructions. Otherwise known as “building rapport,” there are many techniques that can help, including eye contact, positive body language, confidence, honesty and genuineness, active listening, and a relaxed and calm state of being. Putting the client at ease is crucial to gaining their trust and therefore building a relationship. A word of caution here: be careful not to become too close to a client, as this can prevent progress to the end goal.
  • Motivational Interviewing – This is a process that is often used in fields such as social work, addiction therapy, and psychotherapy. The goal is to help clients recognize problems themselves instead of just believing when a professional says “this is a problem.” Motivational interviewing also aims to reduce client indecision when it comes to making positive changes to existing habits. One technique in this step is placing emphasis on the present and the future instead of dwelling on the past. In other words, there is a focus on “what can I do better from here on out” and not on “what am I doing wrong that brought me here.” This helps the client identify their goals and the roadblocks to those goals themselves, instead of relying on a coach to tell them what to do.
  • Creating a Wellness Vision – Once rapport has been established and the coach has helped the client identify a desire to change their lifestyle, it’s time to create a wellness vision. A wellness vision is a client’s statement that discloses the client’s vision for what their future should look like. They use their imagination to create their ultimate lifestyle using their now-seen potential as a guide. Clients should be looking at all aspects of their lives, including spiritual, emotional, social, financial, and of course, physical. By creating a vision for what their life would look like if they were living up to their full potential, clients will be more willing to strive toward it and make the changes they know need to be made.
  • Goal Setting – Once the client recognizes that changes need to be made and have a vision for what life should be like for them, the health coach will work with them to set specific and detailed goals. Every goal should be a force that guides the client toward their wellness vision. The coach will help create a plan and maintain evaluation of that plan. Progress should be identifiable. Evaluation should include positive feedback and continuing motivation. It is in this part of the process that we see the importance of a health coach – relapses in goal-oriented action may occur, but a good health coach will continue to motivate and will not allow clients to stop moving forward, despite setbacks.

Health Coaching Logistics

Health coaching is becoming more and more mainstream in the United States. As companies and individuals are placing more and more importance on the idea of “wellness,” health coaches will continue to see a rise in the trend.

Health coaches are often hired directly by companies to act as health coaches for their employees. For example, UPS has brought on health coaches to address the stress of work and the physical demands it makes on those that work in delivering. The health coach nurses are also given access to health care claims made by employees in order to identify those who may be at risk for more serious health disorders like asthma or diabetes. They can then work closely with employees to address ongoing health concerns and needs, and even help them understand lab results or bloodwork.

Of course, many health coach nurses work for insurance companies. The plan member simply has to call the insurance company and let them know of their need for a health coach and then one may be assigned. These services are mostly offered for non-emergency situations centered on wellness such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and stress management. Essentially, an insurance-provided health coach is almost like an on-call nurse for personal use. Much of the health coaching is done online.

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