istock_000005107511xsmallCaroline is a nurse who loves to help people to regain their health.  She knows that there are many lifestyle changes her patients can make to further their recovery and to prevent becoming a "repeat customer".  For years she has set up discharge plans for her patients that include all kinds of behavioral recommendations such as improving their diet and exercising regularly.  She has given them excellent information and advice and is continually amazed at, and deeply frustrated with, how few people follow through and actually make the lifestyle improvements she sincerely knows will help them.  While what she does is not called "wellness coaching" like the duties of the nurse or the health educator over in another department, she is a prime example of someone who would love to find out how to do her job in a more effective and  "coach-like" way.

Almost as soon as the coaching profession emerged, mostly in the business world, many other professions saw the tremendous advantages of the mindset and methods of coaching and seized them for their own work.  Managers saw a new way to supervise the people who reported to them.  Instead of immediately telling a worker that what they had just done was wrong, the coach-like manager would simply inquire "Tell me what you had in mind by doing it that way?"  The manager could then help the worker see how they could improve their work, or, a brilliant new idea might even emerge and be recognized!  The worker was not made to be "wrong" and could see that the manager was on the same "side" that they were.  Teachers also saw the advantage of a similar way of "correcting" their students so learning could be maximized.
Today, nurses, health educators, fitness trainers, dieticians, and others in health and wellness fields, who have no desire to change professions and become a professional coach, are benefiting from the mindset and methods of wellness coaching.

Steve the fitness trainer, knows that his relationship with his clients is critical to both their success and his own career success. But, Steve would often end his sessions with
"....fourteen....c'mon...fifteen!  All right!  Good job!  See you next week!"  Instead,
he began to wrap up sessions with a discussion about commitment and accountability to working out in between appointments and how to help his client stay on their wellness plan.

Darlene, the health educator, used to have her new clients jump on the scales before she even got to know them.  Learning to be more coach-like, she discovered that her clients felt less embarrassed and more committed to working with her when she explored their lives and their hopes for improvement before she measured anything.

Karen, on the other hand, is a nurse whose job it is to be both a nurse and a "wellness coach".  She does work with individuals and groups to help them create a wellness plan and succeed at lasting lifestyle change.  She also finds herself working with her patients on their medical compliance, teaching them how to do self-testing, and answering questions about medication.  Karen does wear "two hats".  

If you find yourself wearing two hats here are some tips:

  • Make it clear when you are switching hats. "Well, let me answer that as your nurse. When you take that medication with ...." Then she might say, "OK, now, let's get back to coaching."
  • Two hats at once is confusing to the client. Your client can work much better with you if they know their own role more clearly. "Am I to be a cooperative patient who is receiving information and instruction, answering questions to help my healthcare provider reach a diagnosis, or, am I a client who is working on a wellness plan with an ally?" You might set up separate appointments, or consciously divide the appointment time between the two roles. Perhaps the most confusing pair of hats is counselor/coach. They appear, on the surface, too much alike. For that reason most people who practice both counseling/psychotherapy and coaching make a sharp demarcation, usually finishing up one course of work before starting the other, or referring out one of the roles.
  • Be alert for when a switching of hats is required. A nurse still needs to listen for when a "client" transforms into a "patient" by asking or even by just inferring a medical question. A fitness trainer, or a dietician, needs to listen for when a client is looking to them for their professional direction on concretely what to do.
  • Look for ways to be more "coach-like" in all you do. The coaching mindset is very functional in daily life and in any profession. It is about accepting people as being OK, whole, and complete human beings first and foremost. It is about being non-judgmental. It seeks to understand the other person first, before you deliver what you have to offer. The wellness coaching mindset and it's methods can help a nursing supervisor be much more effective at supervising others. It can help a parent create a healthier family by making agreements with their children instead of just having expectations. It can help work through conflict at home or at work in a much more productive way. And...bottom line, it can help you do your job better if you job has anything at all to do with helping people succeed at lasting lifestyle change.


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