Is Nurse Coaching Right For You?
Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, HWNC-BC and Co-Director of the International Nurse Coach Association (HNHN Champion), explains what a nurse coach does and how to become one.
As nurses, we act as coaches to our patients every day. Many of us are focused on helping our patients heal or recover, while nurse coaches help people make healthy lifestyle changes for the long term. “A professional nurse coach is a registered nurse who integrates coaching competencies into any setting or specialty area of practice to facilitate change or personal development,” says Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, HWNC-BC and Co-Director of the International Nurse Coach Association.
How to become a nurse coach
To become a nurse coach, you’ll first need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and be a registered nurse. Most nurse coaches get their nurse coach certification while working their full-time job.
There are two types of certification available for nurse coaches. One is from the International Nurse Coach Association and the other is through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. Both certifications include a few months of independent coursework with a board-certified nurse coach as well as some group meetings with other nurse coaching students and teachers. “The nurse coach role adheres to professional nurse standards, scope, and competency,” says Dossey. Because of this, she stresses that it’s important to participate in a training program that is a few months long, so nurses can integrate their new skills into their current position.
Where do nurse coaches work?
Once you’re a certified nurse coach, you may be able to work at your current organization in a new role or for a variety of other places. Nurse coaches can work in any kind of health care setting. Some see patients in hospitals or clinics, while others may be nurse educators working in faculty development, and others may work in the corporate world helping executives or employees to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Many nurse coaches enter the field to become entrepreneurs. As a nurse coach, you can see individual clients and help them to accomplish their goals, such as losing weight, managing stress, or incorporating more fitness into their lifestyle. Some nurse coaches have their own websites, blogs, newsletters, or are interviewed in the media sharing their healthy lifestyle tips.
Benefits of nurse coaching
The nursing profession experiences a higher level of burnout (being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from work) than many others. Becoming a nurse coach allows nurses to explore other opportunities outside of the bedside practice and move into other areas or industries, while still utilizing their health care knowledge and expertise. Nurse coaches also learn and explore alternative treatments that may not be used in the hospital setting, like aromatherapy, guided imagery, or massage.
“Our whole health care model is changing because we’re shifting to a health and well-being model. Nurses need new skills to work in this setting, which are the same skills nurse coaches learn and practice every day,” says Dossey.
Best of all, nurse coaches can work with clients over a longer period of time than they may see patients in the hospital setting. As a nurse coach, you’ll be invested in their well-being and self-improvement and can witness those positive changes over time.
Interested in learning more about nurse coaching? Dossey’s books, Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing and The Art and Science of Nurse Coaching: The Provider's Guide to Coaching Scope and Competencies have in-depth information about the field of nurse coaching. She’s also the creator of the Integrative Nurse Coach Certificate Program (INCCP).
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