What Is A Nurse Coach?

by | Apr 17, 2017 | Nurse Coaching

The Breakdown

In this article, we’ll answer this question:

What exactly is a Nurse Coach?A nurse health coach is a registered nurse who is trained to integrate skilled, structured client coaching into regular nursing practice. Focused on the overall growth and well-being of each client, a health nurse coach addresses the whole person: body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Nurse coaches need specialized education and experience. They partner with patients to move them toward their goals and facilitate an effective process of change.

Nurse coaching is growing rapidly, increasing in popularity and acceptance in both the medical and coaching communities. By now, most people have at least a basic idea of what coaching is.  As more people are exposed to the transformative nature of this field, it will only gain further acceptance by the public.

A few years back, a group of amazing nurses compiled a book of coaching competencies and applied them to the professional nursing framework, entitled The Art and Science of Nurse Coaching. While the book itself is pretty dry and straightforward, it created a paradigm shift in the field of coaching.

For the first time in this budding profession’s history, there is an overseeing body of ethics to which coaches are held accountable for their actions and practice. The state board of nursing and the AHNCC (American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation) require each nurse who wishes to become a Nurse Coach – Board Certified to prove competencies and demonstrate continued learning.

Only in the past few years have coaching courses specifically designed for nurses come into existence. These certifications allow nurses to work under their professional license as a coach.

The Nurse Coach Collective

What does a Nurse Coach do?

Well, let’s get into some details.

Nurse coaches establish a professional relationship with their clients, giving them a safe space to discuss various areas in their life that they want to improve.

Through deep listening, careful questioning, non-judgement and a positive outlook, the nurse health coach helps the client to discover and utilize their strengths so they may overcome life’s hurdles. If you have an advanced degree, being a nurse practitioner health coach can take your coaching to the next level.

These sessions may be performed in person, on the phone, or through video-chat programs such as Skype. Most nurse coaches prefer to work with individual clients, although at times group nurse coaching sessions engaging peer support may be offered.

The nurse coaching model presents a way for clients to safely discuss their goals and assess their readiness for change. The focus is on lifestyle behavior and promoting health to improve overall wellbeing.

While the nurse coach is credentialed and highly skilled, they recognize that the client’s own innate wisdom is the driving factor towards positive, healthy change. A broad range of powerful questions allow the coach to leverage the client’s wisdom.

Additionally, one of the most powerful tools at a nurse coach’s disposal is accountability; knowing that they must check in with their coach drives a client to stick with their goals. Having someone who believes that they are capable is a strong, motivating factor.

Nurse coaches may practice in a number of areas based on interest, experience and training. While nurses may naturally be drawn towards the health and wellness platform, other opportunities exist in areas such as executive coaching, faculty development coaching, managerial coaching, business coaching, relationship or life coaching.

The Nurse Coach Collective

Coaching vs Psychotherapy

This is a hotly discussed topic worth discussing… I even wrote an article on it.  The question of “What do nurse coaches do?” can’t be answered without defining our scope of practice.

Both nurse coaches and therapists offer help for people to effectively manage their problems, grow and lead more effective, healthy lives.

A nurse coach is not able to diagnose psychological diseases, nor are they able to prescribe medications.

However, a proficient nurse coach should have a clear understanding of professional boundaries and understand when it is appropriate to refer a client to another professional within the interdisciplinary team. Coaching can always co-exist while a client is pursuing any other modalities of care.

The Nurse Coach Collective

Enter The Nurse Coaches

So, what can a nurse coach do that a health coach can’t? Well, nurses are uniquely suited to the coaching role. Nurse coaches integrate the medical model of treatment with various alternative modalities to help the client examine the many different paths to healing that are available.

While working independently, and as part of the interdisciplinary team, nurse coaches bring their medical expertise to help a client create a more fulfilling life. Chronic illness, diet and exercise, relationships, careers, etc – a nurse coach is able to help clients in any number of issues in their lives.

Recently a number of certification courses were created specifically for nurses, giving this movement traction in the medical realm.

This benefits are two fold:

  1. Clients will now have access to coaches who are licensed medical professionals.
  2. The field of coaching will gain the recognition it deserves as a powerful method of healing and growth for all types of people.

The potential that I see is this: Nurses are 3.5 million strong in the U.S. Presently, less than 500 of them are certified as coaches through the AHNCC.  As the number of health and wellness coaches increases and really begins to work in communities, the change in the wellbeing of our country will be immense and profound.

The Nurse Coach Collective

So What Does It All Mean?

It means is that now, more than ever, the world needs healers who are walking the talk and who have a passion for helping others become better human beings. Nurses are perfectly positioned to leverage their skill-set and knowledge base to bring a whole new dynamic to the world of coaching, and I’m incredibly grateful to be part of this movement.

Nurses are highly trusted and quick to adapt. Coaching is a learned skill that benefits not only our clients, but nurses as well. We must be healthy ourselves; practicing mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness while engaging in good eating, exercise and healthy lifestyle habits.

We must work to create work environments which are sustainable, healthy, and safe not only for our patients, but for the staff as well.

The Transformative Nurse Coaching Certification Program is our world-class, evidence-based learning experience, specifically designed to help you on your path toward Board Certification in Nurse Coaching. We designed this seven-month online course to make it possible for you to bring your gifts of healing to the world in a more fulfilling, holistic way.

The program includes a variety of modules and videos, live support calls, a dedicated instructor, and interaction with a community of the coolest nurses on the planet. Through it, you’ll gain 120 CNEs, eligibility for Board Certification, and training from highly experienced, innovative faculty. If you’re a nurse who feels called to coach your patients toward a healthier life while experiencing more fulfillment in your own life and practice, this program is for you.

Coaching offers a wonderful way for nurses to change healthcare to be a model that focuses on lifestyle change and improving behavior. With an understanding of the impact of self-care, nurse coaches have a powerful role in the future of healthcare.

I hope I’ve answered your question about what a nurse coach is and does.


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