An Overview of Nurse Coaching

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How nurse coaches can play a vital role in helping patients with chronic illnesses improve their health and outlook.

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Registered nurses, or RNs, provide coaching services to help patients work toward personalized health goals. In an overly simplified comparison of nurse practitioners and nurse coaches, nurses provide directions, while nurse coaches work directly with clients to meet the goals provided by a nurse or doctor.


To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the Rutgers University Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.


What is Nurse Coaching?

According to the American Holistic Nurses Association, nurse coaching is “a skilled, purposeful, results-oriented, and structured client interaction that is provided by registered nurses for the purpose of promoting achievement of client goals.”

Who Can Benefit from a Nurse Coach?

Nurse coaches frequently work with patients living with chronic diseases. Some of these ailments include heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. These conditions impact the daily lives of patients, and they can also be difficult to manage. They’re also prevalent: 51.9% of Americans have at least one chronic medical condition, and 8.7% of the population have more than five conditions. Nurse coaches can help patients with these conditions minimize health risks, manage side effects, increase mobility, and work toward better outcomes.


The Role of the Nurse Coach

A nurse coach’s role is built on a foundation of several key traits. Some are directly related to healthcare execution, such as assessment, diagnosis, and identification of outcomes. Others correlate to concepts that make quality healthcare possible, such as education, ethics, and leadership.

Nurse coaches perform comprehensive assessments of patients, which consider metrics like physical and mental health status, clinical history, social resources, and level of support needs. They also develop customized patient health plans marked by goal-driven strategies, and monitor patients to assess progress toward these goals, making adjustments and resolutions when necessary. Along the way, they empower and motivate patients toward achieving their goals. Additionally, they work with primary care physicians, other medical professionals, and family members regarding a patient’s personalized health plan.


How Nurse Coaching Works

Nurse coaching requires to deep understanding of the nursing practice and coaching principles. Its model consists of five key concepts: motivational interviewing; appreciative inquiry; coaching competencies; nursing process; and holistic nursing. Nurse coaches work through these concepts to encourage self-care, ask open-ended questions, facilitate a caring presence, check patients’ understanding, act as a therapeutic partner to patients, provide information and assist in learning, and center themselves and their work on their patients.

It’s proven that health coaching improves outcomes. When participating in a comprehensive management plan built by nurse practitioners and health care workers, patients with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes showed substantial improvement in total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and glycated hemoglobin levels. It also patients to experience a boosted perception of the quality of their chronic illness care.

Coaching can also aid in treatment adherence. Poor patient adherence to medication and treatment plans is a problem throughout all medical specialties. It’s an issue caused by several barriers, from depression leading to reduced motivation to simple forgetfulness. However, with a better understanding of a patient’s specific challenges, nurse coaches can help educate patients about side effects, identify and treat illness-related depression, monitor problems associated with medication, and be a measure of accountability for patients and their adherence issues.


How to Become a Certified Nurse Coach

There are several paths to becoming a certified nurse coach. One of those paths is via the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). To become eligible for their Nurse Coach Board Certified (NC-BC)® exam, nurses must have a current and unrestricted U.S. RN license, provided they tend to work in the U.S. They must also have a BS, BA, or BSN degree from an accredited institution. Additionally, they must have either 4,000 hours’ experience as a part-time RN over the past five years, or two years’ experience as a full-time RN. They must also have 60 hours of coaching experience within three years under the supervision of a Certified Nurse Coach (CNE) Supervisor and a CAN validation document. They must also complete institute-related fine print, such as signing to ANHCC Candidate’s agreement terms and a completed and signed application.

Some prospective nurse coaches may wish to become eligible for Health and Wellness Nurse Coach Board Certified (HWNC-BC)® certification. To do so, candidates must meet the same requirements as they would applying for (NC-BC)® certification, and they must also have a valid holistic nursing certification.

To prepare for the exam, candidates should refer to Core Essentials for the Professional Nurse Coach Role and Professional Nurse Coach Role: Defining Scope of Practice and Competencies as resources. Candidates should also familiarize themselves with the core competencies listed in the appendix of the former resource material.

Nurse coaches play a vital role ensuring patients understand and follow physicians’ orders. RNs and students enrolled in nursing programs interested in a career focused on coaching patients should consider nurse coaching. The well-being of patients and the effectiveness of health care organizations are depended on the skills and expertise of nurse coaches.