January 30th, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
”Put me in, coach.” That’s how I felt when I finished nursing school and started my internship in the operating room. I couldn’t wait to get in the game. I wanted my own room, and to be part of the team and to help patients be comfortable with their choices and to get to use cool tools and wear scrubs instead of heels at work every day.
Ten years down the road I still loved that part of my nursing career but I also knew I needed to expand out of it. Travel nursing was fun. Different hospitals, different personnel, mostly the same problems but in locations I had always wanted to see. But, it was still the OR. I needed something else.
This job is great and just what I needed. When I was putting together my application for blogger for RNCentral.com I came across my resume from nursing school. Under goals it said my short term plan was to get a job as an OR nurse (check) and under long term goals it said I wanted to marry my careers in journalism and nursing to write about nursing and nursing issues. CHECK! However, these career goals, insights and good fortune aren’t always so obvious for other RNs. Hence, the new world of nurse coaching.
What is Nurse Coaching?
It’s all about a game plan for your nursing career and getting the kind of support, insight, and encouragement we all need to help find that next step in our lives, relationships and yes, careers.
Coaching helps nurses engage in conversations and relationships that are directed at enhancing professional development, career commitment, and practice. Coaching is a collaborative relationship entered voluntarily between a coach and person, in this case a nurse, who is seeking change, focus, and/or career enhancement.
Sometimes the terms “coaching” and “mentoring are used interchangeably but they are actually two different actions. According to Coaching in Nursing: An Introduction, a workbook produced as part of a collaboration between the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Sigma Theta Tau International, Honor Society of Nursing (STTI), this is the difference between the two:
Coaching is not about giving advice, it is about listening, questioning, discussing and clarifying. It is therapeutic; it is motivational; and it is encouraging. Coaches are used by corporate bigwigs, entertainment stars, athletes, and other successful people found in every industry. And, coaching isn’t just about changing to other career paths, it is also about finding greater enjoyment and satisfaction in their current roles. Sounds like just the ticket for nurses who are often pushed beyond their limits, emotionally and physically and have a tendency to care for others more than we care for ourselves.
Trends in Coaching
Nurse coaches can be found working with a number of different methods. When meeting a nurse coach for the first time, it is no different than meeting a new patient; the coach will assess, assess, assess. There are different methods in coaching and while initially one-on-one was the way to go today a variety of different styles are being used by individuals and organizations alike.
So this is what nurse coaches do. They are in many ways, nurses for nurses—and who among us couldn’t use a little rah-rah time. Nurses struggle everyday with other people’s problems. It is about time we recognized we need help with our own lives and it is, in fact, ok to get that help.
Since coaching is a relationship built on mutual trust, the coach must be someone whose expertise and method you value and trust. Some health care organizations include coaching services as part of their human resources offerings. Professional organizations may have coaches available for members, and some community organizations have coaches. Of course, many self- employed coaches also provide coaching on a fee for service basis and also may be on a centralized roster, such as with the International Coach Federation (ICF) as part of their Coach Referral Service. Finally, there is Google—the phrase nurse coach will bring up any number of nurses who have translated their experiences as caregivers themselves into coaches for other nurses. Take advantage, this may be the perfect time to reevaluate your career, your work-life balance and your future.