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Inside life coaching: Care for yourself, care for others


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by Phyllis Quinlan, RNC, MS, CLNC, CEN, CCRN

Nurses are amazing individuals. Their nature is to be present and available to others. They enjoy a sense of personal and professional satisfaction from working with people, when those people are most vulnerable. This is a quality that should be honored and nurtured, but is all too often disrespected, leaving nurses feeling confused and drained.

Many nurses are poised to exit the profession via retirement. Others are actively exploring career alternatives. Dysfunctional work environment issues coupled with the demand of addressing the ongoing challenges within the healthcare industry contribute to the current retention crisis. There are no simple or quick solutions. So my question becomes while we work toward an answer, what are you doing to care for yourself?

A healthy option

Many nurses are now turning to professional life coaching for direction and a sense of empowerment. Utilizing the services of a life coach is a growing option for those who wish to effectively manage life's challenges. Coaching is different from mentoring in that it is a self-development process, not a grooming process for a specific position. A life coach can offer nurses the needed support to effectively strengthen personal and professional relationships, improve focus, and achieve goals.

Through coaching sessions, nurses are asked to identify their perceptions of their strengths, shortcomings, incentives, and blocks. This is intended to encourage insight, recognition, and personal awareness. The success of the process depends largely on the willingness of the nurse to participate fully. Some issues which nurses have successfully addressed via 1:1 coaching include:

  • Increasing motivation levels
  • Improving specific relationships
  • Improving time management and organizational skills
  • Working through perceived obstacles and coping with change
  • Increasing confidence and self esteem
  • Dealing effectively with conflict
  • Adopting a more positive approach to life

The focus and pace of the process is driven largely by the nurse. Therefore, getting the most out of life coaching sessions requires preparation. Before participating in your first session, ask yourself:

  • Why am I seeking the skills of a life coach at this time in my life?
  • Can I identify, in order of importance, my three greatest challenges?
  • What in my personal or professional life motivates me?
  • What am I willing to focus on improving in the next 30 to 90 days?
  • What am I currently doing for myself to maintain and renew my energy?

A rising profession

Professional life coaching is also emerging as a specialty practice area for nurses. It is a new holistic complementary practice that includes massage therapy, acupuncture, reiki, and feng shui.

Becoming a professional life coach requires a desire to work with nursing and non-nursing clients toward positive outcomes. It requires training, an entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication to the advancement of the nursing profession. Ask yourself these vital questions to help decide if you have the temperament and skills essential to becoming a successful life coach:

  • Do you enjoy working with individuals seeking improvement in their lives?
  • Can you actively listen and respond in a non-judgmental manner?
  • Do you have the ability to build a rapport with individuals?
  • Can you inspire and motivate?
  • Can you be relied upon to be honest and maintain confidentiality?

Developing a life coaching practice is a serious step and commitment. It involves changing and setting new personal goals beyond learning conventional nursing skills. A desire to walk down a new nursing career path is vital. Nurses choose to become professional life coaches because they have true concerns about nurses leaving the profession and want to make a difference. They want to put an end to the stereotypical perception that nurses eat their young and they are ready to explore additional options to gaining personal and financial freedom.

Nurses are not in the habit of reaching out for help for themselves because they view themselves as nurturers and givers. It is vital that those who give so much spend the time necessary to keep the deep well that they give from full. Perhaps the time has come for nurses to put their own oxygen on first so that we are safe and therefore capable of meeting the demands of the nursing profession.