As a nurse, you should always seek ways to make yourself and your work better so that patients are properly cared for, your co-workers are happy and you are happy. Understanding and learning some basic coaching skills can help you improve in your field. But first, what does coaching mean for a nurse?
What a Coach Does
Acting as a coach is a collaborative relationship that is time-limited and focused and uses conversations to help other people achieve their goals; it means working with employees and patients to set goals and help people improve and reach their goals. Coaching is different from mentoring, in that mentoring is normally a longer-term relationship in which an experienced person mentors another person to help him grow; however, the communication skills required of coaches and mentors are the same. Coaches must be able to:
- Listen, discuss and question
- Clarify core values, beliefs and sense of purpose
- Identify gaps between a person’s vision and reality
- Encourage, motivate and instill confidence
One reason many in the medical field see coaching as an important skill is because patients are so often released without full knowledge of how to properly care for themselves, which means that they sometimes end up, unnecessarily, back at the hospital or doctor’s office. Also, nurses acting as coaches are able to help their fellow nurses and other colleagues.
What Makes a Great Coach
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a great coach is able to perform her daily tasks with these guidelines in mind:
- Create an open and supportive environment for communication. You must respect the person and be patient with him or her.
- Demonstrate good listening and follow-up skills. Asking open-ended questions, asking follow-up questions and paraphrasing what the other person is saying are all ways to demonstrate this skill.
- Provide constructive feedback and advice. You’ll want to give feedback and constructive criticism, focus on behaviors that can be changed and work on problem-solving when issues arise.
Coaching Can Help you as a Nurse
Coaching is a useful skill for managers, executives and other nurse leaders in particular, but all nurses can practice these coaching methods. For students in nursing masters programs, now is a great time to enhance your knowledge in this area. Coaching programs have been created within the nursing curriculum to help smooth the transition from education to employment, so if you’re still in school, you might have the opportunity to work with a coach once you get a job.
- Coaching patients. Coaching patients is something that is becoming more popular in the nursing field. In some hospitals, nurses act as coaches by identifying underlying issues that keep patients from effectively managing their health and by helping patients address these issues. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “Primary care must take on a new task: working with patients to ensure that they understand, agree with and participate in the management of their chronic conditions.” And health coaching is one way to accomplish this task.
- Coaching fellow nurses. Working with a nursing colleague to help her improve or even collaborating and both working as each other’s coaches is a possibility. You might be able to advance the careers of the people you work with and increase their job satisfaction.
How You Can Learn Coaching Skills
Some nurses are registered coaches, but you do not have to take this path in order to act as a coach or to improve your nursing skills. Instead, you could learn on your own by researching and reading or taking some classes about coaching. A good place to start is with the book “Coaching in Nursing: An Introduction,” which is published by The International Council of Nurses and the Honor Society of Nursing. Some will even take extra classes online while completing their Master of Science in Nursing. This will not only give them the credit they need to graduate but also educate them on how to be a good leader.
Becoming an expert coach is not something that will happen quickly; it is something you will always need to work on. However, it’s definitely a good idea to start learning now. As the population ages and more nurses are needed, coaching will be a valuable skill for every nurse. Even if you don’t act as a coach to a colleague or patient, improving your communication skills is sure to make you a better nurse.
About the Author: Sheena Robertson recently obtained her masters in curriculum and instruction after working as a nurse for five years. She is looking forward to her new job teaching nurses.