The next couple of weeks bring on a holiday season filled with meaningful holidays that are especially tough on patients who are hospitalized, in nursing homes, or home bound.
Nurses expect to work some of the holidays that are special for them, and they know how hard that is. But they also know they are taking care of people who are also as saddened by not being home for the holidays and are too sick to have any choice in the decision.
As a nurse working the holidays this year, you have a chance to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of your patients in many ways. Of course, giving excellent medical care is expected, but being aware of the sadness patients might feel is equally important.
Depending on where you are working and the physical condition of your patients, you can extend some holiday cheer to patients and their families.
“Nurses are keenly aware of how missing holiday traditions can impact patients,” says Evelyn Kieltyka, FNP, MS, MSN, and president of the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association.
Patients who have families nearby can help brighten the holidays as well. Spending time with a family member who is hospitalized over the holiday is so important to their recovery, says Kieltyka.
If family is around, encourage them to come in on the holiday if they are at all able. Discuss how many visitors are permitted and how long they can stay. Let families know that even a quick visit can significantly lift a patient’s spirits. “If family are close then of course spending time with a loved one on the holiday is the best outcome,” she says. “Bringing in decorations, food (if permitted), and other touches are great suggestions.”
And nurses can also extend some holiday touches as well. Adding cheer, wearing festive scrubs, or just talking with patients about favorite holiday traditions can help ease the pain of being hospitalized over the holidays.
For patients, the human connection of just having someone else empathize with you and not ignore feelings of missing family keenly is often so soothing. But for nurses, the connection is equally heartening. Knowing you are helping make someone’s holiday brighter is especially gratifying.
You never know what you might learn about your patients, either. You could learn some great recipes from a dedicated cook or variations of traditional holiday songs you’ve never heard. Patients could inspire laughing fits as they tell tales of family holidays gone wrong or tears with singularly perfect holiday memories.
And if the holiday holds religious significance, be sure to ask patients about their preferences. “The nursing staff will also do whatever they can to make the day special for patients,” says Kieltyka. “For instance, if attending a religious service is important, the nursing staff will reach out to the hospital Chaplin to assist.”
And your mood makes all the difference as well. If you are upset working the holiday shift (a pretty natural feeling), your mood can rub off on the people you are caring for. Try your best to spread holiday cheer as much as you can, even if you don’t feel cheerful. You might find the positive reaction you get from those around you is enough to lift your own spirits.
Working a shift during a special holiday is often a fact of life for nurses. People need care every day of the year, and nurses are there to provide it, even if the rest of the country is taking a holiday.
As hard as it is to work on a holiday, it’s also something nurses adapt to, says Evelyn Kieltyka, FNP, MS, MSN, and president of the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association. “Nurses are very resilient when it comes to finding ways to celebrate the holidays on a day other than the holiday itself,” she says.
Nurses find they can still celebrate, but that the plans might have to be more flexible. “If [the nurse] has a family, the family may spend the day with family or friends,” she says. “The nurse and his or her family will then find a special time to have family time.”
Many families plan bigger gatherings near the holiday, but not actually on the holiday. For instance, your extended family could plan to gather the weekend before or after a holiday so you can attend. “I recall one nurse who always worked the night shift,” says Kieltyka. “The family would always celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Then the nurse would go off to work the night shift.”
And as nurses gain seniority, they might have more flexibility when it comes to working a holiday shift if they really don’t want to. “There is, in general, a tradition (and maybe policy) to give preference to seniority,” says Kieltyka. “But it’s also the culture of fairness, in other words, the staff will look at the holiday season as a group and attempt to give nurses a preference.”
Depending on the holiday and a nurse’s personal traditions, dividing up the holidays can be easier for nurses, but it won’t suit your preferences all the time. It helps if you decide what holidays are especially meaningful to you, with the understanding that you’ll probably still work that holiday many times.
“For instance, Thanksgiving may be an important holiday for one nurse but less important for another so staff take into consideration how important one holiday or another is to each individual,” says Kieltyka.
Younger nurses know that the nurses who have come before them have also walked the same path of trying to figure out how to be away from family and friends during the holidays without losing any of the holiday spirit. Sometimes, you will miss an important celebration because of work. But nurses know that going into the profession. And you also know you are not alone. You are part of an essential swath of nurses working on the same holiday and you share a bond of selflessness and determination that makes the profession so respected.
You’ll be working with a team who is in the same situation and caring for patients who can really use your holiday cheer. Being able to provide that is often so uplifting that it makes your holiday memorable even if you are not with your own family and friends.
The holiday season brings lots of chances to get together with coworkers in both casual and more business-geared settings. The holiday work party is sometimes a confusing mix of both, and it’s worth giving some thought to the best way to approach it.
Holiday parties can seem like a time when you can let go a little and have fun with your coworkers, especially if some are friends you see outside of work hours. But your coworkers aren’t the only people celebrating at the holiday party – your supervisors (and often managers above them) are frequently there as well.
So while you should relax, mingle, and have fun there are a couple of things to keep in check.
1. Don’t Overindulge
It has been said many times, but can be said again—the holiday party is not the time to have too many drinks. Not only can you say or do something embarrassing, but you are doing that in front of people who might consider you for a promotion. If you come unhinged at the holiday party, they might remember that and question your overall judgment.
2. Show Your Best Self
Just as you don’t want to be remembered for the spectacle you made after having a few too many, you also don’t want to shock people with inappropriate comments, political opinions, or gossipy stories. If your coworkers turn to you for the latest dirty joke when you all go out to dinner, keep it there and not at the holiday party.
3. Do Mingle
Make sure you do catch up with people, but it doesn’t have to be all about work. Now isn’t the time to hit someone up for a job offer or to regal them with facts and figures from your latest reports. Don’t spend the night talking shop, but do spend the night making a genuine effort. If you know a colleague helped a patient figure out how to cope with a demanding medication schedule successfully, by all means pass a compliment on to them. And don’t neglect to greet your boss.
4. Don’t Skip the Party
Even if you really dread holiday parties, you don’t get a free pass to skip. Part of building relationships and being a team player means having to attend at least for a while. Don’t make it obvious that you want to leave (for instance, make sure you at least take your coat off!), but stay just long enough to chat with a few people, eat some of the food, and have people know you were there. Then you can make a graceful exit.
5. Plan Ahead
If office parties are especially tough for you, spend an hour the night before planning who you would be comfortable chatting with (but you can’t just pair up with your favorite buddy). Also memorize a few questions to break the ice and keep conversations from stalling. People love to talk about themselves, so you can ask what they have planned for the holidays or what they like to do in January. Keep the topics neutral and broad.
Office parties can be a trial, but they can also present great opportunities for you to reinforce your professionalism and get to know the people in your work setting. Take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy this unique part of the holiday season.
When you’re in nursing school, your clinicals give you the essential hands-on nursing skills that form the basis of the start of your nursing career. But while you’re learning how to do the million and one tasks nurses do, take this great opportunity to sharpen other career skills.
While it might seem like the day is filled with so much information that you can’t remember one more thing, a nursing student is in a great position to pay attention to how everything, and everyone, else contributes to a smoothly running unit.
What kinds of things are worth noting?
Watch how colleagues work with each other, and notice any differences within the hierarchy of the staff. See what works when nurses have conflicts. Do they work it out with help? Do they get others involved and make it uncomfortable? In your working life, you are guaranteed to have a few differences of opinion and learning to resolve them effectively is worth your time.
It won’t take long to notice who has professional behavior and work habits that are worth adopting. Watch for the people who always arrive on time and are ready to get to work. Do others react to them differently? Are they in higher positions? What are their habits throughout the day? Modeling your behavior after nurses who display professionalism will help get your career off to a good start.
Are some of the nurses on staff also going back to school to get advanced degrees? If they are and you know that is something you might do in the future, ask one of them for an informational interview. This is a great opportunity to ask about how they got into the school, what suggestions they have for you, how they figured out financial aid, and how they balance their work lives, home lives, and school.
Techniques with Patients
Some nurses just seem to have a soothing power. Others are able to deal with especially difficult patients. Still others have a knack for motivating patients who are in pain or who feel too sick to do much of anything. How do they do what they do so well? Watch their movements and listen to how they talk to patients. Take note of how they develop a rapport or possibly distract patients so they are comfortable. Always work to improve your own nursing techniques.
Having success as a nurse depends on more than just proper medical training. It’s also about the overall habits you develop along the way. Notice how nurses’ daily work habits make them more efficient, help the entire unit, or make families or colleagues feel comfortable.
Your clinical experience is a time when you can see (and copy) the good judgment nurses use and the mannerisms and habits they develop to make their work better, faster, or more efficient.
Often it’s not nursing knowledge that makes the difference in passing nursing boards, but having strategies for answering questions so that it’s apparent that you really “get it.” There are ways to prepare for what is often a daunting test so you can take it with complete confidence that all the time, money, and hard work that went into nursing school won’t go to waste. We interviewed experts, educators, and other nurses who aced these exams—first time around or later—and share their most helpful hints with you here.
Jake Schubert, RN, BSN
Travel nurse and executive director of Nursity.com, an online NCLEX strategies and review course
1. Carefully consider your options.
“The average candidate takes one or two prep or review course, and spends an additional 40 to 50 hours on other independent study,” according to Schubert. He recommends that students talk to their peers about their experiences and read online testimonials. In addition, check to see if your school has partnered with a test-preparation program. “Some schools provide review courses as part of the capstone curricula—ATI, Kaplan, and HESI are the big corporations with relationships with many of the schools. Most students take an additional course as well,” he adds.
2. Understand the NCLEX format and how it works.
“When you intimately know the beast, it won’t be as intimidating,” says Schubert. Because this is a computer adaptive test that uses algorithms, it’s different from every other test students have taken in their entire academic career. You must also prepare for it differently. “If you did exceptionally well or performed extremely poorly, the exam will end at 75 questions,” he explains. But if you are somewhere in the middle, it can go up to 265 questions to assess how well you know the material and whether you’ll be able to perform as a nurse in a safe manner. (See Schubert’s YouTube video—“How to Pass the NCLEX with a 58%” for more details about this type of test.)
3. Strategize how you will approach questions in which you don’t know the answer.
Most students who graduate from nursing school have sufficient content knowledge, but because the test is computer adaptive it will find an area where you are weak, says Schubert. “The NCLEX will assess your judgment as much as anything else.” What will you do when you don’t know what to do? You need strategies for these types of questions. “How do you answer a question about content you never learned? Strategy. Ask yourself, ‘Why did they write this question? Is it a medication question? A judgment question?’ As a new graduate nurse, that’s all you do all day, is try to figure out what to do in situations you don’t necessarily fully understand. This is much of what the NCLEX is assessing—will you make a safe decision?” he adds.
4. Don’t wait to study or take the exam.
The longer you wait, the more you forget, and the worst you score. “Take the exam immediately after graduating from nursing school,” Schubert advises. “Begin studying for the NCLEX before you graduate, to keep the material fresh in your mind, which will improve your score. Pass rates go down the longer a candidate waits after graduation,” he says. To find out more about pass rates, we recommend you go directly to the source: the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website at www.ncsbn.org.
5. Figure out the best way for you to study, and then stick with your plan.
“Keeping to a study schedule and certain days and times is important,” says Schubert. “But don’t cram. Instead, spread it out over a longer period.” He also recommends reducing distractions, such as television, devices, and social media as well as calls or visits from family and friends. Make sure your study area and equipment are well set up so that you’re comfortable during each study session. Then take frequent breaks so that you don’t deplete your energy, and switch among various subjects every half hour or so to maintain focus.
Launette Woolforde, EdD, DNP, RN-BC
Vice president of system nursing education at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York
1. Find a role model with a similar background.
“When you don’t have minority role models that reflect who you are, it can hamper your optimism and pursuit of certain goals,” says Woolforde. “For example, I remember reading that 12% of the U.S. population is African American, but only 2% of nurses in the workforce are African American.” The lack of role models may extend to educators, staff, and mentors who can help monitor and guide students. On the other hand, those missing pieces of the career puzzle “can serve to motivate students to start a new trend and make a clean break from what’s happened before,” she adds.
2. Be aware that factors such as language, cultural norms, and your environment can influence your standardized testing experience.
Being a first-generation nurse or college student, for example, means you have to figure out your own way around in academia and career preparation, says Woolforde. “Minority nurses might not fit the norm in their family or culture. But I’m happy to see so many nurses exceeding these norms. Soon, minorities will be the majority in the U.S.”
Minority test-takers may have to “think against” their own cultural norms, cautions Woolforde. “Maybe in your culture women do not make decisions. You have a question about a patient coming into the ER—a male with a wife—and the wife is upset and vocal about it. How would you answer the question? The correct response is ‘Reassure the wife,’ but what if in your culture, wives aren’t spoken to? A wife may be dismissed in that culture.”
3. Do two or three things to “pump yourself up” each day.
“Overthinking and overprocessing while studying is a problem,” says Woolforde. “Don’t try to master everything. Do a little bit every day. Take tests over and over. Spend more time doing practice tests than in reviewing your general knowledge.” Some review services provide assessments, so take a look at your pharmacology scores, for instance, and decide if you need to allocate more time to that section of the test. Nursing students know a lot, but when they look at the questions they may not understand what the question is really asking. “It’s not ‘What is this medication for?’ but more about ‘What would you do to prepare a patient?’ For example, if a patient is taking Lasix then he needs a diet that’s rich in potassium,” she says. “Review what you’ve learned over the years. Believe in yourself. You’ve come this far, so you can pass this exam. There’s great positivity that comes from that belief. There’s power there.”
4. Don’t let fear hold you back.
Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are two major hurdles for many minority nursing students, says Woolforde. “They ask, ‘Am I smart enough?’ They’re afraid that they’ll fail the test because they don’t know the right answers. They’re afraid there’s material that they didn’t get in school or that they didn’t study it enough. I usually tell them all that might be true—you might not know the answer outright. But you can usually rule out two answers and reduce your choices. Then reread the question, think about it, and let the right answer surface,” she advises.
5. Think beyond the NCLEX.
“Even during your orientation, you can be thinking about specialty certification,” says Woolforde. “If you work in oncology and pediatrics but like peds, then you may decide, ‘This is where I want to spend my career.’” Next, consider specialty board certification as a stamp of expertise in an area of practice. In order to maintain that certification, you have to maintain a minimum number of continuing education hours and must practice for a minimum number of hours there. “Certification shows that you’re current with best practices; you’re currently practicing and staying on top of trends and issues in that specialty,” she adds.
G. Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, FAAN
Interim chief diversity officer and director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1. Keep your mind in the game.
For highly vulnerable students, every test becomes a test of language proficiency, says Alexander. Multiple choice questions are especially problematic, she adds, so practice to understand how they’re structured and how to answer them. “Outside of the U.S., most countries don’t use multiple choice questions on tests, so international students may need more help to pass. Non-English speakers typically need to translate questions into their own language and then retranslate their answer in English. Older students are another minority group that is disadvantaged; they’re out of practice with test-taking.”
2. Understand that half the battle is staying level-headed.
“Try not to let your brain get hijacked by emotions,” advises Alexander. “Avoid being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired [“H.A.L.T.” is a good memory aid]. Make sure you’re well-nourished, well-rested, and really and truly try not to get panicked because you don’t know the answer immediately. Answer the questions you are certain you know and then revisit the questions you skipped.” It’s normal for people taking the NCLEX to think that they’re failing, so try not to be overwhelmed if you need to skip questions. Usually, you are doing fine, so just stay the course.
3. Tap the various staff members and other resources that your school provides.
“We have student advisors who meet with students and take them through different tests and practice exams,” says Alexander. Practice questions come from the end of textbooks, or students go online and get questions that best address their weak spots. “Students who have test anxiety can get help at a center that helps with managing anxiety and practice with testing, too,” she adds.
4. Find your happy place.
When highly vulnerable students were not passing gatekeeper exams at her school, Alexander asked the school’s “cultural coaches” to work with them. “We told the distressed group to forget about the exam and we asked them this question: ‘If you didn’t have that coming up, what would you do?’ Their response was ‘Let’s have a party!’ so we blasted music for 40 minutes and they taught each other new dances. There was laughter, joy, and smiles. Then they went on to study for the exam.” The nursing students were advised to do visualization exercises for stress reduction, like the school’s winning basketball team did before a game. “We told them, ‘When you’re stuck on a question during the exam, go back to this time. Remember the dance or anything that makes you feel peace, joy, or sense of accomplishment.’” The visualizations worked, and students later reported that their anxiety was greatly reduced when they applied the technique.
5. Understand that not everyone will pass the exam on the first try—and that’s OK.
“If you failed, well, you’re not the first person who has,” says Alexander. “Maybe you need to practice more or review a certain part again. Students repeat exams all the time. It’s not a denial of your dream; it’s a delay. Maybe you need to work more on test anxiety or preparation. Failing should inform you, not defeat you.”
Sometimes students face difficulties right before the exam that throw them off course, such as a suddenly ill child or a minor fender bender. Everybody has a bad day, Alexander explains, and the main thing is to resist the urge to ruminate. “Instead, focus on what’s next,” she suggests. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want? What’s my next move?’ Remember, there is a skill to test-taking and it takes intentional preparation. Prepare, don’t despair!”
There are so many ways to prepare for the nursing boards now, what with new technology as well as in real-life social support. You can pick and choose the techniques that work best for you. Take an online review course, use an app, study with a group, or set up an at-home program. Success is absolutely within your reach!
For years, business leaders have relied on the guidance and support of career coaches to help them advance in their professions and to achieve clear personal goals as well. But nurses traditionally haven’t used coaches in the same way. All that is changing as nurse coaches are becoming more common and helping nurses achieve success.
As with other types of coaching, nurse coaching appeals to and works for nurses who are looking for vastly different things. Some nurses feel stagnant in their jobs and want someone to help them get unstuck. Other nurses are unhappy with their current situation and might even be questioning an entire career change. Still, others are nearing retirement and want to stay involved in nursing, just without the demanding physical tasks and long hours—they wonder if a new career as a nurse coach might suit them.
Career coaching is nothing new in the larger world of business, but nursing lags behind, says Linda Yoder, PhD, MBA, RN, AOCN, FAAN, president of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.
However, the nursing profession is gaining a better understanding of coaching, adds Yoder. In some organizations, coaching takes on a negative connotation because they view it as something to help only poor performers. Coaching is for everyone and serves to enhance personal as well as team performance.
Nurses have particular difficulty reaching out to coaches, says Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC, who sees many nurses in her nurse coaching and consulting practice, MFW Consulting.
“Professional caregivers are very reluctant to receive help,” says Quinlan. So by the time some of them arrive at a coaching session, they feel like their backs are up against a wall and they need some stability. They might be experiencing compassion fatigue or have been on the receiving end of bullying. They think a coach can help, but they aren’t sure how.
So, how can a coach help you? Nurse coaches are especially valuable because they understand the complex industry of nursing. They get the professional side of what a nurse trains for and a nurse’s myriad responsibilities. But nurse coaches also understand how the nursing profession is also a way of life. They get that there’s no punching the clock and leaving your job behind when your shift is over.
Is It Coaching or Mentoring?
When Margaret Erickson, PhD, RN, CNS, APHN-BC, executive director of the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC), thinks of coaching, she thinks of the whole profession. “The role of coaching allows nurses to reconnect with each other and it has value in society,” she says.
Nurses find they have resources to help themselves, but coaching just helps reveal those resources and show nurses how to use them. Often, Quinlan says, nurses are able to reignite their initial passion for becoming a nurse in the first place. They can remember why they took this on as a career and are invigorated by the boost.
Coaches guide, but never tell someone what to do. “Part of coaching is asking powerful questions,” says nurse coach Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, also known as Nurse Keith. “Coaches are there to offer guidance and objectivity and to inspire people.”
Not everyone understands what coaching is, what it does, and what role each person plays in a coaching relationship. “People lump it into mentoring, and that’s a huge mistake,” argues Yoder, who presents nationally about nurse coaching. Nurse coaching helps nurses with their growth and development, which serves to increase their confidence.
How are coaching and mentoring different? Although coaching and mentoring both aim for a similar goal—to make the nurse the best nurse he or she can be—there are differences in the approach. “Managerial coaching, technically, is really a boss/employee relationship,” explains Yoder. “Mentoring is an exclusive relationship that plays a role in succession planning.”
Does that mean your boss will always be a great career coach? No. But a good boss will motivate you, show you how to do a good job, and let you know the educational, professional, and personal steps that will help you advance.
So while your boss should coach you on how to fill out a unit shift report, she might be less likely to take you under her wing and shape you into her replacement. Your coach can instruct and guide you on the subtle ways of your organization so you advance in your job, but coaches don’t share what Yoder refers to as “state secrets”—those nuggets of insider professional information that are often exchanged in the fundamentally different trust and power levels of a mentor/mentee.
And Carlson reminds nurses that coaching isn’t psychotherapy, either. There might be introspection and lots of questions to be answered, but a coach is going to rely on you to figure out some of the answers based on what your own motivations are.
Nurse Coaching Takes Hold
When Donna Cardillo, RN, CSP, known as The Inspiration Nurse, started coaching 20 years ago, hardly anyone else was in the field of coaching nurses. “Even personal coaches couldn’t effectively coach a nurse because they didn’t understand what nurses were capable of or the job market,” she says. With more nurses acting as coaches now, she says they are using a body of experience, skills, and knowledge to help other nurses with problem solving, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and following through on goal setting.
With nurses under increasing job stress and the pressure to earn higher degrees, burnout is rampant. If your job is causing you so much stress as to affect your physical and emotional well-being, start thinking of ways to make it better, says Erickson.
“Coaches know the game,” says Yoder, comparing nurse coaching to the job of a sports coach. “They know the big picture, how the game is played, every single player, and what position each player plays best in. The coach has to understand the game better than anyone else.” Coaches get to know their players and know how each works so they are able to best motivate them and make the entire nursing unit operate more effectively.
Coaches also are focused on the present. Erickson’s work is guided by the Modeling and Role Modeling holistic nursing theory, which was developed by Helen C. Erickson, Evelyn M. Tomlin, and Mary Ann P. Swain. According to Erickson, using theory rather than policies and procedures to assist others helps coaches become intentional and thoughtful in their approach to each nurse or client.
Sorting It All Out
A nurse coach helps you tweak the complex intertwined aspects of your personal and professional life to bring you more career satisfaction and help you set and reach your goals. “A coach focuses on what are your goals and what are you going to accomplish this year,” says Yoder.
For instance, coaches will get you thinking about if you want to go back to school this year or if you want to take a certification exam. Should you join a professional nursing organization, and how can you make the best out of that experience?
Kamron Keep, RN, BSN, NC-BC, says coaching helped her focus on what she really wanted. “I felt like there was a missing piece, personally and professionally,” says the Idaho-based Keep, who is now a nurse coach herself. With her coach, Keep says she uncovered her motivations and identified what was holding her back. “Working with a coach held me more accountable,” she says. “Coaching helps someone take the step forward. It helped me live the life I wanted.”
Linda Bark, PhD, RN, MCC, NC-BC, Keep’s coach and the founder of Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy, says she asks clients to think about their options and will even have them assess how they feel physically when thinking about each option. It’s that kind of holistic approach that shows nurses how the corners of a career, personal life, and spiritual life are all connected. “The wisdom of the whole is about taking in all that information,” says Bark.
When’s the Time to See a Coach?
Carlson says he sees several categories of nurses who come to him for coaching advice. Most of the nurses he sees want something else, but they just don’t know how to define or identify what they want or how to take the steps to get it.
Novice nurses, he says, are trying to find out what makes them tick as a nurse. Maybe they went into nursing with a specific path in mind but now want to branch out, but have no idea where to start. With so many opportunities and choices, they are bewildered.
Then, he says, mid-career nurses come with very different ideas. They have years of experience, but nursing has lost its luster. Or now they want to do something different, but stay within the nursing industry. These nurses typically want to find out about nurse entrepreneurship.
Older nurses are looking for someone who understands the profession, says Carlson, and who can help the nurse figure out the next step. They often want to stay in nursing but are looking to shed the long hours or the physically demanding tasks. “For seasoned nurses, it’s often trying to find the heart of why they became a nurse in the first place,” he says. “Sometimes they need redirection, and sometimes they need a major change.”
Is One Coach Enough?
Throughout your life, you’ll have several coaches. Some coaching relationships will be less involved—one might simply be a unit educator who coaches bedside nurses. A charge nurse might be the coach for practice kinds of issues, says Yoder, to let nurses know how they can most effectively work with different families.
If you aren’t getting the feedback you need at work or if your boss is unwilling to act in a coaching role, there are other options. A growing industry is, of course, nurse coaches you hire. These nurse coaches are certified after passing the AHNCC’s certification exam and aim to give nurses a sounding board and guide them to the best choices for their own specific lives and goals.
And although coaches won’t be holding your hand and guiding you on a specific path, says Carlson, they are listening closely to everything you say and probably seeing patterns or wishes you may not even see. You’ll likely have homework to do, something that helps you feel empowered about the choices and decisions on the horizon.
“Sometimes, it’s just about the act of being truly heard and having those experiences reflected back toward them,” says Carlson. “Being listened to is incredibly powerful.”
Many nurses find that being heard by a coach is so empowering they turn the table at work and use the same method with their patients. “Coaching enhanced my nursing practice,” says Keep. “A lot of that is a listening presence and reflecting back to the patient to validate what they say.”
Quinlan agrees. “Coaching very gently raises the ability of a client to reach out and touch their own innate knowing,” she says. Successful coaching helps clients understand their true feelings and motivations so they can peel away the layers of confusion and help remove some of the barriers for nurses to move ahead. Coaches offer a toolbox of skills nurses can use to move forward in the direction that’s best for them.
As nurses become more comfortable with coaching, Quinlan says coaches are becoming more prevalent and many older nurses are considering a career shift to become certified coaches. In particular, she says, nurses approaching retirement who have decades of experience and a wealth of knowledge are perfectly positioned to take on nurse coaching roles, either on their own or within their workplace as a designated coach on staff.
“Coaching can help you if in your head you know what you need, but in your heart you don’t know how to get there,” says Quinlan. “Coaching helps you untie the knot.”