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The role of the "wellness coach" represents a new approach to disease prevention, treatment, and management in the US. Coaching techniques are frequently employed to improve executive function, leadership capabilities, and develop life skills. In healthcare, coaches and clients work together to identify risk factors, stress triggers, major health issues and then develop a realistic plan for each client. The coaches then check on, encourage, and help motivate clients in achieving their personal health goals.


The International Coach Federation, claiming more than 16,800 members worldwide, reports that the industry of coaching is growing. Only 1% of the members of this federation list health and wellness coaching as their area of expertise. This industry is relatively unregulated in the U.S; consequently, healthcare providers may have difficulty determining who or how many wellness coaches are practicing in this arena.


In Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield will cover $75 per half hour sessions with a wellness coach for people with chronic conditions. However, at least 25% of the people who decide to enlist the aid of a wellness coach pay out-of-pocket, says Margaret Moore. Moore's company, Wellcoaches, was established in 2000 and currently trains more than 1,000 coaches per year. Moore is co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital based in Belmont, Massachusetts. Interestingly, Moore reports that most of her clients are women in their 40s and 50s who are "stretched to the brink." McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is developing a national curriculum for coaching that begin a move towards developing standards, initiating research, and establishing credibility of this new profession.


Oakwood Healthcare (based in Dearborn, Michigan) has teamed up with Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services to carry out a 5 year study looking at how the interventions provided by wellness coaches who specialize in cardiac care impact the heart health of 400 metro Detroit women. The participating women are all at high risk for heart disease. Half have been assigned personal cardiac wellness coaches and the other half have not. Anecdotal evidence already suggests the benefits of the cardiac coaches. Exercise routines and nutritional goals are identified as being important. The coaches also help clients deal with real life issues such as grocery shopping and mental roadblocks.


Nursing has for years focused on disease prevention, treatment, and health maintenance. However, we may need to learn and teach coaching skills to assist our clients in making the changes they need to make to lead a healthier life.


Source: Erb K. Wellness coaches target women's heart health: They champion lifestyle changes. Detroit Free Press. March 7, 2010. Available at Accessed on March 11, 2010.


Submitted by: Robin Pattillo, PhD, RN, News Editor at[email protected].