A Research Paper created by Carmen Philippe-Welton
(Career and Spirituality Life Coaching, CANADA)
In Nursing, it is a common career trajectory to work as a clinician for several years and develop expertise before moving into other areas of practice, be it within clinical practice as Clinical Nurse Specialist, Faculty Educator, administration as department or committee Chair, or engage in Research. This paper will highlight the value of Coaching to assist Registered Nurses (RN; nurses) with their career aspirations and leadership transformations.
In Canada, a nurse’s role is to prevent illness, mitigate illness and assist people in a meaningful death. As a client directed caring practice, nurses contribute to the health of the nation within a highly regulated and public health care system. The College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia states, “Nursing combines science with art. The science comes from knowledge gained through education and ongoing professional development. The art is developed through experience and the provision of nursing services to meet the various needs of clients and their families. . . nurses commit to keeping their knowledge and skills current.
As lifelong learners, nurses ‘continually assess and improve their practice’ through specialized study. It is vital for nurses to continuously deepen their professional knowledge and practices to maintain an ever satisfying career. Usually, nurses progress in their careers through 1:1 mentoring and ongoing professional competency development courses. According to Donner & Wheeler, 2009, ‘Mentoring is a longer term relationship in which someone with more experience and wisdom (mentor) supports and encourages another (mentee/protégé) as that individual grows and develops professionally and personally.’ (p.9). While a discussion of mentoring is beyond the scope of this paper, it is important to note that Coaching may be used concurrently.
Nurses utilize many resources throughout their careers. They may draw from legal and ethical resources, scholarship specialty areas, professional development resources, qualitative research paradigms, including the use of the visual arts. Coaching benefits nurses as they journey through their careers since it is congruent with the principles of Adult Learning Theory, Expressive Visual Arts and Transformative Learning Theory through non-punitive empowering processes unlike National or Provincial Regulatory Body Competency and Licensure requirements.
According to the International Coaching Federation and the International Nursing Association, coaching is defined as “an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives.” (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, p. 16) and represents a ‘… collaborative relationship undertaken between a coach and a willing individual, the client… time-limited and focused and uses conversations to help clients achieve their goals. Learning starts when the coaching conversation begins and new actions and new practices are always the final stage of a successful coaching conversation . . . [is] a key competency for leaders, managers, educators, researchers and practitioners . . . directed at enhancing professional development, career commitment and practice . . . to help them increase enjoyment of and satisfaction with their current roles. (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, p. 9)
Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphases in a coaching relationship are on action, accountability, and follow through.
Within nursing, coaching programs have been instituted (a) to smooth the transition from an educational to an employment setting (Nelson et al. 2004: Grealish 2000; Hom 2003) and maintain retention and succession planning; (b) to improve manager interactions with staff (Lachman 2000); (c) for educator development (Eisen 2001; Waddell 2005); and (d) to provide executive coaching for nursing leaders (Savage 2001). Using a “unit coach” to assist new nurses in the post- orientation period is a strategy that affirms and continues the development of professional competencies such as critical thinking (Nelson et al. 2004) … Executive coaching for nursing leaders is usually provided by external professional coaches who facilitate the development of specific skills required for success in the leadership role (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, p. 27). Coaching then benefits recently graduated and advance practice nurses throughout their career.
Coaching supports leadership transition and succession planning in an era when there is a nursing shortage. Thousands of RNs will be retiring within the next 10 years with too few nurses to replace them. A report released by the ‘Canadian Nurses Association, Tested Solutions for Eliminating Canada’s Registered Nurse Shortage’ indicated that ‘…the shortage of registered nurses who provide direct, clinical care to Canadians will climb from the equivalent of nearly 11,000 full-time nurses in 2007 to almost 60,000 Full Time Employees in 2022. Solutions for eliminating the shortage focus on: retention; increased productivity through elimination of non-nursing tasks, and reducing levels of absenteeism, increasing enrollment and reducing attrition rates in entry-to-practice programs.
Coaching can also function as a valuable enrichment opportunity for nurses in their current roles or as an introduction to a new career path within nursing. (Douglas Noel Adams, p 31 as cited in (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, p. 31). RNs invited to begin a more complex nurse position in administration, how to manage the different and increased workload and maintain a healthy life-work balance. Coaching effectively in every area of nursing practice be it Administration, Clinical Practice, Teaching and Research. For example, nursing careers often progress over many years from clinician to teaching to program designer and evaluator, to teacher, mentor and coach. Such changes contribute to retention of experienced nurses in the profession. The development of coaching skills presents tremendous opportunity for nurses to meet the challenges of retention, professional development and quality care. (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, p. 31)
Coaches facilitate the growth and development of the client’s self-efficacy (an estimate of the client’s own capacity to perform a certain task) by supporting, encouraging and challenging the client to expand their ability to achieve their goal(s). The outcome of the work the coach and client do together is action and learning. Action moves the client forward and learning creates new ways of being. (Donner, G., Wheeler, M.M., 2009, 18).
Jack Mezirow (1996) defines transformative learning ‘as the process of using prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experiences in order to guide future action (International Encyclopedia of Adult Education. English, L. London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 62). According to Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (1984), “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it” (p. 41). These views support the coaching principle of changing one’s perspectives in order to actively move forward toward meeting one’s goals.