A Research Paper By Romina Tollerutti, Health and Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES
An Interview with Professional Health Coaches
As a physician training in the ICA to deepen my skills as a coach to become a better Health and Wellness Coach, I decided to interview the Co-founder of the National Society of Health Coaches, Melinda Huffman, to share her perspective on Health Coaching and the healthcare system in the US. Before joining the ICA, I got certified as a Health Coach with the National Society of Health Coaches, and It was a pleasure to be her student.
Interview of Melinda Huffman BSN, MSN, CCNS, CHC
Co-founder of the National Society of Health Coaches (www.nshcoa.com) and Principal of Miller & Huffman Outcome Architects, LLC. Melinda is a Certified Health Coach and Health Coaching Consultant for integrating evidence-based health coaching and outcomes into clinical practice and the workplace. She’s a best-selling homecare author, writer, educator, and nationally known speaker. As a cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist, her work spanned 30 years of managing intensive care units, codeveloping and implementing pharmacy-nursing hospital collaboratives, and developing outcome-based disease management and staff development programs for acute and post-acute care. She co-developed an outcome-based intervention and documentation system recognized by the TN Hospital Association as Innovation in Nursing Practice.
Thank you, Melinda, for the opportunity to interview you. Your biography is impressive. Your contribution to many different levels of healthcare is terrific.
Health Coaches With Expertise
What Led You to Become a Health Coach?
While in my practice 16 years ago, as a cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist was caring for a caseload of cardiac patients, and my approach wasn’t based on any particular theory. But I had a mindset of “partnering” with my patients and began using what I called partnering. In other words, elevating the patient and family as my 50/50 partner in health. I engaged them differently from the traditional way clinicians are taught to engage, only “telling them to do this or that.” I was successful with this approach, and I started writing about it. Then I found Dr. William Miller’s work and research in motivational interviewing. This fits perfectly with my idea of partnering, and with my colleague, sometime later, I cofounded the National Society of Health Coaches.
You Are the Co-founder, With Colleen Miller, of the National Society of Health Coaches. Could You Share With Me How Everything Started?
Colleen and I knew each other from working together in disease management for a large home health industry leader in the 90s. After each of us had left that work, we came together about a year or so later to form our own company, Miller and Huffman Outcome Architects, LLC. The NSHC was co-founded soon after that.
How Will You Define What an Evidence-Based Health Coach Is?
A health coach is a clinician who uses evidence-based skillful conversation, clinical strategies, and interventions to actively and safely engage patients/clients in health behavior change to better self-manage their health, health risk, and acute or chronic health conditions resulting in optimal wellness, improved health outcomes, lowered health risk, and decreased healthcare costs.
What Is the Most Significant Impact a Health Coach Can Make in Someone’s Life From Your Perspective?
As a clinical healthcare professional, health coaching changes the nature of the patient-provider relationship resulting in better health outcomes and enhanced patient and provider satisfaction. The patient does more talking; the clinician does more listening.
If You Have to Name the Most Critical Tool a Health Coach Has to Help a Client, What Would It Be?
There are two critical skills: Effective listening and motivational interviewing within a clinical context.
From the Perspective of Someone Who Is Both a Healthcare Provider and a Certified Health Coach, What Is Your Opinion About the Healthcare System in the US?
Healthcare is moving steadily toward the focus on wellness and prevention, which is good but should have begun decades ago. The younger generation generally prefers to pay cash and have short virtual appointments, using texts and messaging for general communication, while the older generation prefers in-person visits. Healthcare will have to change dramatically to meet the needs of generations coming up. Health coaching fits perfectly in this new paradigm.
What Changes Do You Think Should Be in Place?
Virtual appointments, texts/messaging available throughout the day and evening with providers; options to pay with cash/card; provider reimbursement for telehealth across the board. Regulation of health coaching to clinicians for health and then others trained in wellness for wellness coaching.
What Is the Role of a Health Coach in the Healthcare System?
To engage the patient/family as an extension of the patient’s primary care provider, to use health coaches at the point of care in all healthcare settings where the patient has the mental capacity to engage.
What About the Role of a Health Coach in People’s Lives Outside the Healthcare System? (Ex.: Private Health Coach).
If the patient wants to access a coach to help them achieve their health goals as a private patient, I recommend this as long as the provider is a clinician for those patients/clients with chronic conditions or moderate to high health risk…
Would You Share a Personal Experience (Or Two) As a Health Coach That Reflects the Positive Impact of Your Work on Someone’s Health and Wellness?
It’s hard to choose because my focus is on the relationship that is developed, the empathy used, and the motivational interviewing skills that make the difference regardless of what clinical issue the patient has or the change they want to make.
After Years of Experience in This Field, How Do You See the Health Coaching Field in the Future?
Growing and needing regulation. Regulation because the primary concern is that people without a healthcare background are being allowed to coach individuals who have chronic conditions and moderate to high health risks. Consumers should be very concerned about careful about this. Our lawmakers should be very concerned about this.
What Advice Would You Give Healthcare Providers Contemplating the Health Coach Field as a Career? Or Changing One’s Career.
We have callers every day asking this question. Choose a certification program developed by clinicians. Those programs “speak a clinicians’ language and are more meaningful and applicable to the work clinicians do.
What About Someone Who Has No Background in Healthcare?
That’s where the NSHC differs. This person might become a wellness coach, where the emphasis is on maintaining wellness or improving otherwise good health, but health coaches, for reasons of consumer Safety and public awareness need to have a clinical license. If you had a chronic condition, would you want non-clinician coaching you? I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. The wrong guidance could be disastrous.
What Plans Do You and Colleen Miller Have for the NSHC?
Continually developing new teaching/learning methods; continue to be the program of choice for clinicians.
Thank you again for your time and for sharing your knowledge and perspective in such an essential field as health and health coaching.