What is a Nurse Health Coach?

Health and wellness coaching is an up-and-coming nursing specialty. While some may be wary of this specialty's affiliation with alternative medicine, there are others who wholeheartedly embrace those connections. With the healthcare system shifting to a wellness model and with so many patients having chronic illnesses, health coaching is the wave of the future.

A health coach supports the patients and clients they work with by:

  • Helping patients set goals
  • Developing a plan of action
  • Providing support
  • Demanding accountability and tracking progress
  • Celebrating wins!

Two Paths of Practice: Health and Wellness

Health coaching uses evidence-based conversations and clinical interventions to engage clients who have chronic conditions or are at moderate to high risk for developing them. Health coaches are licensed practitioners, for example RNs or physicians. The health coaches conduct clinical assessments and ongoing education for patients diagnosed with chronic conditions such as diabetes, coronary disease, weight management and pulmonary-related problems.

Wellness coaching takes a holistic approach to behavioral change, integrating aspects of mind-body-spirit and utilizing positive psychology and goal setting. Wellness coaches are not required to be licensed healthcare professionals, although they certainly can be. Wellness coaches often work with patients on weight, nutrition, exercise, stress, tobacco cessation, work/life balance and general health issues.

Nurse Health Coach Employers

Nurse health coaches may be self-employed contractors, work for corporate employee health programs, insurance companies, or other medical care providers in case management roles.

Nurse Coach Certification

While certifications in the field are offered, they are not necessary to be a nurse health coach. Your formal education and practical experience are solid foundations for being a health coach. Further training or coursework in coaching can help you focus your skills. If you are interested in certification, and, perhaps more importantly, in connecting with other nurse health coaches, the American Holistic Nurses Association and the International Coach Federation offer many resources.

Established universities also offer coursework in health coaching. For example, The Vanderbilt Health Coaching Certificate Program is designed for licensed healthcare professionals who wish to practice as independent health coaches, or simply add coaching skills to their current position. Successful completion of the program leaves participants eligible to sit for the national certification exam.


While travel nursing assignments in this specialty are not yet abundant, there are similar roles to be found in traveling Case Management jobs.

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