Medical students who dream of coaching patients toward a more healthful lifestyle now have the opportunity to participate in a specialized education track.
The University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing will offer a health coaching graduate-level certificate in complementary therapies and healing practices, emphasizing in health coaching.
Medical professionals and graduate health-care students can take the four-semester certificate program starting next fall.
Health coaches provide personalized help for patients, said Karen Lawson, the health coaching program director. They work as a mentor and support person for people who want to improve their health or who want to enhance healing during a health problem, she said.
“They act as a resource link to help people understand the range of things that they can draw from for their health-care challenges,” she said.
Health coaching fills a need for personalization, Lawson said. Patients are looking for a pathway to get from where they are to where they want to be with their health, she said.
“We saw a great need for people to be able to bridge this gap,” she said. “They simply needed someone to help them navigate personal growth and change.”
Through the program, medical professionals are given tools and resources within the community that will allow them to help others.
Becky Gorman, community faculty member at the center, said health coaches can help expose people to a variety of options that would fit best for them.
“People don’t have the knowledge about all of those (modalities); they don’t know what’s available,” she said.
Health coaches are different from physicians because they provide more concentrated support that physicians often do not have the resources to
provide, Lawson said. Also, health coaches do not practice medicine.
“A health coach might be someone that (patients) may see on a weekly basis,” Lawson said. “It really works on a much closer one-to-one basis than most physicians do.”
Health coaching is more often compared to psychology but there is a distinct difference, Lawson said. Psychology typically is more disease-based whereas coaching focuses on a health model.
Health coaching is an “emerging” career, Gorman said.
Megan Moeller, wellness coordinator at the University of Iowa, which provides a health-coaching program for the university’s faculty and staff members, said coaching as a field is “huge” and can be applied very broadly.
Health coaching is not recognized specifically as a certified profession.
“There’s really not a certifying body for coaching,” Moeller said. “Right now, pretty much anybody can call themselves a coach.”
Lawson said she hopes health coaching soon will be a recognized profession.
“I really hope that health coaches will be looked to as professionals who have the skill set that physicians and nurses will be able to refer people to them,” she said.