Beyond Motivational Interviewing: Pharmacists as Health Coaches

We are excited to share a story of the inception of another innovative pharmacy elective at the UMN-COP!  This spring, the UMN-COP began a one credit elective, Health Coaching for Pharmacists: Creating a Culture of Change for Patients.

Course Director, Michele Rae, RPh, MA, NBC-HWC, reflects on the first live session last week:

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Michele Rae, Course Director

I observed light bulbs going off in students’ minds as they began to see and understand the immense value of inviting the patient to fully participate in the conversation around their health goals, desires, current lifestyle choices, and optimal vision for their health. When we, as practitioners, meet our patients where they are and invite them to take a step or two of their own choosing towards being healthier, whether it is being adherent to their medication or improving their diet, exercise, sleep, or stress level, patients feel empowered and are more likely to succeed.”

The Role of Coaching in Healthcare

Health and Wellness Coaching is an emerging patient-centered practice for healthcare professionals to empower patients to achieve self-determined goals. 

According to the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC), “Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work, Health and Wellness Coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.”

As Health and Wellness Coaching gains recognition across the country, it has the potential to be a transformational force in the healthcare system. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) has advocated for Health Coaching in Primary Care. Health Coaches have historically been medical assistants, nurses, or dieticians. More recently, pharmacists have been making their way into the coaching field. With their emphasis on the medication experience and preventive medicine, pharmacists can use coaching skills to empower patients to take control of their health.

An Opportunity for Student Pharmacists to Explore Coaching

The intent of the course is to expose student pharmacists to the application of coaching models within a pharmacist’s practice and uses the Coaching Psychology Manual by Margaret Moore and colleagues. The blended course format allows for student self-study of the techniques and implications, while hands-on skills practice and discussion occurs in live sessions. In order to engage students online, we are utilizing innovative technologies, such as FlipGrid, and discussion posts in Moodle. FlipGrid allows each student to record a brief 90 second video clip to introduce him/herself and provide some background on their interest in the topic. We have already found this to be a useful tool in connecting instructors and students online.

Through this course, students will learn skills and techniques, such as motivational interviewing, non-violent communication, active listening, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and coaching presence. Students will build on patient counseling and medication therapy management skills from other courses and focus attention on where patients are in their readiness for change and helping patients create a more holistic therapeutic care plan.

Rae notes:

“When we broaden the conversation with patients to include lifestyle factors that contribute to their chronic conditions, they feel heard, validated, and know we see them as a whole person, not just a disease state we are medicating.” This is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons a student could learn!

Mindfulness as Self-Reflection

In order to foster student mindfulness and self-awareness, the course will use a final Critical Appraisal of Personal Growth adapted from The Patchwork Text model. This form of writing can stimulate a student’s holistic grasp of a broad topic (i.e. Health and Wellness Coaching) and its professional application, while encouraging an autonomous approach to collaborative learning.

Through this reflective process, we hope that students will discover a deeper desire to pursue further education in Health and Wellness Coaching.  They can consider taking classes at the Center for Spirituality and Healing or other programs that may even provide the opportunity to become a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC). We look forward to engaging the students in discussions on the role of pharmacists as Health Coaches through a number of video stories from pharmacist health coaches throughout the country.

Faculty Interest Motivates Us Along

We have a number of talented individuals working to make this course a reality.  Michele Rae has practiced as a pharmacist since 1984 in retail and home infusion settings. In addition, she began her private coaching company, The Center Within, in 2001. In her coaching practice, she provides holistic coaching designed to accelerate and support personal, professional, and organizational transformation. Course instructors Natalie Roy, PharmD, CHWC and Stephanie Swanson, PharmD are second-year Pharmaceutical Care Leadership Residents at the UMN-COP with interests in empowering patients and exploring wellbeing to find balance in life.

In addition, we are working with first year instructors in the pharmaceutical care sequence and the practice lab instructors to ensure a strong handoff between the core curriculum and this elective.  We also have excellent experience and interest in health coaching among a broader group of faculty including Meg Little, Raquel Rodriguez and Keri Hager.  It has been exciting to see the course come together!

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