From the Field: An Integrative Nurse Coach’s Journey

Completing the first INCA program was both an honor and a challenge-a challenge to take all the wonderful work-theory, practice and skill forward! As a NP working in acute care I saw many opportunities-actually wherever I looked coaching opportunities surfaced: cardiac surgery patients seeking a “new” focus on health, Mended Hearts support group-whose motto is “Its great to be alive and help others”-were constantly seeking healthy options for living; women heart support group-seeking ways to deal with newly diagnosed cardiac disease; smoking cessation classes-clearly a desire and need for behavior change; inpatients newly diagnosed with diabetes or cancer and of course patients in the cardiology office who were “stressed”. If I looked a bit further-I would notice all the nurses and hospital staff, many juggling more than one job, family obligations ranging from children with umpteen activities to elderly parents with umpteen MD appts-when do they focus on their self care?

As I began to spin with opportunities for this work-I sought peers-like minded and the opportunity for a study emerged. I had the opportunity to develop and implement an eight week wellness program for critical care nurse fellows-novice nurses entering the critical care arena and a year -long fellowship to develop skills. Wouldn’t it be great to coach wellness with this group? We were given one hour a week for eight weeks and developed an integrative wellness program using coaching techniques, the theory of Integrative nurse coaching and the Integrative health and wellness assessment tool. Partnering with founders, Barbara Dossey & Susan Luck and researcher John Nelson, data was stored and analyzed-adding to the body of knowledge for the IHWA short form, leading to validation as a tool for overall wellness.

As you may notice I continue to spin with all the opportunities, but now my spinning has a spiral direction, widening the web and effect of nurses coaching. One day classes are invigorating & my goal is to offer 4 this year (two were held & two more scheduled in the Long Island area over the next 2 months). I have been invited to be Associate Faculty and just finished co teaching Module 1 of our INCA Cohort 8 with Barbie and Susan and a with a wonderful team of Associate Faculty; advanced graduates and Board Certified Nurse Coaches, Christine Gilchrist, Louise Simon, Mary Guarneri, Maureen Delaney and me. I’m now awaiting small grant opportunities with colleagues to move Integrative Nurse Coaching into Diabetes prevention programs and cardiology office consults and to look for new research opportunities.

My final thoughts are-you don’t have to wait for the full time coaching job: take the program, complete certification and begin to introduce coaching skills into your workplace area-informing all your colleagues and administrators of the work you can do-it will make a difference-to you- to them and to all the patients & staff you reach!

Deborah McElligott, DNP,AHN-BC, HWNC-BC, CDE
Associate Faculty
International Nurse Coach Association


Deborah McElligott, DNP, ANP-BC, AHN-BC, HWNC-BC, CDE is an Adult and Holistic Nurse Practitioner, and Integrative Nurse Coach.  She holds certifications in many Integrative Modalities including, Reflexology, meditation, AMMA massage and Integrative Imagery. Her nursing career includes experience in surgery, integrative medicine, administration, education and consultation.  Deborah now focuses on health promotion, wellbeing and healing through individual and group coaching. She is faculty at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine @ Hofstra-Northwell, and the International Nurse Coach Association. She has conducted, presented both locally and internationally, and published research, papers, and book chapters in the area of integrative therapies, health promotion, healing, and integrative nurse coaching.

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