After growing up in a lake community in West Central Minnesota, Kristin set out to pursue a career in nursing. It only took a few years before Kristin began to experience the feelings of burnout that so many in this field know so well.
In 2013, Kristin and husband decided to do something crazy, they quit their jobs to travel the world. After 4 years of traveling, Kristin was drawn back to nursing but wanted more out of it. She discovered nurse coaching which reignited her passion for health care and helping people achieve their desired wellness goals. Coaching allowed Kristin to not only grow as a nurse, but to grow personally and professionally.
Currently, Kristin is working as the Director of Operations for a National Network of Lifestyle Medicine providers and is able to use her coaching skills to help practices across the country bring wellness into the primary care setting.
“One thing that’s always excited me about health is learning how you can change your health, improve your health and transform your health with lifestyle, with changing your diet, changing your sleep, working on emotional wellness.” ~ Kristin Maack, BSN, RN, NBC-HWC
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome, everyone, to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! My name is Nicole Vienneau, and I am your host, and I’m also a Board-Certified Integrative Nurse Coach. And today we have Kristin Maack, all the way from Wisconsin.
It is exciting. Kristin is a Registered Nurse and a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and I am thrilled to have her on this podcast. I’ve been thinking about having her on here for many, many months. And we have finally connected and I am so happy that we’re together.
Kristin Maack 00:32
Yes, thank you for having me on, Nicole. It’s an honor to be on this podcast.
Nicole Vienneau 00:37
Awesome. We are gonna get right into business. And we always start our first question asking our guests: what brought you into Nursing?
Kristin Maack 00:49
So, what brought me into Nursing— actually when I was in high school, I needed to save money for college, so I got a job as a Nursing Assistant in a Nursing home. And it happened to be the same Nursing home that my grandmother was living in. So, it was really rewarding and beautiful.
I was able to see my grandmother multiple times a week. But when I got the job there, I said one thing I didn’t want to do was ever take care of my grandmother. I didn’t want her to be my patient, because I just knew I would just give her ice cream all day and help her pick out the clothes for the next day and give her special attention.
But I came to work one day, and they wanted me to take care of her because she was passing. And so, I was able to work with my grandmother and be her Nursing Assistant on her last day of life. I was able to hold her hand during those last moments of life. And it was so rewarding. It was a very vulnerable moment and beautiful moment in life that she shared with me. And I just knew I wanted to be that person in more people’s lives, so I decided to go into Nursing.
Nicole Vienneau 01:53
Ah, what a beautiful story, Kristen. I mean, gosh, being with your grandmother in her last hours as her caregiver… carelover, I suppose, at this point. And then… so then you decided, okay, I want to do this, become a Nurse, and then tell us more about that journey.
Kristin Maack 02:14
Yeah, so I went to Nursing school. I started out doing a two year Nursing program, worked my way up to being in a supervisory role at a hospital in Minneapolis, where I supervised the joint replacements center and post surgical center for vascular surgeries.
And I needed to have a bachelor’s degree for that, so then went and got my bachelor’s degree and was just working my way up that ladder in a healthcare system and started experiencing burnout. I wasn’t inspired, I wasn’t motivated. It wasn’t about the patients, it was all about that patient satisfaction survey that people fill out when they leave the hospital.
And the reasons why I got into healthcare, I didn’t feel like were there anymore. And at the same time, my husband was feeling burned out in his career, too. So, after practicing Nursing for a little over four years, we decided to quit our jobs and travel the world. So, I left healthcare for a little bit, but had some other experiences in life, as well, that were wonderful and amazing.
Nicole Vienneau 03:16
Wow. So first of all, I’d love to talk a little bit about burnout, because that’s something many Nurses are facing, and we’re trying to prevent and mitigate. And so what were the things that you noticed in yourself at that time?
Kristin Maack 03:32
Really having to pay a lot of attention to things that just weren’t about taking care of the patient, really. I mean, making sure that my name was on a board in their room, you know, like they had to know exactly what the Nurse’s name was. Which is important for a patient, but there’s so many other things that go into patient care.
Making sure that when I walked out of a room, people could see me rubbing my hands together to show that I was foaming in and foaming out, even though I was doing it, I had to make sure that I was out in the hallway so people were seeing it. I was just doing things for metrics for the hospital, for numbers for the hospital, and it just adds up, all those little things over time just really start to add up.
And then all of a sudden, I was the person enforcing those things, too. And Nurses want to be able to spend time with patients. They want to be able to care for patients, ask patients questions, do those little things that are going to make their day better. And those weren’t the things I was able to focus on anymore.
Nicole Vienneau 04:32
It really sucks the life and the joy out of why we— some of us or most of us— became Nurses in general. Yeah, and then shifting roles, being the Nurse who’s having to show that you are actually achieving those metrics,
And then taking a step further, become management and now you’re the one enforcing. And then that whole role, I guess, not reversal, but that— I guess the feeling of doing that— you know, making sure those things were being accomplished.
Kristin Maack 05:02
Yeah. I mean, I can’t even count the number of days that I wouldn’t have taken a break while on the floor, you know, you don’t take bathroom breaks, you leave work late. And then there’s feeling that personally, but then seeing a whole floor of Nurses having that happen, and you can just see what’s happening to the morale.
You can see people getting burned out, you can see people just not wanting to come back in the next day, because they’re so busy and overworked.
Nicole Vienneau 05:27
Yeah. And so as you recall all of those sensations, I mean, for in your case, you decided, well, heck, I’m just going to leave healthcare and travel the world. And now looking back, do you see things that… or what things do you see that maybe you could have done differently? Or that the hospital or the organization could have supported you better?
Kristin Maack 05:48
Yeah, I mean, when I look at hospitals, you know, there’s always the conversation around Nurse to patient ratios. And that’s… it’s a very worthwhile conversation to have. But I think one thing hospitals can do, too, in addition to making sure there’s safe Nurse to patient ratios is having more resource Nurses available for floors, and for teams.
Nurses who can come and just be able to help out with those morning med passes, if there’s procedures or treatments that somebody has to do on the floor, somebody that’s available to help out with those things. You know, there just… there needs to be more of a collaborative team on floors.
Nicole Vienneau 06:23
Yeah, yeah, I see that as being a very positive initiative, for sure. Okay, so you felt burnout, you left the bedside, you traveled the world. Tell us about that.
Kristin Maack 06:37
Yeah, I mean, so my husband and I sold everything and moved to Costa Rica, and lived down there for a little over four months, and then decided to move to Europe. We spent a summer just bumping around Europe, different countries. Lived in Brussels for a little while. And then Amsterdam for a little while. Went to Peru for a little while.
And so we were able to do that for about a year. But I didn’t want to lose my Nursing license, I didn’t want to lose that thing I worked so hard for. So, I found a way to work remotely as a Nurse. But I did not enjoy my job in any way. I was working for a remote company that really represented health insurance companies.
So, just calling doctors and making sure that they were doing what they needed to do to keep up with health insurance star ratings. And it allowed me to continue to travel. So, my husband and I were able to road trip around the US. We’d move somewhere every three to five months. And it was a lot of fun.
We had a great time, we lived in a lot of different places and had a lot of great experiences. And one of the beautiful things about being a Nurse is you do have options. So, even though maybe that role I had for that time wasn’t really rewarding in the sense of giving me passion, I didn’t feel like I was contributing to a whole lot, but I was still able to live a lifestyle that I really enjoyed.
Nicole Vienneau 07:56
Yeah, that’s one thing I hear so often doing all these interviews, is the myriad of potential opportunities for Nurses. And then we can morph and move and find things that really speak to us at different times in our lives, depending upon what it is that we are seeking.
Kristin Maack 08:15
Nicole Vienneau 08:16
So then, eventually, you came back to more of a stable lifestyle, or how did that all work?
Kristin Maack 08:24
So, let’s see, we were living in Sedona, Arizona, and I really wanted to get back into the type of healthcare that I enjoy. Well, I think I wanted to get there to begin with, I don’t know that I ever really had been in that area of healthcare that just got me excited. So, I just started looking at different types of Nursing jobs.
I started looking up Nursing jobs in integrative medicine, Nursing jobs in functional medicine, just trying to get into different fields of medicine. And I came across an International Nurse Coach Association textbook. And I was like: what is this? So, I bought a textbook and started reading about it and then found out about the International Nurse Coach Academy, it was called at the time.
And I found out that there was this field of Nurse Coaching out there and there were Nurses getting that coaching certification and doing a lot of different things with it.
So, I looked into INCA and saw that they had a new cohort that was going to be starting in like two months from when I had bought the book. And it was going to be in Harmony Hill, Washington. And so, I bought a ticket and decided to see what it was all about.
Nicole Vienneau 09:38
Woo! It’s so fascinating how things can align sometimes, isn’t it?
Kristin Maack 09:46
Nicole Vienneau 09:48
You buy— you don’t know what you’re getting into— but you buy a textbook anyways.
Kristin Maack 09:51
And I never read textbooks. I mean, textbooks are so boring. But like something was just calling me to buy this textbook.
Nicole Vienneau 09:59
You’re like: okay, I’m gonna invest in this textbook. And then you decide: hey, I really like what I’m reading, I want to learn more. And so you decided to sign up for the program, the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy’s Nurse Coach Certificate Program, and went to Harmony Hill.
So you did it in person. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience? About what you— I guess to narrow it down— maybe some of the highlights of what you learned about yourself through the program?
Kristin Maack 10:28
Yeah, I mean, that experience was just a magical experience. I mean, Harmony Hill in itself is a magical, beautiful retreat center. I feel honored that I’ve been able to spend time there. And you just… you get there, you meet other people who have similar passions, similar interests and desires as you do. You have so much in common with people that you’re there with, and you kind of feel like you’ve arrived.
I remember leaving Harmony Hill, and feeling like I had just be been recharged, like I had just gotten plugged into the socket, and I was just recharged, full of energy, full of motivation and ideas for ways to grow as a coach, build a business as a coach, motivation to bring coaching into healthcare. It was… I have only great and wonderful things to say about the experience. I met lifelong friends there.
Nicole Vienneau 11:25
So important. Yes. Our lifelong connections. Yes. So, what was the biggest transformation for you that you can remember back at that time?
Kristin Maack 11:35
You know, I guess as far as coaching goes, going into it, I didn’t really know what coaching was. At that point, I was just aware of life coaches, health coaches, and I thought that it was, you know, these are people who helped you create a plan that you were supposed to follow, and they kind of told you what to do.
And being there, you know, I really learned that it’s not about telling people what to do. It’s not about giving people this pre-planned out prescription. I kept on waiting for that, like, where’s the plan that they’re gonna give us that we give to people? Where is this magic template? But it’s really all about helping people find that within themselves, you know, what is it that they want?
What is that motivation behind wanting that? How is your life going to be different? And what are the first steps that you want to take to get there? But it took me a long time to figure that out. And so that was a wonderful thing that I learned leaving there, because I think I kind of found that in myself, too.
You know, there isn’t this plan, there isn’t this template, there’s not something that we’re following. It’s digging deep in yourself. And being there at Harmony Hill, you know, we went through different workshops and, you know, that were… we did dig deep within ourselves. And so I think that was the first time I experienced something like that in a group setting.
Nicole Vienneau 12:58
So beautiful. I love the connection you made with coaching. You know, there’s not a set plan, we don’t have templates, which we’re used to in Nursing protocols and ways that we do things and how we do a process or a task or, you know, putting in an IV has certain steps. And in coaching, it’s not like that, but then you connected it to your life, like my life is not like that either.
There’s no template for me to follow in my life. Case in point, your life as your journey, you know, through Nursing and then realizing Nursing wasn’t a good fit, and then going to try traveling and seeing what happened and realizing Nursing is a great fit, I want Nursing.
And then coming back to it, now finding another avenue in which you can travel and explore Nursing. So, tell us about your Nurse Coaching journey, as far as I know you have a big interest in plant-based processes. So, tell us about that and what you’re doing with your business.
Kristin Maack 14:03
Yeah, so when I went to Harmony Hill, I had gone there with an intention to be a plant-based coach, right, because I thought it was all about templates and having this plan that I could give people.
But you know, one thing that’s always excited me about health is learning how you can change your health, improve your health and transform your health with lifestyle, you know, with changing your diet, changing your sleep, working on emotional wellness.
So, I had gotten there with this intent to be a plant-based coach. And at the time I had a podcast where I was interviewing people who had transformed their health by changing their diet. I was wanting to put together a coaching program. So, I went to Harmony Hill with that intention. And when I left Harmony Hill, I realized that coaching was so different than what I thought it was.
And so it took me a little while to figure out what I was going to do with that. So, I continued on with the podcast, I continued on with, you know, having a plant-based recipe blog and just talking about the principles of coaching. And through that, people just started reaching out to me asking me if I would be their coach.
And that was a way where I could start coaching people who I wanted to coach. You know, they were seeking out me versus me advertising my services everywhere and coaching people who maybe had interests that didn’t resonate with me. So, it was a way for me to really work with people who I wanted to work with.
And so I did that for a few years, and then I was able to just create some different group programs, I did some group coaching with people, I was able to… and then by, you know, doing these things, I had gained a following on social media where I was able to start doing cooking shows, and you know, doing other group coaching programs, and it all just kind of started falling together.
Nicole Vienneau 15:47
I’ve watched some of your cooking shows…
Kristin Maack 15:47
Really? I didn’t know that!
Nicole Vienneau 15:50
Yeah! Of course I did! It’s so fun. It’s so great. You’re so great on camera, and so fun, you know, and it’s good to explore all kinds of different things. I enjoy plant-based living as well. I’m not 100% plant-based, but I enjoy learning more about it and exploring the things that I can do with it.
Yeah, so okay, so now you’ve done all of that, you said for a few years, three years with the plant-based. You still have your business, but then you went… you were seeking some other trends.
Kristin Maack 16:24
Yeah, so I wanted to start working with other coaches, you know, I was just coaching by myself. And I think there’s a lot of value in talking with other coaches, whatever your profession is. You know, like, Nurses are going to talk to other Nurses, people talk to other people in their profession. And so I was just kind of feeling like a lone wolf out there doing this, and I wanted to be connected with other people who are coaching.
And, you know, this whole time I just had this passion for lifestyle medicine, you know, really taking a holistic approach to health. So, I was still traveling around the US at this time, and I had landed in Boise, Idaho. Boise, Idaho, was just going to be another check on the list. I was gonna stay there for three months, and then move on.
And I fell in love with it. And lo and behold, there was a lifestyle medicine clinic there, and they were looking for a Nurse Coach. And you know, finding a job that’s specifically looking for a Nurse Coach is not such an easy thing. So it really felt like a blessing and something that I had to do.
So, I was able to work there. And I think that was really valuable, because it allowed me to, you know, work eight hours a day as a Nurse and as a coach.
And it really allowed me to see how the two just fit together so perfectly. Having a Nursing background, and being able to tie coaching into those interactions with patients is just a wonderful, beautiful blend. It should really be everywhere.
And it really helped me hone in my coaching skills by having just a steady flow of coaching patients on a daily, weekly basis versus working with one or two here and there. It really helped me build those skills.
Nicole Vienneau 18:08
Yeah, there’s something to be said about repetition of the skills and using them on a daily basis. I mean, so many of our graduates are using Nurse Coaching skills in no matter where they’re practicing, right, I mean, it just becomes part of us anymore. I don’t know what I was like before.
I do know what I was like before Nurse Coaching and I rather myself now, because it is a much more open approach and a much more diverse approach as well. So, you were blessed enough to find this job, who really thought it important to have a Nurse Coach, like that title!
Kristin Maack 18:47
Nicole Vienneau 18:48
In Boise, Idaho!
Kristin Maack 18:50
Nicole Vienneau 18:53
And you just happen to be rolling through, which is awesome. You know, it’s like a blessing. It’s like all of these things are just lining up for you. How amazing. And then… and then…
Kristin Maack 19:04
And then, I mean, I stayed there for about three years. I loved it. I didn’t leave there because I didn’t like it. And I will say, too, you know, when I did my Nurse Coaching certification, there were so many people there who wanted to build a business with it. That’s what most people I think wanted to do. And I mean, I was definitely in that boat and was able to do it.
But I’m really grateful that I found a job where I was able to do it and work with another coach because it really allowed me that space where you can exit that coaching session and digest it with somebody. There’s going to be coaching sessions that are amazing, and you’re going to leave it and just be like I rocked it. I’m helping this person. They are just where they need to be on that wheel of change.
And there’s other sessions where you’re gonna walk out and you feel like: I have no idea what I’m doing. How did I think I was qualified to do this? And it’s so nice to have somebody that you can share those moments with, and talk about it with, and dissect it with, and really see, you know, was there anything that you could have done differently?
Or is this person just really stuck in that pre-contemplation phase, and there’s not a whole lot you can do until they’re ready to move on. So, I think it’s really valuable to be able to be in that setting where you can talk with other coaches and work with other coaches. But it was time to move on, you know, I’m a traveler, I like to travel. My husband and I had been away from family for about 10 years.
And we were just ready to get closer back to family. So, we decided to move back to the Midwest. I’m currently in Wisconsin right now. And I was at a place, too, where I just… I wanted to spread my wings and see if there was a way where I could bring coaching further.
I’m also very passionate about lifestyle medicine, and see if I could, you know, find something that will allow me to spread lifestyle medicine across the country.
So, I just started reaching out to different doctors online. I was going on LinkedIn, I was going on Indeed, I was just looking at all different sites, trying to find providers who were practicing in a way that really resonated with me. And I just started emailing them and sending them my resume and saying: Hey, this is me, this is what I do, this is what I want to do in life, do you have a space for somebody like me?
And at the time, there’s a startup company who was advertising a job. Poplar Care Network is the name of the company. And they’re a national network of lifestyle medicine physicians, and they were looking for somebody to work with all of their different practices to help them implement lifestyle medicine services, and get coaching up and running in their practices. So, that’s what I was able to land. And that’s what I’m doing right now.
Nicole Vienneau 19:37
So, Kristen, you’ve got guts. You just said: you know what? I’m just gonna reach out to everybody who resonates with me. First of all, I think that’s really important. And say: ‘this is me, this is what I want to do, and do you have space for me in your world?’ I mean, that’s amazing. Kudos to you.
Kristin Maack 22:07
Nicole Vienneau 22:16
Yeah. I mean, what kind of vulnerability is that?
Kristin Maack 22:19
I mean, the worst thing they can say is no. And if they say no, then they say no, and you move on.
Nicole Vienneau 22:25
Right. I always say that, too. It’s like, well, they could just say no, and I see no as the acronym N.O. which is: next opportunity.
Kristin Maack 22:31
Right. It’s only so many no’s before you get a yes.
Nicole Vienneau 22:35
Yeah, that’s right! It’s only so many no’s before you get a yes. So, what’s a day in the life of as Director of Operations for Poplar Care?
Kristin Maack 22:47
It’s constantly changing and constantly evolving. But my best days are days where I really get to interact with different practices that are part of our network, and talk with them about ways that they can improve patient care, improve patient outcomes, reduce cost of care, and really talking with their team, talking with medical assistants, care navigators, care managers on how to start using some of the foundations of coaching, change talk, motivational interviewing, during their patient interactions.
Nicole Vienneau 23:18
Nice. And from I love how it’s the, you know, the patient care technicians, and those people who are interacting with the patients all the time, like, why not start the change talk then? Using motivational interviewing and the way we interact with each other, right from the get go. Awesome. So, what do you see in your future?
Kristin Maack 23:42
Well, I only have been doing what I’ve been doing now for about six months. So, I see me being here for a few years and really helping this spread further to more primary care practices around the US. Because focusing on real wellness, you know, being in primary care and having a physician, having a Nurse, having a coach that’s actually talking with you about your lifestyle, and changes that you can make in your lifestyle to improve your health, is the direction that healthcare needs to go.
And if we’re going to be talking about changes that you can make in your lifestyle to improve chronic health conditions, coaching has to be part of that conversation. Coaching skills need to be everywhere in healthcare.
Nicole Vienneau 24:25
Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, we think of lifestyle— that is everything we are doing in our life, like the day to day things that we’re doing in our life. Yeah, if only we would have our all our Nurses, all our patient care technicians, all our doctors, all our dietitians, speaking within the coaching language, that would create shift and create positive outcomes quickly.
Kristin Maack 24:52
Yeah, I mean, think if there was Nurse Coaches everywhere in healthcare. You know, and when you talk with Nurses, I mean some of their favorite stories that a Nurse shares is when they’re actually able to have a real conversation with the patient.
And, you know, it’s that innate coaching that’s in you that’s happening during those conversations, you know, reflective listening, affirmation— these are some of the most rewarding experiences that the Nurse has. So, if that could be integrated from the start, and health systems were able to support Nurses in ways where they can help patients in those ways, it would just be so beautiful.
Nicole Vienneau 25:25
It would be beautiful. And then we would keep our Nurses. First of all, we reduce burnout, because we would find satisfaction in the job that we are doing. We feel like we’re making a difference. We’re making those meaningful connections. It would improve retention, too.
Kristin Maack 25:43
Nicole Vienneau 25:43
We’re just going to save the world, Kristen. You and I, and all the Nurse Coaches in the world, for sure, for sure, for sure. So, we have a few moments left. And I always love to just throw this question out there, which is: when you think of Nurses, what is something that’s on your heart that you would like to share with our fellow Nurse?
Kristin Maack 26:07
When I think of Nurses, something that’s on my heart a lot is: are you practicing Nursing in a way that brings you joy? Do you have any passion for the area of Nursing that you’re in? And there are so many different ways to practice Nursing, there’s so many different fields, organizations, companies that need Nurses.
And so I really encourage the Nurses that when you start feeling burnout with where you’re at, in your career, and with whatever company that you’re at, you just start seeking out companies that really align with your values and your morals so you’re able to give your skills and practice your skills with people who need what you have to offer, and who are just waiting for you to be with them.
Nicole Vienneau 26:51
And that takes that deep dive in self-awareness, as well, to really understand: what are my values at this point in my life? Like, what is important to me?
Kristin Maack 27:00
Yeah. Yeah, it takes time.
Nicole Vienneau 27:03
It does take time, but it’s time well spent, right? Time well spent. Yes. Alright. So, where can people find you if they’re looking for you, if they want to connect to some of the things that you’ve been… that you’ve shared with us? Or how can they find you?
Kristin Maack 27:17
Yeah, so I do have a website: nursekristin.org. If you want to talk with me on LinkedIn, you can hop over onto LinkedIn. It’s just Kristin Maack over there. I’m on Instagram. Yeah, you can find me those places.
Nicole Vienneau 27:37
Yeah. And you got to follow Kristen. She has a lot of fun things on her Instagram. It’s great. Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today. We got a lot of fun and interesting and thoughtful nuggets of wisdom from you. So, thank you so much.
Kristin Maack 27:54
Yeah, thank you.
Have you ever heard the expression…. “Listen with your heart”? [...]