Over 30 years ago I struggled with addiction. A battle that went on for years. Several times each week I was riddled with shame and guilt for what it was doing to my family, my finances, my career, my education, and my body. The only way I could cope was to reassure myself that tomorrow would be different. I would tell myself, tomorrow, I will have self control.
Then one day, no different than any other day, I realized the truth. It wasn’t going to be any different. I couldn’t do it on my own and everything was going to stay the same unless I asked for help.
So I did, and although I am by no means perfect, I am really healthy now! I have changed in so many positive ways! I could not have done it without the women who helped me. They were confidants I could be honest and vulnerable with, who would listen, and help me find my own way out. They helped me to stop being impulsive by becoming aware of my patterns. Over time the automatic pilot moments were replaced by conscious and intentional decisions.
“One of the group coaching norms we have for the group was not to give advice. So, we are more supportive and ask questions and have ideas of what someone might look at that might be helpful to them. If there is ever a time where we stray away from those norms, I just try to remind everybody what the group agreed upon in the beginning, and then we move forward as a group.” Annabeth Elliott
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! This is Nicole Vienneau, your host, and I am thrilled to welcome Annabeth Elliot from Boise, Idaho. She is the founder of Boise Nurse Coach. She has a Master’s of Science in Nursing and has a big focus in public health. So welcome, Annabeth.
Annabeth Elliott 00:25
Thank you! Thank you for asking me to be here.
Nicole Vienneau 00:29
Well, I’m thrilled that you could join us here as we talk about all things Nurse Coaching and talk about all the things we’re passionate about in this venue of promotion of wellness and health. So, let’s take a moment to dive back in history and tell us a little bit about why you became a Nurse.
Annabeth Elliott 00:52
Well, I wanted to work in a career that I was passionate about and that would really help people. It was my second career, and I was personally very into health. And so, I became a Nurse, not so much to work in the hospital and treat sick people, but to help people be as healthy and as functional as possible for as long as possible.
I really cared about health and that is the foundation for all the other things in life that are important. So, that’s why I wanted to work in the field.
Nicole Vienneau 01:34
So, your background in population health and public health, how did you get into that?
Annabeth Elliott 01:41
I knew that’s the area that I wanted to go into because I felt like, to really impact health, you had to do it on a policy level and, you know, just build into your community the things that people need in order to be healthy and sustain their health, and that it had to be woven into life. And so, I knew it was the area I wanted to work in.
But when I got into Nursing school, I was, I guess, taught that you needed that foundation of bedside Nursing. And so, I thought I’ll do a year and it was going to be like a commitment, that I checked the box so I could say I had it. But when I started doing it — I worked in the clinical support unit and went to all the different units in our hospital, it was the same hospital I was born at, so, I mean, I had an affinity for St. Luke’s — I fell in love with it, I really liked it, and so I stayed for five years.
And then I moved to home health at the same hospital and did that for another year. And then at that time, I think it was just the culmination of being tired, of being on call and working nights and wanting more of a balanced schedule, that I applied for my first job in public health.
I worked at the Department of Health and Welfare in Idaho and became their Sexually Transmitted Disease Coordinator for the state. It was an awesome position. I learned so much. I got to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and do all kinds of projects and travel and work with people out of Seattle, that were out of the U of W, that were my big brothers and sisters and kind of nurtured me along.
Because in Idaho, when you’re in a position like that, you do everything. We don’t have specialists, you’re it, so it’s very general. So that’s how I got into that field and encountered a lot of professionals that I admire and were role models for me.
Nicole Vienneau 04:07
Wow, what a history. And so many opportunities within Nursing as a profession, as well.
Annabeth Elliott 04:15
When I took my… It was my senior year in Nursing school for my undergraduate. Knowing that I wanted to do public health, I just asked, “Can I create my own project where I learn to write a grant?” I found somebody, who was a parish Nurse, who let me write a grant, which we got. She taught me a lot because she had a grant writer that she contracted with.
And so, you know, I wrote a couple little grants and we got those and started the parish Nursing program in Boise. But that foundation of that one class is what really gave me the foot in the door to get the job at Health and Welfare, because every year I had to write the grant to get the money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do the project for Idaho. So, you never know where an internship is gonna lead when you do a project in school.
Nicole Vienneau 05:19
Right, and using your resources, and opening up doors that you never knew were available to you.
Annabeth Elliott 05:27
Maybe I should look for a grant for some coaching!
Nicole Vienneau 05:31
Hey! That’s a good idea! Speaking of Nurse Coaching, you know, something that we’re so passionate about, I would love to know how and why you were attracted to Nurse Coaching.
Annabeth Elliott 05:46
Well, you know, it really fits with that vision that I told you I had when I got into Nursing school. But how I got into coaching was I worked at a wonderful organization. I was the only Nurse there and it was a big social service community for who had disabilities, I mean, and had a really good coach out of Seattle Coach, and she just believed in it, and it changed her life. It was life coaching.
And so, she wanted to make our organization into a coaching culture. And so, she asked 10 of us if we would like to become coaches, and she would pay like two thirds of it, and we would pay a third, so we had some skin in the game. And we would become coaches and then offer it to the other employees — it was probably 500 employees — and we would incorporate this coaching culture into the organization.
So, I was hesitant, I thought coaching sounded like pyramid marketing, to be honest. I wasn’t all in from the beginning. You know, I talked about my concerns and I was just convinced, by the end of it, that it really was helpful and it changed people’s lives. So, I was one of the people that participated, I became a life coach, in about 2016, I became a life coach.
And even going through that training, coaching changed my life because we would practice coaching on each other. And I have a lot of support in my life and, you know, people I can talk to. I didn’t see how it was going to be any different than that.
And I had a counselor and so… but it was, and it was very impactful. And it seemed to bring solutions out of my inner guidance instead of relying on somebody to tell me what to do, or experts or books.
I knew all along that I wanted to go more into the health side of coaching, and that there were requirements that you get a certification to become a health and wellness coach. That was always my goal. I enjoyed life coaching and did a lot of it at that organization, and I still do some with the people there that were in that cohort.
That’s how I got into the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, was I was looking, searching for an opportunity to become a health and wellness coach, and I knew that what I had as a credential Nurse gave me a little bit more credibility than someone who just went to a 16-week course for health and wellness coaching.
And I wanted to utilize that and capitalize on that. And then when I read the reviews, you know, and learned more and studied more about INCA, I became convinced that that was where I wanted to get my credentials from.
Nicole Vienneau 09:00
How has it changed your Nursing vision? Or has it? How has it layered over your Nursing vision?
Annabeth Elliott 09:08
Yes, I would say it really has. It’s been so rewarding. I researched and I decided INCA was where I wanted to get my credential, but I feel like the education I got there and the interactions with the instructors and the founders and the creators of the program, it far surpassed my expectations.
To be able to work with the Nurses who actually created Nurse Coaching and developed it and to have them participate in that education was a neat experience. You know, I’d be studying the book and then who wrote that chapter might be presenting our lesson plan. You know, we had the opportunity to talk and ask questions.
That was great and I could see practical ways to begin to actualize the vision I had of how to help people be healthy and change their lifestyle. Not just treat illness, but actually increase health and promote health.
Nicole Vienneau 10:18
So, if someone comes to you and asks you, “Well, what is Nurse Coaching?” What would you say?
Annabeth Elliott 10:25
I would say Nurse Coaching is a way to reach your full potential with your health. When it comes to being healthy, you reach your potential by going within and garnering your inner resources and utilizing those to take steps to, you know, be as healthy as possible with where you’re at in your life.
Nicole Vienneau 10:50
Beautiful. So, with your business, Boise Nurse Coach, what are you seeing as your vision for helping people in your community?
Annabeth Elliott 11:00
My niche, if you want to call it that, where I feel like I’m most of service to other people, is around the areas of food and eating. And right now, I have an intelligent eating group where women come and they look at how they might have been culturally taught to eat, or how they should look.
And they look at how they’re treating their body and, you know, their thoughts around eating. And then they really look for what is their vision for if all of that was put to the side and they just went within and listened to their body.
How would they like to eat? What would be healthy for them as far as food? Because it can be so overwhelming, all the information about food and how we think we should look, that we have really looked at, as a group, what is important to me?
As a body, as a soul, as a person, and then try to take steps and make goals to meet that. We look at, you know, when things don’t always go as planned, how you can get back on track or how to revise your goals.
So, eating seems to be a big issue that I have a passion about helping people with. And then, really, it comes down to any kind of substance abuse or addiction problem. And you can, you know, with some people that might be food, helping people to stop smoking, helping people to quit drinking or using drugs and just to cope with life and what life throws at us.
Maybe it’s the other thing that I really like helping people with is just to meet their goals for being more active. Exercise. And all those things fit together. And it all fits together in so many ways.
But the other area that I see that a lot of women that coach with me face is, you know, just how to take care of those needs for exercise or to eat healthy, and how that affects the dynamic with their family or their partner. And so how to navigate that seems to be a big issue that comes up repeatedly.
Nicole Vienneau 13:29
So, many programs surrounding food and movement, and you mentioned a few times about the way that we’re conditioned, in a sense, to look or feel or other people’s views tend to be pushed on a lot of people. Some of your work is around that and overcoming those challenges and creating opportunities to move forward.
Annabeth Elliott 13:54
Yeah, and it seems like there’s challenges for a lot of women to even discuss it with their partner or their family, that they want to change the way everyone eats. They’re the one who makes the food so it’s going to impact others if there’s more vegetables and less meat, for instance.
How to talk about that has made me think one of the programs that I’d like to start in the future is to actually do couples coaching, where you coach both, so that the opportunity for that discussion is right in the coaching session.
Nicole Vienneau 14:27
So having two significant others together and see what transpires from those conversations.
Annabeth Elliott 14:38
The situation, it can be reversed, too, because, for instance, my partner does majority of the cooking, wonderful cook, but I remember, he’d recently – well, it’s been over a year — really changed the way he eats. And that made it so much easier for me because I didn’t really want, like, cheese on the dinner every night, but he did, and he’s cooking so I’m not gonna mess with that.
So, those kinds of issues really make a difference. When he changed the way he ate, it really helped me a lot.
Nicole Vienneau 15:11
Yeah, absolutely. If you’re with someone, having meals every day, and they’re choosing to cook what’s considered “healthy” (healthy versus unhealthy), and you are the eating partner, you’ll just eat what’s served sometimes. Make it easy, even though it may not necessarily be what you feel is most nurturing for you.
Annabeth Elliott 15:35
Nicole Vienneau 15:37
Yeah, that sounds wonderful. Definitely something to look forward to, to have couples coaching. Looking ahead to see what next steps they can take together to allow them to reach their health goals, which, probably, are different from each other. But they’re together, so linking, like you say, together, helps make it easier to adjust if you have someone else doing it with you.
Annabeth Elliott 16:03
Yes, yes. To lead the conversation, I think, is really helpful.
Nicole Vienneau 16:09
Right. I want to take a step back and talk a little bit about group coaching, because you spoke of your intelligent eating group, and I would love to have listeners understand how you feel about group coaching. So, gathering people together, and what draws you to that.
Annabeth Elliott 16:31
I really like the interaction between the group members, and I believe they do, too. There’s a bond and, over time, trust and camaraderie develops. And there’s people that are there that have a lot of wisdom that comes out in the session. Last night we had a session, and they didn’t let me skate out without addressing some of the things that I needed to look at, and I wanted to skate out.
So, it’s neat that they have gained enough confidence in their own ability to help each other, that they can help me as the coach, too. Because at the beginning of the group coaching, we decided together that I would be a participant and not always the person that was an expert — which is not really a coaching principle anyway — but not to look to me for answers. I will throw out questions or find a topic that we’ll talk about for each group. I’ll just lead the conversation and keep it on track, basically.
But last night, we revisited: what is your vision? What are the goals that you’re going to take to get there? And then if we have time — we have a timer — if we have time, then after the person shares and they want the feedback, they can ask for feedback and be given ideas or suggestions or, more often, questions.
Because one of the group norms that we had for the group was not to give advice. So, we are more supportive and ask questions and have ideas of what someone might look at that might be helpful to them. And so, if there is ever a time where we stray away from those norms, I just try to remind everybody of what the group agreed upon in the beginning, and then we move forward as a group.
Each group, also, I will do a guided awareness practice. So, it’s a time that everyone can relax and tap into their own inner resource and quiet time to get it started. It seems to set the mood for the rest of the meeting. It might be connected in some way to the question for the night and then we go from there.
Then I’m the person that is in charge of time. I’m not always the timekeeper, there’s usually another timekeeper, but I’m the one responsible for: how long do we have? And let’s get out of here on time. I send all the reminders and emails about what the topic’s going to be and the question.
Nicole Vienneau 19:35
And I’m sure that you are creating that safe space for people to be able to share what’s on their hearts and what’s on their minds.
Annabeth Elliott 19:46
Yes, and I think that’s why it’s so important in that first meeting to set those norms. Everybody agreed on them eventually. I mean, there were different ideas for how it should go, but then through a process of discussion, we agreed on what those norms would be. Building in that safety was part of that first discussion. And then it’s kind of my job just to — it hasn’t really gone off track, it’s a wonderful group — but if it does, then I just remind everybody what they are. Or if there’s going to be a change to something we agreed upon, then I’ll bring that up as a housekeeping item for discussion.
Nicole Vienneau 20:26
Sounds like a wonderful group.
Annabeth Elliott 20:28
It is. It’s great, yes. It’s nice. I think everybody feels like they’re not alone in their struggles. And then we can also learn from other people. Try things. Or it’s like a light bulb will go off, like, “Oh, I do that, too, and I hadn’t realized it. I’m gonna try that. They tried it, and it was helpful, so I’m gonna try that, too.”
Nicole Vienneau 20:50
They’re learning from each other and with each other.
Annabeth Elliott 20:53
Nicole Vienneau 20:54
Awesome. You mentioned that one part where you said, “We don’t give each other advice.” Would you touch on that a little bit more?
Annabeth Elliott 21:05
It’s a challenge at times. I’ve noticed, even on the one-on-one coaching, if something does work well for you, personally, you think that’s gonna work for everyone, but you don’t really know that. I’ve also noticed, personally, when someone gives me advice, for instance, I’ve been doing it for years or I’ve already tried it and it didn’t work, it just seems like a waste of time, or that they aren’t really listening to me. They don’t know me, basically. So, if they knew me, they would know I already do that, or whatever.
I think most of us in that group don’t like getting advice from people who told what you should do. We easily agreed that we weren’t going to give each other advice. Now, if we do have an idea, we’ll say something like, “I have an idea, do you want to hear it?” So that person still has the power to say, “Sure” or “no, I kind of want to go in this other direction right now. I’m having this intuition that I should try X”. And so, you can definitely listen to the idea or not. So that’s something that we do.
Nicole Vienneau 22:27
That sounds wonderful. Because you’re right about the advice giving. When I receive advice, and I did not ask for advice, it has a feeling of trying to be pushed around a little bit. I know, as coaches, we don’t offer advice, and that’s a big difference that some people don’t know about Nurse Coaches, is that we don’t tell you what to do, or how to do it. Instead, we work with you so that you can figure out what you want to do and how you’d like to do it in your unique life.
Annabeth Elliott 23:04
Yes, with your own specific situation and proclivities, and I think that’s what makes coaching so special. And as a coach, you have to be present. You have to really be in the moment and see just what need there is right then. You can’t anticipate it because you don’t know where someone’s at until they tell you. Which I think, also, is what makes it such a nice place where people feel understood and heard and listened to because you were waiting to find that out. You’re really trying to understand.
Nicole Vienneau 23:42
And who better to do that than a Registered Nurse because we have additional knowledge related to health and wellness, healthcare system, and much knowledge, but it’s different in the sense that we’re not telling you what to do. Even though we may have that knowledge, we’re not trying to force anything on any of our clients.
So, let’s shift gears a little bit. I’d love, and I bet our listeners would love to know, maybe about a client that has impacted you and your work.
Annabeth Elliott 24:14
A lot of our clients, if not all of them, are on Medicaid and they are, many times, either on disability or they’re elderly, and they’re low income. So, working with these clients, a lot of them are on disability because, for instance, they’re in poor health due to chronic conditions, many of which are because of their lifestyle. And the research bears that out, that that is very common.
I’m very motivated to incorporate coaching into my work. Several of the clients that I have coached have really impacted me because it opened my eyes to the challenges of a different socio-economic group, one that may not, generally, have the ability to hire a coach. How to start and work with someone by taking very small, actionable steps.
And so, it has really caused me, as a coach, to slow down and really learn about how to take those bite-sized steps and not get frustrated. It’s not my progress and it’s not me to say how much progress somebody needs to make in how much time.
I have to surrender what I think success as a coach looks like because it’s not about me. And maybe success for them is to eat one piece of fruit a day or try one vegetable. You start there. So, that has been a real reframing of success and helpfulness — understanding different places that people come from and where they’re at.
Nicole Vienneau 26:13
And that everyone, no matter their socio-economic status, can have the resource to connect with a coach versus just staying in the healthcare system that they’re designed to be in. I think of when we talk about access, and right now health coaching is really not covered by insurance yet, and that health promotion is so important to help all people.
Us getting out into the world as Integrative Nurses, Nurse Coaches, professional Nurses trained to do health coaching, will continue to create that evolution of healthcare — moving away from disease care and helping people, potentially, before they get ill. And if they happen to be ill, perhaps it is those little steps that you speak of, the little, tiny steps that can help make them feel better in their life.
Annabeth Elliott 27:11
I’ve heard the criticism of coaching, especially life coaching, that it is the more affluent who can afford a coach because it’s not covered by insurance. It’s not cheap a lot of time. So, to be able to offer that through my work, I feel like is a very big gift for me and I’m glad to be able to offer it. And I would like to coach more of our clients and do a little research on it.
So, maybe because Medicaid is the payer, if I could do research and show that it does have an impact on A1Cs or weight or people’s feeling of wellbeing, maybe in the future that might be something that they add as a supplemental service for this aging and disabled waiver that I work under. You know, who knows. All we can do is try.
Nicole Vienneau 28:11
Absolutely, and innovation is where Nurse Coaches are going, right? We have made this a priority, in our Nursing careers, to shift the paradigm of healthcare and doing it in whatever way that we can, and the research that you speak of sounds very exciting to me.
Annabeth Elliott 28:31
Yes, me too. I would love to see that, you know, have more equity and fairness for what people have access to, like you talked about.
Nicole Vienneau 28:38
Absolutely. And I’m thinking back to when you spoke of grant writing, and how that can all be linked to all of this as well. Maybe there’s a special grant we can look for to help you with your research and connect all the dots together.
Annabeth Elliott 28:54
Yes! Which is one of the reasons that coaching, Nurse Coaching, lights me up. I’m always on the bell curve of innovation. I’m not the very first group, but I’m the next one, and I love to try new things and go into an adventure.
Nicole Vienneau 29:13
Oh, that sounds like a wonderful adventure, and it’s going to help people in the end. And as my husband always says, “Oh, you just go around and you just help make everyone feel better.”
Annabeth Elliott 29:24
That’s great! I like that!
Nicole Vienneau 29:26
What a blessing that is, isn’t it?
Annabeth Elliott. 29:28
Nicole Vienneau 29:30
So, what should I ask that I haven’t asked? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Annabeth Elliott 29:36
You know, I’m a newbie at this, so there’s a lot that I don’t know that I would love to ask you.
Nicole Vienneau 29:45
Uh oh! Annabeth, you’re turning the tables on me!
Annabeth Elliott 29:49
But I do thank you so much for doing this podcast because I love the purpose behind your podcast, to connect us as Nurse Coaches, to inspire us, to give us ideas and see what other Nurse Coaches are doing, and to let the community know — the potential clients of Nurse Coaching — know what a gift and asset that coaching can be. So, thank you.
Nicole Vienneau 30:18
Oh yes, every time I have a discussion with a fellow Nurse Coach, I get jazzed. And I get more and more excited about the work that my colleagues are doing around the country, around the world, actually, because we have people in other countries as Integrative Nurse Coaches, as well. And the more Nurses that we get on board with helping promote wellbeing, a holistic vision of wellness, the more power that we have to create this shift moving towards wellness — less disease care, more well care.
Annabeth Elliott 30:55
So, because many people don’t know what it is, when I was in the Nurse Coach Academy, getting my certification / education, I sent an email out to all of our clients and employees and offered coaching because I needed to get so many hours to be able to take the test and apply for the certification. So, I became a little discouraged because I was giving it away for free and I didn’t really get that big of response — not what I expected, I really expected more people to be interested.
And so, my question to you, Nicole, is how do you stay motivated and inspired and enthused when you do encounter that, maybe, lack of acceptance of what you’re offering or understanding?
Nicole Vienneau 31:51
Ah, this is a wonderful question that you’ve posed to me, Annabeth. Through my years of experience, I have come to realize that I cannot be tied to another person’s outcome. So, if I ask someone to be a client, because I think they may benefit, and they choose that it’s not the route for them, I feel, first off, that it’s necessary for me to be able to offer, because if I don’t offer, they won’t know that the service exists.
But the second thing is, is that if they do not accept the invitation, that there’s something that’s probably holding them back. And sometimes I like to have a conversation with that person to see: what is it that’s holding them back? Because sometimes those barriers can be easily addressed. Say, money. Money is a big barrier for people. I can offer, you know, discounted services or payment plans or whatever could work, potentially, for that person. Or perhaps we can look at the health savings accounts.
All of those kinds of things, where we can kind of tap into different avenues for paying for a service. Because, really, Nurses are offering a very distinct service. Just like you go to get your hair cut, or perhaps you get your nails done, or you go to dinner, all of that is a service, and Nurse Coaches are focused on the service of wellness — creating a vision or a transformation to help people feel what’s important to them and their health.
So, me being not tied to what their outcome is, in the sense of yes or no, has helped me a lot. Because I can’t control anyone else’s decision of whether or not they want to have the service, but I can offer opportunities for discussion to help see if we can overcome barriers.
And then what really keeps me motivated to continue onwards with this work is that every time I have a discussion with another person, even if it’s not an official coaching call, I still feel like I’m acting like a coach because it’s gotten to be so much in my blood. I’ve shifted the way I ask questions to people and shifted the way I really listen. And because of that, I feel like my conversations just feel so much better to me as a human being. So, letting go of the outcome, and addressing barriers, and then knowing that I feel good in the role as a Nurse Coach, keeps me motivated and keeps me inspired.
And then one other thing is that I love to talk to fellow Nurse Coaches. So, I will pick up the phone and say, “Hey! Like I did right here, Annabeth. Hey! Want to come talk to me?” Because every time I speak with another Nurse Coach, we get each other, one, but the second thing is it’s really inspiring because I hear what they’re doing and I think: oh, that is so interesting and so unique. Because they usually tell me something that’s really specific to them and their ideas and their views, and that innovation keeps coming to life.
Annabeth Elliott 35:19
Well, thank you. Yeah, those are great ideas and good strategies. I think you’re right about— well, all of it— but talking to other Nurses, and people in the field of Nurse Coaching, it’s very inspiring. If I’m stuck, that does seem to give me a nudge. And it’s totally changed the way I communicate with others.
Nicole Vienneau 35:46
There’s more freedom, I feel, because I’ve learned the tools and the strategies of coaching. But then the other side of it was just all of that diving into who I am. Why do I want to be a coach? What’s holding me back? What are my barriers and how can I overcome them?
And how do I show up as a person? And what are my vulnerabilities? And I’ve had to work on those things and I’m continuously working on myself, just to be able to show up as myself, to show up for my clients and for my patients and for my community.
Annabeth Elliott 36:24
Well, I’m glad you do.
Nicole Vienneau 36:29
Well, thank you, Annabeth. You know, I have not had a fellow podcast guest ask me any questions. So, you were the first one. So, thank you for asking for my opinion!
Annabeth Elliott 36:41
Yes, I love it, thank you.
Nicole Vienneau 36:44
So how can we find you if we’re looking for you, Annabeth?
Annabeth Elliott 36:48
Well, I have an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and a plug for INCA again, I still use that platform even though I graduated. I use Google Meets for some of my coaching sessions and keep my documentation there, so you can email me there, I check it. And, also, my website is boisenursecoach.com.
Nicole Vienneau 37:16
Woo-hoo! Go you! That’s fabulous! Well, we look forward to seeing you shine. Continue to bring your brilliance and your energy and your inspiration to your clients into our Nurse Coaching community. And I want to let everyone know, of course, we’re going to share all of Annabeth’s information in our show notes so you can connect with her. I know she’d love to speak with you. Yes. Thanks, Annabeth, for being here and we shall talk soon.
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