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Coaching for "healthy change"

Several weeks ago I attended the Health Coaching Australia New Zealand Association (HCANZA) annual conference. The catch phrase for this year was “harnessing community collaboration through coaching.” It definitely lived up to its promise, with some inspiring stories of how some members were applying the coaching model to different sectors of our society. In this blog I want to share some of their journeys…

Dr Tabitha Healey is an oncologist who decided to move into coaching when facing personal burnout. She knew that she needed to make a change when she found herself forgetting school pickups. The long hours were also leading to a loss of empathy for her patients, the final straw. With her lived experience she is coaching the medical profession through burnout and compassion fatigue, making a difference in the lives of our front line workers.

“Burnout is primarily the result of health care systems that take emotionally healthy, altruistic people and methodically squeeze the vitality and passion out of them."

Christine Boucher was a critical care nurse in a previous life. She moved into coaching 10 years ago because she was tired of being part of a reactive health care system. Many patients she was caring for were in hospital because of chronic disease that had resulted from poor lifestyle choices. She was inspired by the health coaching model because of the client centred approach and its proactive nature in helping facilitate change in behaviour. She is now running a successful coaching business, helping implement the “Adapt” program. Its focus, to increase wellbeing in rural Australia and to form the first line of defence against suicide in regional communities. The result improving rural and regional health outcomes.

“The cumulative stress of flood, bushfire, drought and COVID is hitting an under resourced rural health care system, resulting in a higher incidence of death and preventative disease”

Andy Hampson shared her story of getting into coaching after being told that stress was destroying her eyes sight faster, from a congenital eye disease. “Her glass half full nature” helped her focus on the positives, and embraced her personal strengths. She loved caring, supporting and talking to people and the discipline of health and wellness coaching aligned with her passion. She launched her “Inspire Network” and continues to work at one of Australia’s leading cancer hospitals (Chris O’Brien Lifehouse), as part of the Supportive Care & Integrative Oncology team.

“In 2022 I was introduced to my new, trusted friend, “Audrey”, my white cane. She has changed my life in ways I could not imagine. I am a dedicated Vision Australia volunteer facilitating groups for the young at heart over 65s and a career mentor to children and young adults to follow their dreams.”

Dr Mirna Hunter is an enthusiastic medical doctor with a vision to achieve equal access to health care for everyone regardless of their remoteness. She shared her story of working in indigenous health, highlighting the need for a new approach in overcoming the 10 year life expectancy gap between the general population and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

With community engagement at its centre, the “Ngangkari” clinics were created and implemented in regional NSW. First the community was consulted, as to what was important and what they wanted from the health service. From this enquiry it was established that there was a desire for “traditional aboriginal healers” to be added to the mix. Prior to this client cantered approach, the clinic was poorly attended. In the two weeks that the clinic was run 240 people attended, from an original list of 200 bookings. People were not only showing up for their appointments, they were also bringing friends and family members! There was also a wait list of 213 people. This was far removed from the experience of previous held clinics that were poorly attended, with low booking rates and numerous “no shows.” With patient participation in the clinic, additional health checks were also offered and engaged in.

As I learned from Dr Hunter’s presentation, children were still being removed from mothers in hospital as recently as the 1980’s. This intergenerational trauma can only impact trust of the medical profession and engagement in the health system. In reflection the “Ngangkari” clinics are a great example of Self-determination theory in action. This is one of the key theories underpinning the health coaching model. People need to feel the following in order to achieve change and growth:

  • Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their own behaviours and goals. This sense of being able to take direct action that will result in real change plays a major part in helping people feel self-determined.

  • Competence: People need to gain mastery of tasks and learn different skills. When people feel that they have the skills needed for success, they are more likely to take action.

  • Connection: People need to experience a sense of connection and belonging to other people. An integral factor is being listened to.

With such a positive story and outcome in the indigenous health space, it could only make me think of the upcoming referendum on an indigenous voice to parliament. Closing the gap begins with listening, recognising and self-determined action. Imagine what else could be possible? J

PS on a personal note, I have been working with many consultants and SME owners who have been struggling with the emotional impact of running a business. According to research by Xero, SMEs are under-holidayed and under-slept, with almost 7 in 10 reporting the past 12 months have been more emotionally draining than any year before. Are you feeling depleted with no energy left for you? Are you bordering on burnout?

Vitality is defined as the positive aliveness and having access to the energy within oneself. It is the resource that includes physical, psychological, emotional and social energy. It is on the opposite end of the spectrum of burnout. Optimal wellbeing relies on having the resources and capacity to meet the demands at hand.

Do you have:

  • The energy for your own physical wellbeing?

  • The energy you need to be the master of your mind? To choose what thoughts you give energy to and maintain psychological flexibility

  • The energy for awareness and agility with your emotions?

  • The social connections and community that fill your energy cup and allow you to be vital?

Vitality is key to how we show up every day. Having a foundation of vitality gives leaders like you the abundance of energy needed for yourself, to share with others and to meet the demands of your world.

The good news is you can inoculate yourself against burnout, take action and be supported in cultivating your own vitality, to strengthen and maintain your energy so you can perform at your peak.

Learn how at my “Inoculating Burnout” webinar Tuesday 3rd, October at 7pm Registration essential

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