Nurse leader and nurse staff members at meeting
HealthSeptember 21, 2020

Adopting a coach mindset to enhance the nursing practice environment

By: Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
As healthcare organizations continue to investigate methods to measure performance, nurse leaders are continually challenged to develop nurse staff members into more productive and effective employees. There are certainly numerous ways to engage staff, and nurse leaders are constantly on the lookout for new methods to improve staff response to suggestions and direction.

Effective leaders help their staff members increase their performance, but not all leadership styles are the same. The adoption of a coach mindset may better benefit both current and future nurse leaders when compared to other leadership styles. A new article, featured in Nursing Administration Quarterly, explores how a coach mindset may lead to better consequences for nursing staff members.

Work climate vs. culture

First, it is important to distinguish between work culture and work climate since both are promoted by nursing administration and other leadership. Organizational culture describes a broader concept, namely how each employee experiences the work environment. Organizational climate, on the other hand, is characterized by each individual employees’ perception of the organization’s policies, procedures, practices, and reward systems.1

Work climate and culture can be difficult to change, but they can be positively influenced by effective leadership styles. A coach mindset, which fosters trust and a sense of value in work, can help improve nurse performance and engagement and, therefore, patient outcomes.

Attributes of the coach mindset

A coach mindset reflects a certain type of mental paradigm reflecting how nurse leaders think, believe, and act in their everyday activities with others. According to the article, a coach mindset can be defined by several attributes, including2sup>:

  • Connection
  • Future focused
  • Learn together
  • One-on-one or group
  • Partnership
  • Personal goals and/or workplace goals
  • Relationship of trust and safety
  • Results oriented

Each of these attributes allows leaders to help team members learn together and pursue client-focused and workplace results-oriented goals. A coaching mindset focuses on developing the unique strengths and abilities of each individual nurse staff member, regardless of experience level or practice area.

Leaders who create an environment for staff members to learn from mistakes, improve their professional skills, and help others in the team achieve success may find that nurses find more innovative solutions to the specific problems of each unit.

How you can adopt a coach mindset

Shifting from a managerial mindset to a coaching mindset requires the development of certain necessary skills3. First, nurse leaders should keep in mind that coaching is an open-ended process. Unlike more traditional managerial styles, coaches should encourage their staff to explore potential solutions and options. Additionally, a coaching mindset requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. Nurse leaders must observe and exercise patience while staff members explore the methods by which they can become most effective.

Nurse leaders who embrace a coaching mindset should also be prepared to model behaviors that their staff members can emulate. As leaders spend more time coaching, communicating, and fostering creativity, these interactions help to increase employee engagement which can, in turn, boost job performance and involvement with the organization.

Adopting a coaching mindset requires that leaders understand and learn what leading with this mindset means. However, doing so helps to increase personal responsibility, promotes learning, increases job satisfaction, and helps support and enables the adoption of new behaviors.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Freelance Health and Medical Content Writer, Wolters Kluwer Health
Sarah has over nine years’ experience in various clinical areas, including surgery, endocrinology, family practice, and pharmaceuticals. She began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside to help educate and inform healthcare consumers and providers.
  1. Ehrhart, Mark G., and Benjamin Schneider. “Organizational Climate and Culture.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology, 22 Dec. 2016,
  2. “Coach Mindset: Preparing Leaders to Create a Climate of Trust and Value.” NursingCenter, 2020,
  3. McNeely, Madeline, and Ehrenreich, Michelle. “How to Adopt a Coaching Mentality and Practice.” Harvard Division of Continuing Education Blogs, 2020,
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