Patients experience it routinely. A scheduled visit with a physician seems to be set to a timer. The doctor, who might not even bother to sit down, asks a few perfunctory questions, makes a quick diagnosis and tells the patient to see a nurse for a prescription.
Then the doctor is off to the next patient.
On average, physicians spend about seven minutes with each patient. That time crunch may be putting a strain on the doctor-patient relationship, but it’s also among the factors helping to create job opportunities in the growing field of health coaching. Health coaches act as mentors, motivating their clients to make better decisions in their diet and exercise routines, and assisting with stress reduction, all of which can lead to better health and fewer doctor visits.
“The coaching industry has seen tremendous growth over the last seven or eight years,” says Dr. Diana Hoppe, founder of Amazing Over 40 Inc. (www.amazingover40.com), a health coaching certification program for women. “Health coaches can devote more time to people than doctors usually are able to, building a relationship that leads to changes in behavior that can prevent diabetes and other chronic conditions.”
Health coaches, who can come from any background, sometimes work in doctor’s offices or clinics, but they also can be found in corporate sites, community venues or working from home. Sometimes sessions with clients come over the telephone.
“It’s a profession that comes with a lot of flexibility,” Hoppe says. “You can work fulltime or part-time, and decide how you want it to fit into your overall lifestyle.”
No specific educational requirements are needed to be a health coach and a good number of coaches haven’t taken classes to become a coach. But training through online certification programs such as Hoppe’s is available. The training typically takes about 60 to 90 days, and the budding health coaches learn about such topics as fitness plans, the science behind healthy foods and how to design a health program for a client.
“The growth in health coaching is part of the growth in the overall field of life coaching. It’s an especially appealing career opportunity for people over 40 who have faced age discrimination since the recession and have grown weary of being rejected by hiring managers,” says Ariela Wilcox, president of The Wilcox Agency.
Wilcox is a literary agent, but her agency also has a business-model licensing division. She helps doctors and other professionals set up their own coaching or health-coaching networks, and she assisted Hoppe in establishing hers.
“Thirty years ago there was no such thing as a life coach,” Wilcox says. “Today it’s a huge profession. The most recent figures are from 2012, and life coaching was a $700 million business in the United States that year and nearly $2 billion worldwide.”
Hoppe and Wilcox say there are several reasons this is a banner time for the health-coaching industry. A few of those are:
• Insurance companies are forcing companies and corporations toward more preventative health care for serious medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
• Laws have changed so that physicians are now paid by Medicare for overseeing weight loss and other conditions in obese patients. Medicare also has been phasing in a plan that links a portion of doctors’ pay to their performance. That plan will be completely phased in by 2017, making the need for health coaches even more important.
• There are about 70 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., with 10,000 turning 65 every day. Many of these Baby Boomers will employ health coaches to improve their health and wellness.
Wilcox began tracking the rise in coaching – especially health coaching – a number of years ago.
“Health coaching has risen 38 percent in the last few years,” Wilcox says. “With the turn toward preventative medicine to cut health costs, as well as the push to address obesity, health coaches will be in an excellent position to create their own health-coaching business or get a job in a clinic, hospital or corporate setting.”
The average annual salary for all types of coaches is $47,900, according to the International Coach Federation. In the U.S., fulltime coaches make an average of more than $83,000 and part-time coaches average about $26,000 a year.
The advantages for the health coach are clear, but the benefits are also great for the clients and their employers, Wilcox says.
“If people are healthier, that can lower the insurance costs for their employers,” she says. “With some companies, you can get a bonus at work or at least pay less for insurance. That’s like giving yourself a raise.”
Hoppe expects the demand for health coaches to continue to grow, especially among women.
“Women are living longer and searching for ways to take better care of themselves from a preventative and nutritional standpoint,” she says. “Health coaches will provide them the education and accountability they need to achieve their health goals.”
Dr. Diana Hoppe, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, is the founder of Amazing Over 40 Inc. (www.amazingover40.com),a health coaching certification program for women.