Interview by: Kim Green
As coaches, we are often taught to keep it “neutral.” However, former ILCT student, Daphne Greenawalt sees things a little differently. She believes that her effectiveness is in sharing what she has experienced that is similar to the things that her clients are grappling with. Not only do her own painful experiences make her instantly relatable, their pain is authentically hers. “Whenever I say that I am a nurse, I feel there is a trust factor there. I am in it to do no harm. Nurses are the most trusted professionals.” She emphasizes, “…the number 1 most trusted!”
Daphne Greenawalt is proud of who she is and what she does. Healing others is in her bones. Growing up with 2 nurses in her family, caring for others is second nature. Just the name of her coaching business, Ocean Breeze Life Services should loosen your shoulders and make you feel a little better than you did before.
See what Daphne has to say about being a coach who has cleverly integrated nursing with coaching to create an innovative methodology for care that is much needed in an ailing world.
KG: First things first. Let’s start with your spiritual life. I know that is your starting point.
DG: It’s an interesting story. Growing up, we lived in Reading, Pennsylvania. At the end of the block was a church it was called Holy Spirit Lutheran Church. When I was three years old, on a particularly stressful day my parents couldn’t find me in the house; that was unusual as I was not a wanderer. After much searching, they found me in the church. I can remember very clearly wondering why they were so upset but as a very small child, I had no understanding of their fear. When they asked me why I was there my reply was “because I am a Holy Spirit”. I was naturally drawn to the church however now I realize, I was drawn to the shelter of God and my faith. God has always been walking beside me and supporting me through many trials and transitions in my life. He is my focus and provision. My faith has always been with me, and my Aunt, a wonderful godly woman and nurse, taught me much over the years about kindness, caring and gentleness.
KG: When did you start being a caretaker?
DG: My grandfather developed cancer of the sinus when I was 9 years old. After a major surgical procedure with the removal of his eye and part of his upper hard palate I helped my mother with his care including tube feedings and activities of daily living. I’ve always had a heart for the hurting, whether person or animal. I want to help and comfort with caring and support.
KG: What drew you to nursing?
DG: My mother was a nurse and my aunt was a nurse and nursing instructor in fundamentals. I was primed pretty early. I used to sit in my Aunt’s classes as a young girl. I got to meet her students and saw how they loved her. She was a wonderful nurse with the healing touch. My aunt had a low calming voice that she used with her students and patients. She had a gentle non-threatening touch and reassuring manner that resonated with everyone she connected with. My aunt was an excellent teacher and mentor for her students and while tough with policy and procedures, helpful, knowledgeable and giving of her time and encouragement. I can remember at a young age, making beds with perfect corners. Listening to my mother and the things she had done in her career, meeting the interesting people she worked with and the people that she met, I was influenced. I did not have numerous options I found appealing to me as a career. So when it came time for me to decide what to do, going to college for nursing was the logical choice. After college, I worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, for 14 years. I was also a travelling nurse in a number of different states including Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania. I have worked at several hospitals in Pennsylvania and ultimately found my way into Infection Control and then the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine. I was the Clinical Program Manager and served as one of the Directors of the HIV/ AIDS, Ryan White Grant program. The experience and knowledge I gained in these positions has been invaluable.
KG: How do you use your personal caretaking experiences in your coaching?
DG: I have dealt with a lot of challenges of my own. I took care of my father who was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a neurological disorder. This was a gradual three-year decline needing increasing care. I was also taking care of my twelve-year old handicapped son, 10 year old twins, working full time and then, my first husband was diagnosed with cancer. At one point my son; father and husband were in the hospital. Life was a blur during those challenging years. My faith and a wonderful group of friends helped me persevere through that difficult time. After my father passed away, we started with cancer treatments for my husband John. He fought hard but at age 45, he passed away. My wonderful son Zachary survived eight years after his father died, until he was 24. He was a strong, phenomenal boy who even though he couldn’t walk or talk, touched thousands of lives. God wanted him here for a reason. He was a blessing to us. My twin daughters are now 26 years old and extraordinary young women, resilient, hard working and beautiful. God gave me the ability and the instincts to take care of others. Surprisingly, my second husband has a history of prostrate cancer in his family, but he wasn’t getting checked. I guided him into a medical study and he was diagnosed at age 48 with prostate cancer. Surgery was performed and the cancer was removed. He is still here and cancer-free! Additional life experiences, compassion and empathy increases understanding and support to guide and coach clients through trials and transitions.
KG: As a Christian, was it challenging to work with HIV/AIDS patients?
DG: When you work with patients/clients you have to have a non-judgmental attitude. Whether it is HIV or any other issue, more often then not, conversations frequently come back to spiritual aspects. People want to talk about spiritual matters and patients and families appreciate the ability to talk about the spiritual side of issues. HIV work can be especially challenging but also very fulfilling work. HIV does not discriminate color, sex, age group or financial status.
How did you approach your HIV/AIDS patients?
DG: With compassion and empathy, understanding a diagnosis of any disease process is life changing. “How did this happen? What do I do now? How do I cope with this?”. Many times, it is the personal stuff that I talk about that helps individuals relax. I bring that to coaching and nursing as well. That is how I can be “Christ-like.” I am not here to judge, I am here to coach, guide and help to focus on taking ownership and be empowered to move forward.
KG: How was working with a terminally ill population?
DG: We lost many patients, however from 1999 on, as HIV/ AIDS diagnosis morbidity and mortality changed, patients had to change their mindsets because many were going to live. With coaching, I was able to help and guide by empowering them to see their potential and the possibilities ahead of them. I have a number of HIV/AIDS patients that I provided cared for 17 years and have remained their coach, guide and friend.
KG: When did you change your focus to coaching?
DG: Ten years into my infectious diseases career path I wanted to provide more support and assistance to the patient population. That’s when I discovered coaching as another way to help patients. So I obtained coaches training and looked forward to certification. The facility I worked for was not receptive or helpful with this vocational calling within my job description however, the physicians I worked with did not object to and often utilized my skills to assist patients. However, after 17 years, I knew I was dealing with burn out. Frustration with the organization and the unwillingness to recognize different approaches and techniques as well as a lack of appreciation and compensation for the additional services created dissatisfaction with the system and nursing. So I made the difficult choice to move on, leaving a patient population that I loved and would miss but knowing I had to make the decision to depart. So, I walked away from nursing and moved into non-profit, drug and alcohol work with some coaching on the side. That lasted 2 years until I was confronted with a situation that required coaching and nursing skills that I couldn’t refuse. I believe it was God who brought me back around to nursing. It was time, and what I’m good at, as many have told me. With Ocean Breeze Life Services, I am utilizing nursing, and coaching, education, knowledge, experience and skills to help clients all over the country. That is a privilege and an honor that I take very seriously.
KG: Before you became a coach, I know that you were already coaching. What did that look like?
DG: I had started coaching back in 2007. I was already providing the service with my patients in the hospital, but I really wanted to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of the coaching discipline. I wanted to know the differences between counseling, and coaching. So, I started a 2nd masters degree program in counseling and then realized that I didn’t want to be a “counselor”. I enjoyed the coaching aspects, which was actually helping people get through the transitions and trials in their lives and helping them move forward. Coaching is what worked best with my HIV patients. It was a way to help them change their way of thinking about how to live and survive. Coaching fit much better than therapy. With coaching, focus on today, accept your history, take the experiences and use them to change and move forward.
KG: Tell me about the name of your practice? Ocean Breeze Life Services
DG: I love the ocean and the beach. It is my safe place. I like to go to the beach because it is so calming to me. The feel of the ocean breeze, the warmth, the scents and the sun, inspired the name of the business. I think about how the beach, the ocean and the breeze create a feeling of calm, peace, and renewal. I want my business to inspire those feelings for my clients.
KG: You mention that you see your coaching business as bridging the Gap…What do you mean by that?
DG: People gravitate to me because I have knowledge, education and experience. I enjoy teaching other nurses how to be a coach: to be the “nurse coach” for their patients. I think we have to cultivate coaching characteristics in clinics and hospitals as well as in private practice. Nurses are extremely busy and have to get many things accomplished in a shift. Patients are leaving the clinic with a prescription and a diagnosis but without adequate explanation and education about the disease process. That is where an experienced nurses’ expertise is invaluable, bridging the gap between the medical professionals, the disease process and the patient. That is what I love to do and do best.
KG: Personally and professionally you have had a lot of experience with death and dying. How did that impact you as a coach?
DG: I worked with two physicians and I was the one who made the hospice referrals and followed patients and families through to death. Sometimes, to others, death was seen, as “failure” or giving up, but some patients couldn’t “do it” anymore. But, even in their dying process, I was coaching, supporting, encouraging and helping them to be themselves. I remember just about everyone that I lost. I was able to be there for them and help them as they went through the dying process. I was able to help families whom, so often, don’t understand what is going on. I was coaching the families to think about how they could best use the time left with their loved ones to sustain them afterward. This is how I interacted with my daughters, too, when their father passed away.
KG: Any special patient stories that you remember the most?
DG: I assisted one woman with a history of HIV infection by a partner with an intravenous drug problem. At the time I met her, she was married to a wonderful man who was not infected. That was 1997. As her disease progressed, we often talked about the things that they could do together that would be good memories for both of them. They talked about going to Alaska. They went on the trip and it gave her an extra bit of time with him. I think she gained a couple of months. Her husband still has all of those memories and closure. When she passed, she was comfortable and calm. My role was helping the family understand what was going on. I embrace all that I experienced with my first husband and all those HIV patients. I remember the nuances and I use that now to help others understand transition and move forward.
KG: What would you say about the state of the health in America?
DG: With the state of our healthcare, my experience suggests a lack of understanding that individuals can take control of themselves, their lives and their decisions. People are too dependent on medical care but the medical professionals don’t have the time that patients need. People also don’t understand that you don’t have to run to the doctor for every issue. We all have a wonderful body that God has given us, with the ability to heal. Understanding when high blood pressure is diagnosed, there are steps that can be taken to lessen the impact. Type 2 diabetes, 60% of the population is overweight. Losing weight, practicing heart healthy eating and increasing activity could turn things around. But, as a Coach, I can’t do it for them. I can encourage and support them in making changes. Time is what is missing with medical professionals. When I was working as a clinical nurse, I was the one who made recommendations and coached patients through their diagnosis. That is what is missing - the person to fill and bridge the gap.
KG: In light of what is missing for patients, what can people do for themselves?
DG: People are mistaken when they think they should be able to do whatever they want because there’s a medicine to treat or cure bad decisions and consequences. Take responsibility for yourself! Acknowledge and be accountable for your choices and decisions. Understand what you are doing. Make changes to impact outcomes. Nursing care Coaches can help.
KG: Let’s talk about your Coaching education at ILCT
DG: It was 2007-2008. At the time, ILCT wasn’t as big as it is now. I knew I needed the foundational principles and it seemed like a program that would work for me. I read the textbook, Becoming a Professional Life Coach by Patrick Williams and Diane S. Menendez. I liked the psychological aspects that the book covered which was one of the reasons I chose the program.
KG: What was your greatest takeaway from the Foundations Class?
DG: The motivation to coach and how to ask questions that gets the most information and more substance out of your clients. That changed my perspective. As a nurse I use physical assessment, observation and specific questions. As a coach I use discovery questions, motivational interviewing and enhanced listening to better guide, coach and develop a plan with the client.
KG: Do you have any advice for other aspiring coaches?
DG: Your individual experience is important. I often hear, you can coach anyone and you don’t need to necessarily know what another person has experienced. But, if I didn’t have the experiences that I’ve had, I wouldn’t be a good nurse care coach. So, I say to others, really get to know what your passion is and then follow through with the coaching. Use your experiences to help, guide and empower others. Also, I would say find a program that will give you some training in your niche. There are so many different types of coaching. Really think about your role. The foundational course is great start. Then you can take the specific courses that will help you focus on your niche. There are many new courses since I first started my training and learning never ends. There is always more to discover.
KG: You say that learning how to question was your greatest take-away. What are your most effective questions?
DG: How can you do things differently? What could you do to change the situation? Do you like the situation? Are you taking your meds? If you are not, how can you change that? What can you do to feel better about yourself? What can you do to get over this hump? Clients can tell if you care about the answers.
KG: How do you coach younger (Millennial) clients?
DG: It is very difficult to develop a connection when you are texting or focused on social media all the time. The art of conversation has been lost. I have clients in there 20s. It can be very difficult to maintain a conversation. But, I have to go where they are, into their world. I have a young man who is preoccupied with cars and hopes to have a custom auto shop someday. I happen to be a motor head myself. We both love the races and I can talk with him about that. If I didn’t find that connection with each of my clients, it would be difficult to acquire and build their trust. Lack of trust can translate into lack of a relationship and ultimately the inability to coach a client.
KG: What is your vision for Ocean Breeze as it grows?
DG: I would like to have many more nurses on the team. I would like to see more nurses taking coaching courses to offer even more benefit to their patients. Nurses bridge the gap between medical professionals, patients and families even when they are within a clinic or hospital program. Nurses have much more knowledge, experience and skills than they are able to offer and provide at this time in healthcare and I hope to develop a means to promote and enhance the profession, while keeping nurses doing what they do best, caring for those in need.
KG: As a Coach, what would you say that the world needs now?
DG: Patience and caring towards one another. Just because we don’t think justice is being served doesn’t mean we have the right to retaliate and seek vengeance. I think we have gotten away from having an effective way to disagree. We are all different and we all have different ways of reacting to situations. We have to look at things in diverse ways and realize there are other approaches and it’s all right if they are different. I think coaches can help with that. Maybe we need to legitimize patience with our coaching programs.
KG: Anything else you want to say to aspiring coaches?
DG: Stay open minded and non-judgmental. Go through the foundational course, learn new methods and techniques and utilize your experience. Open yourself up; be vulnerable but not a pushover. Discover your niche and promote your strengths. Many need what you have to offer. Be a blessing.