Nurse Practitioner Entrepreneurs

Spotlight on: Eileen O'Grady, PhD, RN, NP-C

Practicing to Promote Wellness

Wellness coaches become allies with their clients and help them to advocate for their own change.  It is facilitating the client's change to healthy behaviors by helping them to learn and maximize their own behaviors.  Wellness coaches generally charge between $50 and $150 per session.  Eileen O'Grady is a nurse practitioner who is incorporating the principles of Wellness Coaching into a new practice.

Eileen O'Grady photo  Eileen O'Grady, PhD, RN, NP-C

Helping Those with Self-defeating Behaviors

Eileen O'Grady PhD, RN, NP-C announced the opening of her Wellness Coaching practice in August 2009.  She works with individual clients to create their ideal wellness vision and works to bring out each person's unique strengths and areas of excellence and apply them to creating a healthier lifestyle.  Client and coach meet over the phone every two weeks for 3 months for approximately an hour each time.  This is long enough for patients to be well on their way to sustained lifestyle change that supports wholeness and prevents or entirely reverses diseases, such as facilitating healthy diets and weight loss that prevents type II diabetes.  In each conversation, the focus is not on the past, but on the present and the client's vision for his or her ideal future.  Dr. O'Grady helps individuals change their behavior (often through attitude shifts and increased awareness) to self-manage chronic conditions, so they are successful in achieving the goals they define for themselves.  Wellness coaching is spot-on for anybody who has any kind of self-defeating behavior, such as:

Clients come to Dr. O'Grady's coaching largely through word of mouth.  She screens each of her clients to ensure they are healthy, creative and resourceful, for without these characteristics, one cannot articulate what they want in their ideal future, and they are not ready for wellness coaching.  It is advantageous that coach and client begin this journey as virtual strangers so that both strengths and obstacles can be explored immodestly and honestly.  Her clients reside all across the country and research has shown that people are more candid over the phone.  They will say things to a stranger that perhaps they may never have said out loud before - this honesty is essential at naming and overcoming obstacles to wellness.  The convenience of conducting coaching sessions via phone is astonishing and eliminates all kinds of geographic and hassle barriers.  Most often, Dr. O'Grady never meets her clients face to face, but feels very connected to them because of the nature of the conversations they have.  When appropriate, she does see clients in her home office in the Washington DC area, and she has found that teenaged clients prefer face to face meetings.  On occasion, clients are referred to therapy if a deep-seated psychological issue is preventing forward movement.  Most of her clients are in some form of contemplation about a lifestyle change and very much want to be in action around it.  She approaches her clients with radical acceptance of where they are and with unconditional positive regard.

Dr. O'Grady is not aware of any third-party reimbursement for wellness coaching and would not be interested even if it were available, as her clients must have some investment in the coaching process and relationship.  She packages her services for 3 months of coaching (around 8 hours) at a time, so there is a long enough commitment for the client to experience change.  This technique simplifies billing and book-keeping, an activity that she finds burdensome!

The basic premise of Wellness Coaching is that the coach doesn't give advice, but rather elicits solutions from the client.  This approach to treating patients ensures that they take ownership of the problem at hand and make the needed changes.  The process is fascinating because it uses positive psychology and a method of inquiry into the client's core strengths and applies them to the building blocks of wellness -- such as change in dietary habits or curtailing negative behaviors.

Shifting to an orientation of the 'client as expert' and the coach as the guide who can fill in any knowledge gaps or offer ideas is a challenge for an Adult NP who always assumed the role of the expert.  At first, it was very difficult for Dr. O'Grady to not assume the role of the expert, but now she either asks the client if she can make a suggestion or she tells a story.  What sets wellness coaching apart from traditional patient education is that the client sets the agenda and has all of the power in the coaching relationship.  Each person sets his/her own goals and the coach holds each accountable.  After each and every coaching session, the client leaves with two things:  increased awareness and very specific action steps.  In the beginning, the action step can be very small or simply the assignment to reflect on a powerful question.  As the relationship builds and self-awareness increases, the action steps get bolder.

Dr. O'Grady spent over 15 years practicing as a primary care provider and felt discouraged at her "sucess rate" in moving people toward smoking cessation, weight loss, or moving clinets off prescriptions for hypertension, cholesterol and a host of other chronic illnesses related to lifestyle.  While nearly every person values their health and deeply desires a healthy lifestyle, far too many of us do not express this value in what we do everyday.  As the chronic illness tsunami gains momentum in this country, Dr. O'Grady decided that the solution cannot solely rest with pharmaceutical interventions, and that to get a handle on the chronic illness epdemic, people need transformative lifestyle changes gained through emancipatory self-knowledge.  This deep self-knowledge and self-awareness moves people towards their goals in making sustainable life changes.  Dr. O'Grady is dedicated to supporting others through change. 

As any new business is launched, Dr. O'Grady does face challenges.  She tries to live her own authentic life in balance to be a role model to her clients.  She has worked with clients whom she can't seem to get unstuck or who mystify her, and so has a master coach with whom she consults.  Dr. O'Grady has a business partner, also a nurse practitioner who lives locally, and they are developing a model of coaching groups as a way to reach more people and make coaching more affordable.  Finally, she has mostly attracted self-paying clients, who are considered middle class.  Dr. O'Grady hopes to find a way to bring wellness coaching to more disenfranchised populations, through group coaching techniques, so she is of maximal service to those most under-served.

Dr. O'Grady is passionate about working with people interested in living the life they truly want.  She holds three graduate degrees: a Masters of public health from George Washington University, a Masters in nursing, and a PhD in nursing/health policy from George Mason University.  She writes a monthly column on health policy for Nurse Practitioner World News.  Dr. O'Grady is currently a certified adult nurse practitioner licensed to practice in the District of Columbia and a certified Wellness Coach (through Wellcoaches, accredited by the American College of Sports Medicine).

If you would like more information or to speak with Dr. O'Grady directly, visit her website at: or call 703-864-4275.