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The NBHWC & National Standards – A Quick History

While we could write a book about the 14-year journey from 2009-2022, I want to share the quick highlights to remember the countless hours and years invested by Wellcoaches that led us to the eve of applying for full approval of CPT codes for health and well-being coaching services, planned in early 2023.

The original founders in 2009 were from Wellcoaches (me, Coach Meg), University of Minnesota (Karen Lawson), Duke, then Vanderbilt (Ruth Wolever), ACSM (Dick Cotton), Wisdom of the Whole (Linda Bark), CIIS (Meg Jordan), Real Global Wellness (Michael Arloski), Duke Integrative Health (Linda Smith), and Vanderbilt (Roy Elam).

Our biggest accomplishment was the journey of the founding team from being competitors to making deep friendships and a collaborative agenda. We all transcended, moving past self-interest and our own organizations and even personal and financial interest to say, “This is for the betterment of the coaching industry and the world.” That energy, that collaboration of serving a larger cause, is the life force behind NBHWC.

Here's a quick gallop through our journey together:

1. Co-chaired by me and Karen Lawson, we gathered 70 stakeholders for a fall 2010 summit in Wellesley, MA, titled: Summit on Standards & Credentialing of Professional Coaches in Healthcare & Wellness. We used an appreciative inquiry process to align on a shared agenda to make a big impact on healthcare – developing the new profession of Coaching in healthcare and wellness. One of our many accomplishments? New lyrics for the song – I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing:

The Change that’s Sure to Last

We used to teach the world to do,

Exactly what we said.

It didn’t bring them health or joy,

And gave us jobs we dread.

But now we’ve learned just how to coach,

Results are coming fast.

This brings them health

and gives us joy.

The change that’s sure to last.

View the Executive Summary of the Summit here.

2. By 2013, the expanded team agreed on one job definition: Health and Wellness Coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change. Our collaborative and hard-won breakthrough meeting weekly over our first two years was to build one set of standards – for one coach - the health and wellness coach (not different standards for different coaches, e.g. health coach, integrative health coach, or wellness coach). We formed a nonprofit legal entity and board of directors, and we raised $100k in donations.

3. 2014 was a big year. With Dick Cotton’s leadership, ACSM donated the services of a psychometrician to lead a job task analysis process, gathering 15 coaches with varied backgrounds for three days of discussion in Indianapolis to define the job tasks (tasks, knowledge, and skills), further validated by 1,000 practicing coaches.

Armed with the job task analysis, and following the best practices DACUM process, we gathered 19 coaching leaders to collaborate in Minneapolis for three summer days on moving toward a consensus on the minimum training and education standards for the health and wellness coach. We invited advisors from ICF and other organizations to assist. The consensus and detailed minimum program standards evolved over the next six months to 60 hours of coaching skills training, 15 hours of healthy lifestyle knowledge, 3 mentor coaching sessions, and a pass/fail practical skills assessment, to be eligible for the national certification examination. We also agreed on a transition phase, ultimately from 2016-2021, with a lower standard - at least 30 hours of coaching skills training and a pass/fail practical skills assessment. We published the standards for public comment by May 2015.

4. In early 2015, Wellcoaches coach Leigh-Ann Webster joined the team as the first paid staff member, serving as the NBHWC operations manager. Now Leigh-Ann is the NBHWC Executive Director – a spectacular rise of a brilliant leader who has built an incredible team of rising leaders.

We set out to find a partner to build a certification examination and reached out to several organizations. With great foresight, David Eisenberg introduced Don Melnick, then president of NBME, to me in spring 2015, which evolved into a 2016 MOU, and then a complex, multi-year negotiation, multi-million dollar investment, and formation of NBHWC as a non-profit NBME affiliate, starting up in January 2019. In parallel, we created a certification competency blueprint (team of 6, with Ruth Wolever and me doing much of the heavy-lifting), and creation of the first 600 certification examination items (team of 20+ coaching leaders).

5. Fast forward to 2022, NBHWC is now a financially healthy and growing organization, in its sixth year in delivering the national board certification examination for health and wellness coaches. NBHWC has approved 100+ programs to train health and wellness coaches eligible for the examination and certified 7,000 coaches, including nearly 1,000 Wellcoaches coaches who have accomplished a 93.1% pass rate.

6. Since 2019, my focus has been building the Healthcare Commission that is forging the path to billing and reimbursement of coaching services in healthcare, generating the economic foundation for the role of the coach. In 2019, with the VA’s leadership, we earned approval of Category III codes for health and well-being coaching services. In 2021, we established a taxonomy code for the health and wellness coach to work in healthcare, as well as guidance for coach use of various CPT codes. Erika Jackson, Chief Coaching Officer @ Wellcoaches is a member of the Program Approval Commission, assisting in the ongoing evolution of national standards.

Through my 14 years of volunteer leadership and contributions, frequently two or more days of my workweek, I have helped lay down the foundation for our beloved profession – the vigorous teamwork and multiple intense retreats that led over five years to the standards and job task analysis, the rigorous weeks and months invested to meet the NBME certification standards and build a high-quality examination, a demanding three years of negotiations with the NBME legal team, starting up a five-year collaboration with the CDC on group coaching, the creation and execution of a robust business plan and high-functioning NBHWC board, and now the many hours and days preparing for the AMA CPT Panel meetings.

My deepest gratitude goes out to the many friendships and rich collaborations with the top leaders across our field that continue to grow as we now have an NBHWC team that is more than 70 – 7 staff, 13 board members, and 30 volunteer leaders on four commissions, as well as a large team of 20+ that continues to evolve the certification examination.

We really can move mountains together!

Onward & upward! Margaret Moore, aka Coach Meg Founder/CEO, Wellcoaches Corporation Co-Founder, Board member, NBHWC


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