Exploring Nursing Entrepreneurship

An opportunity to explore nursing’s professional potential that is uniquely independent.

Nurses are excellent problem solvers. It’s no wonder many of them become entrepreneurs. 

An Entrepreneur is a person who has great innovative ideas that can identify a need to create a business in order to fill a void. Armed with many superpowers, nurses are always assessing problems in the healthcare world and thinking “How can I do this better?” 

“Don’t Nurses Belong At the Bedside?”

This was a common question that nurse entrepreneur Christy Hendricks heard when she started telling people she wanted to become a nurse entrepreneur. Christy operates an online school called Change of Shift, where nurse entrepreneurs can find training in topics essential to starting and building a successful online presence. Her core offerings cover business essentials, graphics and video, and the art of collaboration. Christy founded The Registered Nurse Innovators, Influencers, & Entrepreneurs. “RNiie” (or “Arnie” as it’s pronounced) and started out as a social media group.

“The media portrays nurses as only being at the bedside so the general public perceives nurses working in hospitals and being at the bedside, but Nurses bring a unique perspective on human behavior and family perspectives that can help innovators with products.” 

Nursing Entrepreneurship Is Nothing New.

Mary Seacole is known as the first nurse “social entrepreneur.” In the 1850’s she combined her business savvy skills to address society’s urgent medical needs and subsidize medical treatments for the poor. Mary combined that understanding with modern medical techniques to combat cholera, infection, and disease in the Caribbean, the Crimean War, and England. She’s also credited for inventing “ginger beer” aka “ginger ale” created from ginger and herbs given to soldiers in the Crimean war that were having stomach problems. 

Challenge The Status Quo In Order To Innovate

Florence Nightengale, known as the mother of the nursing profession, challenged the status quo during the Crimean War when she wrote the British government a letter stating:” If you wanted to create a place worse than hell, you have succeeded.” She noticed doctors were not washing their hands or instruments when they were seeing patients which increased mortality rates. Once hand washing was instituted, the rate of disease and infection decreased along with mortality rates. 

Learning From Family And Evolving

“I come from a business owner family so have been surrounded by entrepreneurs all my life, states Dr. Beth Haney DNP, FNP-C, FAANP when asked how and why she became an entrepreneur. “It seemed like a natural progression for me to open my own business someday. When I was 21, I opened a hair salon with 2 partners and it was very successful but I also knew I wanted to go into the healing arts as a long-term profession. Cosmetology paid for my nursing school and allowed me to continue my studies into graduate school until about 19 years ago when I began a full-time career as a nurse practitioner. I love working with the public and embrace the challenges, joys, and opportunities of working with the public. In 2006, I opened my own practice and it has grown to a staff of 9 people. I am currently in the process of expanding since we have outgrown our current space.”

Opening A Business Is Not As Easy As It Sounds But The Rewards Can Be Endless

Dr. Beth Haney faced many challenges when she opened up her practice in California. She states not only did she face stringent regulations to comply with, but she also had to tackle the difficulties of California being a restrictive state for Nurse Practitioners. “As with any small business, raising the initial capital to start the business is challenging as is effective marketing and the hiring of excellent staff. I would say these are the biggest challenges.” 

Although in Dr. Haney’s case, the benefits of owning a small business far outweighed the challenges.  “I have had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people through my practice and have also recently completed writing a textbook for Springer Publishing titled Aesthetic Procedures: Nurse Practitioner’s Guide to Cosmetic Dermatology that was released in September of 2019. Other opportunities have also been made available to me such as being able to give back to my community through events and donations and most importantly to me, being elected to my City Council so I can lead our great city with the integrity and capability of the nursing profession.”

Dr. Haney advises new nurse entrepreneurs to:

  1. Plan your strategy and be able to accept SUCCESS!  
  2. Create the path to reach your goal, don’t just focus on the outcome. 
  3. Be realistic in your objectives and plan for disappointment but be ready to handle them and move forward. 
  4. Do not listen to those who may try to discourage you (they might even be loved ones who believe they are acting in your best interest), follow your heart and your gut and do it. 
  5. Hire good people and use a team of experts; accountant, attorney, insurance broker. 
  6. Take the first steps – you’ll be surprised how things come together!

Creating Your Brand Through Media

“I was tired of writing prescription scripts and thought there had to be a better way to help women” states Cynthia Henry Thrulow NP, Influencer, and Functional Nutritionist of CHT Wellness. As a Nurse Practitioner and functional nutritionist, she watched consistent patterns, symptoms, complaints, concerns, and frustrations related to women’s health and diet. She took it upon herself to start counseling women one on one and focusing on nutrition where she incorporated targeted testing. 

 “My brand is a further extension of who I am. It has grown organically. An acquittance in television media reached out to me regarding thyroid issues. She knew I was super passionate about it and thought I would be a great fit for a health segment. And 13 segments later, the rest is history!”

Cynthia has also shared her entrepreneur journey with TED Talks. “Media has permitted me an opportunity to showcase what nurses do best: connection, empathy, compassion. By being seen on TV, TEDX, YouTube, etc. it exposes people to my message and highlights the fact that nurses are capable of being, doing anything that they set their mind to. Due to her media exposure, Cynthia is now getting offers to do national TV, write books, podcasts, and many other things. 

Healthcare Hackathons: The Future Of Nursing Innovation

“Nurses are natural ‘Macgyver’s’! Give them a role of tape and watch what they do with it. “Rebecca Love RN. MSN. ANP is the Director of Nursing Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University in Boston, MA. She states, “Nurses have the practical knowledge to create winning solutions to problems.” 

Rebecca created the first “Nurse Hackathon,” a safe place where nurses can innovate without having to follow protocol. Nurses can pose problems occurring in healthcare and pitch their ideas to get funded. She was inspired to create Nurse Hackathons after attending a healthcare-related hackathon and found that she was the only nurse in attendance. “No one was inviting nurses to the table,” she noted. Today, nurses who attend the “Nurse Hackathons” she organizes, have been able to patent products and Nurse Practitioners have gone on to open up their own clinics. 

Rebecca’s advice for a nurse entrepreneur wanting to innovate are:

  • Change the conversation
  • Embrace the role of the innovator
  • Learn the business side of healthcare
  • Challenge the status quo

In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, there’s a huge need for nurse entrepreneurs. It’s imperative for nursing universities to teach nursing students how to innovate and be nurse entrepreneurs Nurses are on the frontlines of healthcare and innovation. Nursing innovation can be used in healthcare industries such as technology, cannabis, telehealth, pharmaceuticals, legal consulting and many others. Nursing entrepreneurship presents an opportunity to explore nursing’s professional potential in nursing practice that is uniquely independent. If you have a creative idea of how to do something better, pursue it. Though it may not be the easiest path, the possibilities could be endless. 

Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dulIF1F0Ys

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2018 Jan;50(1):28-35. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12354. Epub 2017 Oct 12.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245929/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23809640

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7NRqUz_nUw

https://www.nlj.gov.jm/BN/Seacole_Mary/bn_seacole_mj_008.pdf

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