While many nurses go into the profession specifically because of the ability to connect with and work on-on-one with people, some discover a calling in non-patient care activities.
Nursing consultants work in fields that range from clinical consulting to service and process management consulting to legal consulting and work as expert witnesses.
Other nurses start their own businesses, sometimes within and sometimes outside of the traditional healthcare setting. Examples abound and the sheer variety of their entrepreneurial pursuits is impressive.
Range of Ideas & Opportunities
David Martin, RN, founded VeinInnovations, a company that has grown into one of the largest and most successful vein health and treatment clinics in Georgia. He's become adept at developing and adopting new techniques marketing and growing a successful clinic and managing staff.
Theresa Campa, DNP, APN, NP-C, is assistant professor and entrepreneur based in Marmora, NJ. She started a business that provides educational seminars to nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner students, and specializes in clinically enhancing courses - procedures, diagnostic, test interpretations, etc.
Holly Gale, RN, is the owner of FirstLight HomeCare, providing professional, non-medical in-home care in Chandler, AZ. Her career as a registered nurse spanned more than 12 years until she took a leave of absence in 2004 to care for her ailing father who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Years later, her mother was also diagnosed with cancer and Gale stepped in to care for her. Her firsthand experience prompted her to start her own business to serve those in need and she launched FirstLight HomeCare in September 2011.
Alice Sable-Hunt, MBA, RN, founded a food product company and life-science consulting firm, Sable's Foods, in 2006, a line of nutrition bars designed for the cancer community and founded the Edwards-Hunt Group in 2007, a life-science consulting firm that helps disease-specific, nonprofit organizations. The Edwards-Hunt Group uses a vanguard model, a "bench to bedside" approach to drug development that provides a direct link between the laboratory and the patient's bedside.
Fern Wasserman, MSN, RN, ANP-BC APRN, CLNC, is president and founder of New York Legal Nurse Consultants Inc., and works both as a legal nurse consultant and an advance care planning facilitator. Wasserman works with clients privately to assist them in completing their advance directives so they're able to effectively communicate their wishes to family, loved ones and healthcare agents.
These nurse entrepreneurs represent just the tip of the iceberg and clearly their experiences show that the possibilities for striking out to start a business are virtually limitless and span a broad range of interests and opportunities.
So what does it take to make a successful transition from clinician to business owner? What makes these successful entrepreneurs stand out from the masses? And, most importantly, do you have what it takes to strike off on your own as an entrepreneur?
What It Takes
Carol Roth is a Chicago-based business strategist and author of The Entrepreneur Equation (BenBella Books, 2011). She works with individuals to help "stack the odds of success in their favor" before they leave their jobs to start a consulting practice or business, or to become an independent contractor.
"Before leaving a nursing job, a nurse should feel comfortable with uncertainty," Roth said. "He or she should be able to deal with the unknown and take on some level of risk."
It's important to assess whether the opportunity is big enough, Roth added.
"When you work as a nurse somewhere else, you get paid for every hour of your time. But, as a business owner, up to 40 percent of your time can be spent doing administrative work," she said.
"Your job will include running that practice - keeping financial records, booking patients or clients and, if you have employees, hiring, training and managing them. It is a very different day-to-day life.
Nurses interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial role must make sure they have the personality and tenacity to succeed on their own, agreed Linda Galindo, a business consultant based in Park City, UT.
"Nurses are trained to rescue, fix and save; but once they become managers in their organizations, they often do not make the distinction between their clinical function and their managing function," said Galindo.
"When there is non-clinical underperformance or poor performance, they grow used to rescue, fixing and saving and avoid effectively holding people accountable. This can be very costly behavior as an independent consultant or business owner.
"The mindset 'It's just easier to do it myself' also creeps in and that sets the pattern for never letting go of anything and working long hours without an ability to let go when the time comes and (if they are good at what they do) that time will come," she noted.
Galindo recommends nurses focus on results rather than activity, which can be counter-intuitive because most organizations reward for activity rather than results.
"Whether you are an independent consultant or a business owner, you are asking for problems if you do not define success," she said.
Ultimately, marketing and the ability to network are critical for entrepreneurs, stressed Bert Martinez, a business consultant based in Houston.
"To be successful, nurses must decide on an areas or niche," he said.
"Specialists, on average, receive more compensation than generalists, so decide what area or areas you're going to serve and become the expert in that area," he advised. "Don't try to be all things to all people."
Nurses have an "incredible knowledge bank" they can leverage to achieve entrepreneurial success, noted Anna Morrison, RN, founder of The EntrepreNurse Group, LLC, which hosts an annual summit designed to introduce nurses to nurse entrepreneurship.
"We forget how much we know," she said.
Knowledge combined with readily available, and often inexpensive, technology can help launch businesses ranging from educational services to consulting and even PR.
Legal nurse consulting is a hot field right now, she said; but as the earlier examples show, there are a wide range of possibilities, dependent only on nurses' interests and talents.
"The only thing that's standing between a nurse who is looking to make that transition is an understanding of what's possible and a willingness to be creative," said Morrison.
But, added Martinez, marketing is the No. 1 job for nurses who become entrepreneurs.
"You're not in the consulting or nursing business, you're in the marketing business," he stated. "You may have tons of credentials and experience, but if you can't attract clients you don't have anything."
When striking out on your own to provide specialized clinical services, launch a product or provide any range of professional consulting services, the rewards of entrepreneurship can be many. So, of course, can be challenges.
For individuals who have the business acumen, marketing ability and tenacity, though, being in business for yourself can serve up rich rewards; 2012 may just be the year to put your dreams to the test.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a contributor to ADVANCE.