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Taking the leap of faith
by Laura Hieronymus and Patti Geil
A number of nurses today are taking a "leap of faith" from traditional patient care to a career as an entrepreneur. If you are one of them, whether changes in the health care setting or the desire to be your own boss are at the root of your desire, personal effectiveness is an essential part of success as a nurse entrepreneur.
Transitioning into the role of entrepreneur can be an exciting, as well as challenging, experience for health care professionals. Nurses considering an entrepreneurial role may want to ask themselves "What do I want to do?" "What is it I do best?" and "Do I have a passion for it?" Being good at what you do is a wonderful start. However, you will need business, marketing and people-relations skills, as well as others, to be effective in the business world.
In his bestseller book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey, an internationally known speaker on human and organisational effectiveness, cites seven habits for personal effectiveness, which can be adapted to any nursing career. Let's consider the "seven habits" as they relate to nurse entrepreneurs.
Moving into the role of a nurse entrepreneur requires a concrete definition of your business and the ability to promote it to potential clients. Combining our expertise in diabetes care, education and management, we have developed a successful nurse-dietitian partnership. Together, we share a passion for working with diabetes patients to promote understanding and confidence in self-management of their disease.
Diabetes educators have historically been a proactive group of health care professionals. The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) is a multidisciplinary association of diabetes educators-56 percent of whom are nurses. For a number of years, AADE has been proactive with educational sessions, which include how-to's on marketing yourself and your diabetes education service, reimbursement for diabetes education services, and starting your own business. Keep your professional association memberships current. Their resources are invaluable to remain on the cutting edge in your area of expertise.
Begin with the end in mind
Establishing a business plan is essential. Whether formal or informal, it defines the goals and objectives for your business. Plan in phases, with goals that build on prior goals, to establish a firm foundation for your business. Periodically assess and keep track of progress toward business goals and troubleshoot the reasons any goals are not met.
Establish your income requirements-do you need a regular paycheck? Can your income vary from month to month? What about health coverage? Is contracting an hourly wage for your patient services an option? Can you bill for your patient services? Can you consider working part-time for your current employer to allow time and transition in starting your own business?
Put first things first
What things are necessary to get started? How much equity do you have to invest? Do you need start-up money? Where do you get it? What types of professional items do you need to get started? Local governments, universities, public libraries and your local chamber of commerce can usually direct you to resources that help small business owners with organisation, resources, taxes and even dealing with legal issues. Many of the services are affordable and some even free. The Small Business Services may have a Web site that can be useful from your home or office setting.
Be professional-do you need a logo? Do you have stationery? Do you have an invoice for billing? Many computer programs are available to help you develop professional documents.
A positive attitude is beneficial in making things work. A leader is only as good as the people he or she works with. Surround yourself with those who listen and have similar personal and professional goals. How can you help each other? In our diabetes education service in the physician office setting, we have physicians who are highly committed and value the importance of diabetes education and proactive management. The endocrinologist we work with is a mother and understands our commitment to our families. We are cross-trained in areas of diabetes patient management as well as many of the same speakers' bureaus. It gives us a "back-up" system as working mothers.
Seek first to understand...then be understood
Learn, learn, learn! Learn from health care professionals who have business experience. Attend seminars with concrete information about establishing your own business. Know the importance of your professional expertise and the benefit it can have in practice. Then be clear about your professional goals with potential clients. Be upfront with ideas and always keep a professional attitude at the forefront.
Spend time facilitating relationships and treat others as you want to be treated. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. In other words, have income from a variety of sources. Consultant services based on a particular area of expertise are becoming more and more popular. Pharmaceutical companies and durable medical equipment companies may benefit from your expertise as a speaker or facilitator for education programs. In addition, development of educational materials may provide a source of income. What are your strengths? What are you willing to learn? For example, if you are a good speaker with good program materials, use the materials to develop an article for publication. Many journals and consumer health magazines will pay authors to write. If you are inexperienced at writing, partner yourself with someone who has experience. We have had the opportunity to co-author several publications. Working as a team, each of us can open doors to other professions and professional organisations that the other may not be as familiar with in our respective professional roles.
Set aside time to review your path. Is your business working in your favour? How have you accomplished both your personal and professional goals? Evaluate your business, consider all things positive, even if something didn't work to your liking, you learned from the experience and will make better decisions as a result of it. Are you overworked? Can you subcontract some of the work? Another potential entrepreneur may appreciate the business and learn from you, as well. Are speaking engagement opportunities conflicting with your schedule? Rather than say no, offer the name of an equally qualified colleague for the presentation.
Entrepreneurism is another avenue for nurses to consider. To quote the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Well done is better than well said." Your good job and professional attitude will speak for themselves!
Laura Hieronymus, RN, MSEd, CDE, and Patti Geil, MS, RD, CDE, are diabetes consultants and certified diabetes educators for the nurse/dietitian-driven American Diabetes Association Recognised Education Service at Drs. Borders & Associates, PSC in Lexington, Ky.
This article provided by Sigma Theta Tau International.