Keith Carlson: Choosing the Path of the Nurse Entrepreneur

  1. We all have different motivations for embarking on a nursing career and becoming healthcare professionals. Even as our paths differ, our experiences can share underlying themes that bind us together under the venerable banner of nursing. For those wishing to create an innovative entrepreneurial career, plenty of nurses have paved the way before you.

    Keith Carlson: Choosing the Path of the Nurse Entrepreneur

    My Story in a Nutshell

    When I became a nurse in 1996, I was coming from a challenging entrepreneurial path as a massage therapist and yoga instructor. Being just over 30 and struggling to make ends meet with only a high school diploma, a small child at home, and a wife in college herself, nursing was an excellent career choice, especially since I'd already cut my teeth as a personal care attendant and private duty home health aide. I also had several nurses in my extended family, an added impetus to give nursing a try.

    Since I've always been a rebel, those who knew me well weren't at all surprised when I chose to not pursue a med/surg or acute care position after graduation. Even though I was told this unfortunate choice was "career suicide", I forged ahead and created a nursing career wholly focused on ambulatory care.

    These past two decades saw me working in federally qualified inner-city community health centers, home health, hospice, public health, and intensive case management. Prior to becoming fully self-employed, my last clinical position was serving as Chief Nursing Officer/Director of Nursing of a small home health agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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    The Entrepreneurial Journey

    Based on my previous failures as an entrepreneur, it may have seemed illogical to pursue self-employment on the heels of 22 successful years as a nurse, but the desire to be my own boss never left me. After navigating the politics and challenges of mainstream healthcare, that desire only grew stronger.

    In essence, I wanted to be self-employed, set my own hours, work from home, and have more control over my life. I knew that self-employment would be difficult, but I also knew that increased personal freedom was something I was willing to work very hard to achieve.

    Being financially risk averse, I took the safest possible route towards entrepreneurship, which meant incrementally starting a nursing blog, beginning a practice as a career coach for nurses, working as a freelance writer, and later launching a podcast and an arm of my business as a motivational/keynote speaker and consultant.

    My personal "runway" from being a nurse with a few money-making side hustles to quitting my job and being 100 percent self-employed was approximately seven years. This slow burn allowed me to build my business without the weight of total uncertainty. It was only when things were humming along that I chose to resign my last position and put a stake in the ground as a fully self-employed nurse entrepreneur.

    Lessons Learned

    Entrepreneurship is filled with difficult lessons. We can start the journey bursting with enthusiasm and idealism, only to have it squashed by harsh realities.

    Launching a business takes a lot more than putting together a website and a social media feed. People actually need to find you, and that's where hard work is necessary. Search engine optimization, content marketing, networking, social media strategy, business formation documents and incorporation, business bank accounts and credit cards - it's all part and parcel of this path.

    One hard lesson I learned is that one person just can't do everything. It's great to learn new skills, but sometimes the learning of a complex skill (like building a Wordpress website) isn't necessarily a good use of your time when you need to focus on producing income.

    I had to learn that hiring others is smart business - it allows me to do the things I'm good at and let others do the rest. Once I had some cash flow, I began to use expert freelancers to push me along. These experts included someone to produce my podcast, a social media manager, business coaches, graphic artists, and web designers. Along the way, I've picked up some skills, but I continue to rely on others who know more than I do.

    A successful business can be difficult to build, but it's very satisfying to do it well. Rome wasn't built in a day - patience, creativity, and persistence are indeed my best companions.

    The greatest lesson I've learned is to have multiple streams of income so that one "arm" of my business can be slow while another picks up steam -- this allows for the natural ebb and flow without causing undue worry about money. It's a delicate balance.

    And Now for Something Completely Different

    For nurses feeling tired of the same old grind, the potential for a new lifestyle and workstyle is possible. For some, a simple side hustle earning a little extra money is enough: blogging, consulting, or coaching can be done during your off hours from traditional nursing.

    For some, working from home or starting up a business can be a full-time gig. And for others, a combination of side gigs and part-time or per diem nursing is just right.

    The caveat here is that we all have varying needs for lifestyle stability and cash flow. One person's entrepreneurial dream can be another's nightmare, thus marching to your own drum in this regard is essential.

    If you explore the entrepreneurial path and realize it's not for you, there are plenty of other out-of-the-box paths to choose from. Talking with those ahead of you on the journey is essential - do your due diligence, weigh your options, network like crazy, assess the potential for success, and connect with the people who can support you in realizing your dream.

    No path is wrong, and everything is possible. What do you want? Go out and make it a reality.
    Last edit by Joe V on Oct 9
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    About Nurse Keith, BSN, RN

    Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, social media influencer, keynote speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With more than two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s career coaching services include resumes and cover letters, LinkedIn optimization, networking and interview skills, career management, and shaping the individualized nursing career that’s just right for you.

    Joined: Jul '08; Posts: 3; Likes: 12
    from NM , US
    Specialty: 23 year(s) of experience

    Read My Articles

    1 Comments

  3. by   Damion Jenkins
    Thank you for sharing Keith! We can all learn from one another, and your story is reassuring and inspiring for those of us who are hitting the ground running. You are very much appreciated!

    Best,

    Damion

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