How I Stumbled into Being a Nurse in Business

Published

Most think of scrubs and stethoscopes working in the hospital or clinic when anyone mentions the word nurse. Yet, after years I found myself in a new nursing specialty that is seldom discussed, nurses in business. A quick read of how I stumbled upon the nursing specialty that allowed me to "have my cake and eat it too."

Specializes in Nurse Business Mentor, Healthcare Consultant. Has 23 years experience.

What is the secret nursing specialty no one is talking about?

How I Stumbled into Being a Nurse in Business

Have you been looking for another way to do nursing that doesn't include sacrificing your physical and mental health or all your time away from your family? If you’re feeling frustrated, exhausted and ready to pull the plug on bedside nursing or whatever traditional job you currently have, it’s time to expand your vision.

Let’s start with the good news. You don’t need to leave nursing. (insert cheers and sigh of relief here!)

Now I understand most people envision scrubs and a stethoscope when they hear the word nurse, am I right? Of course, the media pervasively spreads that stereotype throughout television and movies. Yet, I am frequently surprised by how many nurses in our own profession subscribe to this narrow view of nursing as a profession. You may or may not fully realize it yet, (so let me be the one who shouts it from the rooftops) … 

FACT: Nursing is a buffet of options.

Working in the hospital as a bedside nurse taking care of patients is simply one role. In fact, I've been a nurse for more than 20 years, and less than five of those years were spent working inpatient at a hospital.

If like so many nurses across the country right now, you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and burned out, please recognize you don't need to leave nursing. You just need to do nursing in a completely different way.

I could go on to list a hundred-plus ways to work as a nurse besides as a floor nurse on a hospital unit, but I’ll save that for another article. Today, let’s shine the light on a nursing specialty nearly no one talks about, nurses in business.

Accidentally in Business

Like some of my colleagues, I somewhat accidentally ended up working as a nurse in business. Others I know felt the entrepreneurial itch and actively sought it out. For me, after my baby ended up in the hospital with RSV after 10 days in daycare, I knew I wanted to find a different solution.

I’m sure many of you can relate as so many of us are mothers. The constant guilt-cycle between work and home is not for the faint at heart. We happened to live states away from both of our families and we both commuted to our jobs. So like many, we struggled to figure out the logistics and had to find the best possible option for us at the time. The essentially immediate RSV incident quickly pushed us over the fence after having waited for 11 years to have a baby.

The big problem was that I absolutely loved my job. And I was incredibly good at it. I’m saying that to be braggy, it simply was a position that I felt 100% in flow and much of it came intuitively. I'm sure there have been jobs where you have felt the same. It gave me energy (when is the last time you said that about your job?) and I certainly felt the impact I was making in the position. I also knew that my brain didn’t turn to mush just because I resigned from my job. I felt the equivalent of having “all the skills with no place to go.” So the question quickly became, how do I use all of my nursing expertise and experience to help others and get paid while doing it from home?

For me, the answer was consulting and speaking. I was invited to be part of a speakers’ bureau where I was paid to speak and teach other nurses and sometimes mid-level practitioners within my specialty. I also continued to consult for the organization I resigned from because naturally, there was no overnight replacement. I filled the position by being the interim manager and the go-to for the staff on all issues. Even when they did find a replacement, I was needed to train them on my job. For the first time ever, I was able to set my own hours, work in the area that I loved, and make an impact without sacrificing my personal life. And it was AMAZING.

Yet, I still didn’t fully realize what I had actually stumbled upon, nor did I see the big vision of what it could be at the time. When I would be speaking to nurses and answering questions at the end of a training, they were mystified by the idea that I was working as a consultant and speaker and completely in control of my schedule. It seemed unfathomable in our field where we limited ourselves to the restrictive options of either inpatient or outpatient, or possibly (for those off the beaten path) working for a pharmaceutical company as an educator or sales rep. And they weren’t wrong. I didn’t know anyone else doing what I was doing, an oncology nurse with years of experience practicing as an independent consultant and speaker. But I did certainly enjoy having my cake and eating it too which is exactly what it felt like to me.

I consulted off and on for my former organization, expanded the topics I spoke on in the Speakers’ Bureau and did some talks quarterly for patient support groups at a local chapter of an international non-profit organization as I continued to expand my network. All on my own timetable while keeping me connected to my specialty and in the loop of current practice.

Expanding Your Vision

Fast forward to today, where that baby with RSV just turned 11 years old and I now have the privilege of empowering other nurses to leverage their nursing skills and experience to solve existing problems in healthcare. While the opportunities in business abound for us as nurses, which include several of what I call business-in-a-box type of models such as IV hydration clinics, starting home health or private duty agencies, concierge services, medspa clinics, and chronic care management, I prefer custom-designed models which feel fully aligned with your passion and purpose. The custom model is a perfect match for consulting, speaking, coaching and mentoring, as well as course creation.

Gratefully as my network has exponentially expanded over the years, I now have trusted colleagues whose jam is their business-in-a-box. So, like always, we’re better together. We happily refer nurses starting out their business to the right colleague who can best help them reach their goals. I think we can all agree, we need more nurses in nursing, not less! Because nurse entrepreneurs are in such small numbers, I've found them to be by and large incredibly supportive of each other. Having been there ourselves, we can certainly appreciate nurses who are starting out and exploring ways to do nursing beyond the traditional roles.

You might be thinking, "Oh, I know a nurse who invited me to become a partner or representative of a multitude of multi-level marketing (MLM) company as a side-gig." To be very clear, this not what I'm referring to when I say being a nurse in business. I'm specifically referring to owning a nursing business, not being part of a MLM company where you're a distributor of a product or service.

There's a huge distinction. If you're not familiar with MLM companies, they often use language in their marketing of "be your own boss" or "be the CEO of your own company." I understand it sounds and feels good to claim this. However, I cannot tell you how many nurses I've had conversations with over the years who learned the hard way that they were nowhere near CEO of anything when being part of a MLM company.

Again, that topic could be a whole separate article. However, for clarity sake for anyone who doesn't really understand the difference, I feel it does need addressing as nurses are often prime targets to join these types of businesses. I'll simply elaborate by saying this. You cannot be the CEO of your own business if you have no control over the products (and ingredients), what's in the services (think benefits and features), pricing of those products and services, how you are allowed to market your company, products, or services, and the requirements in which you must meet in order to get paid.

Read that again.

CEOs have control and responsibility over every single area of their business. If you are inclined to take on a side gig and be part of a MLM company, feel free, just make sure you understand what you are signing up for as a distributor. You are still working for someone else. They call the shots and can shut it down, change the products, services, or payment structure as quick as you can receive an email notification. And I have sat with nurse friends after they got that email. It wasn't fun. So why settle for adding on a side-gig of something outside of nursing, where you earn somewhere in the 30% realm, when you could be making 100% as a nursing business owner? For many, they simply don't now "how" to do nursing as their own business.

I've also heard from some skeptics who worry about business being ultra-competitive and constantly trying to acquire someone else’s piece of the pie (marketshare). While I’m sure that philosophy exists somewhere, I’ve never found operating from that philosophy useful. It is certainly not focused on elevating healthcare as a whole. Within my network of nurse entrepreneurs, there’s essentially no competition as we specialize in different things and even if we were doing something in the same vein, like coaching and mentoring, because we come with a completely different life experience our perspective, style, and methodologies are unique to us. Hence, we work with different people. Bottom line, there's plenty of work for all of us.

Over the years, I’ve learned to stick to what fuels my soul and gives me energy so I stay in flow as that’s where I can best serve others. I cannot think of anything I’d rather do than work with like-minded passionate nurses who are purpose-driven to improve the lives of others by closing gaps in the healthcare system. It makes every cell in my body vibrate. And it’s 100% nursing.

I wonder what that might be for you?

I can assure you if you find yourself feeling the love for nursing literally being sucked out of you…burnout is not the problem, friends. Burnout is your body and mind’s response to the problem. The problem is you're misaligned. You are experiencing the inner turmoil of answering your calling as a nurse and being restricted by a system that doesn’t allow you to provide the care that patients and caregivers need and want.

Don’t let that drive you away from the passion you have to do this work. What is it that would set your soul on fire if you could do it every day and simultaneously solve an existing problem in the market? Here’s a hint: Don’t limit yourself by saying, “Yeah, but I doubt anyone will pay for that.” As nurses, we often minimize our expertise and skills. We forget that not everyone has them. After working in the field for several years, they become so natural and easy to you, you have likely forgotten what it’s like to not know what you know. Here in lies so many opportunities for you. If you have done the work that you want to do as a job for any organization, then you have proof that someone will pay you for that type of work.

Notice where the gaps are in your current specialty, (hint--there’s an overwhelming number of gaps), begin viewing them as opportunities to solve a problem.

  • How would you solve it?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What key are they missing that would solve the problem?
  • What would you uniquely bring to the table?

You CAN do nursing on your own terms. From switching settings (inpatient, outpatient, schools, organizations), to changing specialties to working from home or starting your own business, it’s all possible with nursing. And you might just discover as I did, that when you expand your vision of nursing you can most certainly have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

After more than 2 decades as a nurse, Jill has seen her share of change in healthcare. After witnessing the gaps continue to widen within the healthcare system, she transitioned specialties to become a nurse in business and work on closing gaps outside the system. Her consulting company originally focused on oncology, where she took her idea and partnered with a startup company out of Israel to bring it to fruition. As Jill’s network expanded to more entrepreneurs, she met more nurses interested in “doing nursing” differently. She has been working as a Nurse Business Strategist & Mentor for other nurses teaching them how to wrap a business model around their nursing skills to help close gaps in the healthcare system. Jill firmly believes that nurses are the key to putting the heart and healing back into healthcare.

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5 Comment(s)

Julie

Specializes in Sm Bus Mgmt, Operations, Planning, HR, Coaching. Has 39 years experience.

Thanks @Jill Weberding MPHfor a very insightful, great article, including cautionary thoughts about MLM ideas that are everywhere.  If you have the passion and drive, you will find a way to make it work.

Jill Weberding MPH, BSN, RN

Specializes in Nurse Business Mentor, Healthcare Consultant. Has 23 years experience.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Julie. Yes, I frequently see lots of discussion about MLM businesses, and no doubt nurses are a common target for joining these so I felt compelled to address the differences between that model and other nursing businesses where you are truly the CEO/owner. I agree that knowing your purpose and drive for being on entrepreneur is key, after that as Marie Forleo says..."everything is figuroutable." 

 

morelostthanfound, BSN

Specializes in CVOR/General Surgery. Has 29 years experience.

   Jill, thank you for your article.  However, rosy articles articles such as yours present the false narrative that nursing is a "buffet of options", "nursing on your terms", and "you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too".  In my thirty years as an RN, I have known many, many nurses, in many areas of the country, and this is simply not the lived reality of any that I have known. Leaving the bedside? From experience, for every non-clinical RN position, there are a glut of applicants desperate to escape the hell that hospital/skilled facility nursing has come to be.  Pursing higher education, business strategies, market shares, entrepreneurship?  With stagnant wages, student debt, and a rising cost of living, this is pie in the sky for most nurses who are grateful to just keep a roof over their heads, feed their families, and pay their bills with perhaps a little left over at the week's end.  Short of a wealthy family or a high wage earning spouse, I'm just not seeing how these are even remotely viable options.

Edited by morelostthanfound

Jill Weberding MPH, BSN, RN

Specializes in Nurse Business Mentor, Healthcare Consultant. Has 23 years experience.

Thanks so much for reading the article and sharing your insight. I'm not sure what feels false about nursing being a buffet of options. We can literally work with every age on the continuum from prenatal to geriatrics. We can find jobs that have assorted hours and shifts to work around the schedule we choose...days, second shift, evenings...only weekends, no weekends, 8 hour shifts, or 12 hour shifts, and PRN positions which allow you to literally say yes or no to working when asked. I have numerous nursing friends who worked full-time and never paid for childcare for any of their children during that season of their life because they chose positions that had a schedule that enabled them to do so, as this was their priority. 

Nurses can work on the floor unit in the hospital, diagnositics, even outpatient centers or clinics within the hospital. They can work in community or employee health or informatics. From dialysis centers to cancer centers to primary care offices and every specialty office in between. Just quickly thinking through our body's systems reminds us there's a specialty for each...and with it, positions for nurses in multiple settings. Schools, prisons, organizations, or remotely from home. Case managers, chronic care managers, triage call centers, educators, and clinical instructors. And yes, even practicing in their own business which comes with nearly as many choices. It's not my opinon that nursing is a buffet of options, it's flexibility and variety of roles is a fact and has no other rival profession that comes close to offering as many choices. 

Based on the number of non-clinical positions currently being adverstised nearly everywhere you look, they too are looking for nurses and willing to train. Like clinical roles, naturally experience is always preferred. However, many hire and train candidates in new roles. When I first took a clinical research position in an outpatient cancer center, I had tons of oncology experience but zero research experience. I was trained and mentored in that aspect of the job. When I became the manager of that department, this remained the most common experience with new team members as it was rare to find a nurse with both oncology and research, so we trained them. Non-clinical roles are not for everyone. Just as I have supported and encouraged nurses who were distraught when they discovered that working on a hospital unit was definitely not for them, afraid they had wasted their time and thousands of dollars in schooling. Of course, not. They just needed to recognize all the other options they had in nursing, change positions, and find what they did love.   

I agree that student debt is out of control. Nowhere in my article did I suggest going back to school for additional degrees. In fact, I generally lean towards the other side. I know LPNs who are wildly successful in their own business and staying within their scope of practice. So whatever your degree is, that shouldn't be a limitation. If you are a licensed nurse, you have skills and expertise and thereby options besides working on a hospital unit or long term care facility. Those are only 2 very specific roles in nursing. More degrees and certifications are not required to be in the nursing specialty of business. Of course, you must stay within your scope of practice as regulated by your state, but there are plenty of opportunities to do that.


I also agree that going into business as a nursing specialty is out of the box thinking for most, but remote nursing jobs have been around for years and the number and types of roles are increasing. You can easily see the requirements and preferences in the posted job descriptions.

And maybe the best news for some readers: wealthy spouses are not required to go into business or practice independently! Hooray! I know and have worked with plenty of single moms who are nurses in business. In fact, they're quite determined to not let anyone outside themselves determine their financial circumstances. It's often one of their highest drivers. 

I can sense your frustration (and I share it) with the current state of healthcare (particularly in hospital and long-term care environments). While it may seem initially that being a nurse in business is a "pie in the sky" idea, this is not a new idea. (The National Nurses in Business Association has been around since 1985.)  There's no doubt you have witnessed A LOT of ups and down in healthcare in your 30 years of nursing, as have I in my 23+years. And to be honest, so have those with only 5 years of experience. As well as the new nurses who had their clinical rotations shut down during the pandemic and were still pumped out as  new grads. They've had a completely different experience than you and I did as new graduates. We all bring our own unique experience to the table. I also understand that for decades there has been a pervasive stereotype that a nurse wears scrubs and works in the hospital. We need to stop fueling this myth. It's time to shine the light on all the various roles nurses hold in healthcare. Increasing society's awareness of what nurses "do" for a living is important, but it's even more critical to expand the vision of nursing within our own profession and colleagues. 

Again, I greatly appreciate your time reading the article and sharing your insight. I hope that maybe our discussion plants a seed to seeing more options of roles in nursing, regardless if it's in business or not. 

morelostthanfound, BSN

Specializes in CVOR/General Surgery. Has 29 years experience.

1 hour ago, Jill Weberding MPH said:

Thanks so much for reading the article and sharing your insight. I'm not sure what feels false about nursing being a buffet of options. We can literally work with every age on the continuum from prenatal to geriatrics. We can find jobs that have assorted hours and shifts to work around the schedule we choose...days, second shift, evenings...only weekends, no weekends, 8 hour shifts, or 12 hour shifts, and PRN positions which allow you to literally say yes or no to working when asked. I have numerous nursing friends who worked full-time and never paid for childcare for any of their children during that season of their life because they chose positions that had a schedule that enabled them to do so, as this was their priority. 

Nurses can work on the floor unit in the hospital, diagnositics, even outpatient centers or clinics within the hospital. They can work in community or employee health or informatics. From dialysis centers to cancer centers to primary care offices and every specialty office in between. Just quickly thinking through our body's systems reminds us there's a specialty for each...and with it, positions for nurses in multiple settings. Schools, prisons, organizations, or remotely from home. Case managers, chronic care managers, triage call centers, educators, and clinical instructors. And yes, even practicing in their own business which comes with nearly as many choices. It's not my opinon that nursing is a buffet of options, it's flexibility and variety of roles is a fact and has no other rival profession that comes close to offering as many choices. 

Based on the number of non-clinical positions currently being adverstised nearly everywhere you look, they too are looking for nurses and willing to train. Like clinical roles, naturally experience is always preferred. However, many hire and train candidates in new roles. When I first took a clinical research position in an outpatient cancer center, I had tons of oncology experience but zero research experience. I was trained and mentored in that aspect of the job. When I became the manager of that department, this remained the most common experience with new team members as it was rare to find a nurse with both oncology and research, so we trained them. Non-clinical roles are not for everyone. Just as I have supported and encouraged nurses who were distraught when they discovered that working on a hospital unit was definitely not for them, afraid they had wasted their time and thousands of dollars in schooling. Of course, not. They just needed to recognize all the other options they had in nursing, change positions, and find what they did love.   

I agree that student debt is out of control. Nowhere in my article did I suggest going back to school for additional degrees. In fact, I generally lean towards the other side. I know LPNs who are wildly successful in their own business and staying within their scope of practice. So whatever your degree is, that shouldn't be a limitation. If you are a licensed nurse, you have skills and expertise and thereby options besides working on a hospital unit or long term care facility. Those are only 2 very specific roles in nursing. More degrees and certifications are not required to be in the nursing specialty of business. Of course, you must stay within your scope of practice as regulated by your state, but there are plenty of opportunities to do that.


I also agree that going into business as a nursing specialty is out of the box thinking for most, but remote nursing jobs have been around for years and the number and types of roles are increasing. You can easily see the requirements and preferences in the posted job descriptions.

And maybe the best news for some readers: wealthy spouses are not required to go into business or practice independently! Hooray! I know and have worked with plenty of single moms who are nurses in business. In fact, they're quite determined to not let anyone outside themselves determine their financial circumstances. It's often one of their highest drivers. 

I can sense your frustration (and I share it) with the current state of healthcare (particularly in hospital and long-term care environments). While it may seem initially that being a nurse in business is a "pie in the sky" idea, this is not a new idea. (The National Nurses in Business Association has been around since 1985.)  There's no doubt you have witnessed A LOT of ups and down in healthcare in your 30 years of nursing, as have I in my 23+years. And to be honest, so have those with only 5 years of experience. As well as the new nurses who had their clinical rotations shut down during the pandemic and were still pumped out as  new grads. They've had a completely different experience than you and I did as new graduates. We all bring our own unique experience to the table. I also understand that for decades there has been a pervasive stereotype that a nurse wears scrubs and works in the hospital. We need to stop fueling this myth. It's time to shine the light on all the various roles nurses hold in healthcare. Increasing society's awareness of what nurses "do" for a living is important, but it's even more critical to expand the vision of nursing within our own profession and colleagues. 

Again, I greatly appreciate your time reading the article and sharing your insight. I hope that maybe our discussion plants a seed to seeing more options of roles in nursing, regardless if it's in business or not. 

    Thanks for the response Jill.  We'll have to 'agree to disagree' as they say on this.  I have been an RN for thirty years, practiced in nine US states, and as such, feel that I have a fairly broad frame of reference.  I'm not sure when you last applied for a non-clinical RN position, but I can assure you that it is very difficult to secure one of these coveted positions and has only become more so with Covid.  Working varied shifts or with different patient populations?  Sure, Nursing offers that, but it's been my experience that most hospital/skilled facility jobs are just stressful iterations of the same thing.  When did you last hold a job in acute care?  I'm in the trenches every day and believe me when I say that the majority of nurses are beyond hope of escaping the inherent stress, low pay, unsafe working conditions, and terrible hours.  As far as developing a side business, sure there are outliers who have done that very thing.  However, how many nurses are realistically able to put forth the capital or devote the kind of time required to successfully launch and maintain such a venture while working full time and caring for their families?  The answer is very, very few and no amount of "out of the box thinking" is going to make that happen.  No sour grapes here, I just wish that Nursing wasn't made out to be something it isn't for the vast majority of those in and entering the profession.

Edited by morelostthanfound