This installment of the nurse entrepreneur series features Tracey L. Wolfman, RN, BSN, MA and CEO of We Care Adult Care. A registered nurse with a master’s in nursing administration, Tracey has spent the last 30 years working with the elderly population and specializing in Alzheimer’s disease. Tracey’s dedication and knowledge have helped many people afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease, as well as their family caregivers. We Care won the Small Business Success Award by the NJ Small Business Development Center, received Proclamations from Former Governor McGreevey and Senator Joseph Kyrillos for outstanding Service to the Community, and has been highlighted in numerous news media outlets.
In this Q&A, Tracey shares her experience as a nurse entrepreneur and nursing executive.
Q. How long have you been a nurse? What’s your nursing background/experience?
A. I have been a nurse for 29 years, with a varied background in long-term care, hospital, assisted living and medical adult day care. I worked in long-term care, where I was responsible for a 120-patient skilled nursing facility, then worked as a unit coordinator for a geriatric campus in Florida before returning to New Jersey to work in a hospital setting. At the hospital, I worked in urology, medical surgical and the infusion center. I was then recruited to open and develop an outpatient medical day stay unit in the hospital. One of my last jobs before opening We Care Adult Care was as a wellness nurse for a new assisted living facility.
Q. What was the impetus for creating We Care Adult Day? What services do you provide?
A. I always had a passion for the geriatric population since I was a child. The real yearning to open up an adult day care center came after seeing so many of my hospital patients be institutionalized in nursing homes — in my opinion — prematurely. A hospital stay for the geriatric patient can wreak havoc for them, and I believe a structured comprehensive medical adult day care is a key component to their recovery and rehabilitation success!
Q. Can you share any tips or resources for nurses who are interested in developing a similar program?
A. First, you need to have a strong aspiration. As in any self-owned business, you wear many hats and need to learn them all. I was a nurse with a passion. I am now in the businesses of transportation, dietary, activities, human resources, cleaning and social service (to name a few of the departments under the roof of my business). The business is multi-faceted, and people need to look at the big picture, which they often do not do. It is achievable as long as you are a willing and able participant.
Secondly, you need to have a solid business plan, along with good financial resources, as everything costs more than you think. Utilizing local colleges & universities for business startup programs is essential, along with community resources and networking groups. People are very willing to share and help others, so take advantage!
Q. What are the best things about owning an adult day care program?
A. Owning We Care Adult Care is a love of passion. Being able to see the difference we make in the quality of life for so many seniors and the overwhelmed caregivers who care for them is extremely gratifying. The smiles on their face and the independence that is gained, along with the relief and respite that is provided to the caregiver, are just a few of the benefits.
Q. What are the greatest challenges?
A. Challenges are present in every business. One of the specific challenges related to adult day care is trying to maintain the census. We Care Adult Care, along with all adult day care, unfortunately still remains the best-kept and most underutilized secret in elder care. We are dealing with an elderly population that doesn’t stay a customer forever. Average length of stay is 1 to 3 years, so it is ever-changing.
Q. Looking back, as you started your business, what do you wish you had known?
A. I wish I had known the importance of having a mentor in the business. Though this isn’t always easy for competition reasons, find someone outside your territory. Having a good mentor is essential for the growth of yourself as well as your business. As a business owner, you can never have enough knowledge, experience or a sounding board to help you along the journey.
Q. What advice would you give other?
A. My advice to other nurses: Pursue your dreams — they are obtainable! Nurses have good insight, assessment and leadership skills; they just have to redirect them in a different way. Research your project inside and out, use your contacts and make new ones. And don’t give up!!
Thank you, Tracey, for sharing your excellent leadership and valuable insight!
Learn more about We Care Adult Care here.
Want to read more?
Check out our other Q&As in the nurse entrepreneur series here.