I was good at caring for people. I had practiced it for years as a young girl.
Playing pretend using my favorite soft chair, which unfolded to a small bed, along with my grandfather’s empty prescription bottles, I was always the nurse. I would make sure the “office” looked tidy and the patient was ready to be cared for. I loved playing nurse.
There was no other career choice for me — although I had considered some alternatives, like veterinary medicine or something to do with plants. Funny how it seemed to always be about nurturing someone or something. But I always came back to nursing. Having an aunt who was a nurse helped me know I was headed in the right direction.
A younger nurse might not know it now, but the more experienced nurses who help teach, support, and empower them are the lifeblood of nursing and one of the most important factors for longevity and success in nursing. These mentors may even be outside of nursing, and that’s okay. Unfortunately, we don’t always have access to the role models and mentors we need, but I did.
Where To Buy Scrubs and Tougher Questions
Nurses often start out at the bedside in the acute care setting, and I was no different. I began my career just outside of Detroit, Michigan, working in the intensive care step-down unit at a small hospital before eventually moving to surgical intensive care at the Detroit Medical Center. I was fortunate to have seasoned nurses around me who answered my patient care questions and my more trivial questions, such as how to stay awake on the night shift and the best place to buy scrubs.
Working long shifts in bedside nursing was good in many ways. It allowed me several days off in a row for chores and errands and to spend time with my babies. Yet, I began to envision a future that included greater flexibility and autonomy — one which didn’t involve bargaining with others to switch weekends or cover my holiday shift. I wanted to be my own boss.
Crunching Numbers, Facing Fears
After nearly 15 years of acute care nursing, I started working toward my goal of being a nurse entrepreneur. I met other nurses who did consulting work in compensation case management, legal nurse consulting, and life care planning. A few of them took me under their wings and opened my eyes to the realm of possibilities. From then on, I decided I wanted to use my nursing expertise to help clients in their homes and assist stakeholders like attorneys and insurers.
As it turns out, it’s hard to start a business while working full time and raising a family. I knew little about business and would’ve preferred to skip over all the pesky details like budgets, taxes, and liability insurance. But I realized that growing my business wouldn’t depend solely on my nursing expertise, but on learning from other business owners.
I was good at educating patients and their families, but I didn’t know how to network or talk about my business, which caused my nagging fear of failure.
To practice my marketing and public relations skills, I would talk to everyone at events organized by the Chamber of Commerce and community groups. Turns out, the best business practice is to not talk non-stop about yourself, as if to prove to everyone that you have what it takes. Who knew?
Luckily, I met a businesswoman who was good at making others feel important and building relationships — most likely skills she developed through her practice as a successful financial adviser. She became my mentor, and our relationship helped me develop my own network and referral base.
The progress I was making was encouraging, but I still didn’t think it was the right time to quit my day job, so I continued to work full time at the hospital. I was afraid of losing money, of failure, and of being wrong. But I kept working at it.
It didn’t hurt that my mentor encouraged my vision for growth, which helped me gain confidence and continue to develop both personally and professionally. One day (and it may not seem very important on the surface, but it was very influential), I walked into my mentor’s office wearing scrubs, having just worked a shift at the hospital. I didn’t have time to change into my business casual attire. She looked me up and down, confused, and asked, “What are you wearing?”
I was puzzled. Doesn’t everyone know what scrubs are? Turns out, it really does make a difference what you wear. Like manifesting thoughts, how you dress can encourage confidence and leadership as a business professional.
I started to acquire a new wardrobe to mix in with my old scrubs — fun, but it made me nervous. “Why should I spend money on a new wardrobe only to fail? What am I doing? This will all be a big waste of time,” I thought.
Once again, my mentor came to the rescue. She guided me to a life coach who was instrumental in growing my business. I didn’t feel worthy of having another person’s attention. I believe this comes from feeling as though I’m the one who should be helping everyone else and not vice versa — something of a familiar fault among nurses.
The life coach taught me how to overcome my fear of failure and about so many other things that were impeding my potential to be a successful nurse entrepreneur.
Paying It Forward as a Nurse Entrepreneur
I was eventually able to let go of my hospital job, finally cutting the ties that I did not realize were holding me back from becoming a nurse entrepreneur.
I found other like-minded nurses at out-of-state conferences who were running their own businesses or in private practice as consultants. It was just what I needed to feel at ease and get excited about my future.
Today, I own a life care management and consulting company!
To this day, rather than compete, I more often choose to network and collaborate with nurse leaders, innovators, and visionaries. I believe we can all share in our successes and learn from each other. It feels good to achieve goals, and having support along the way makes it a little easier.
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