As the nursing profession continues to expand and evolve, the interest in nurse entrepreneurship also grows. One of the most well-known resources for those interested in nurse entrepreneurship is NursePreneurs, founded by CEO Catie Harris, PhD, MBA, RN.
What started as a blog in 2016 focusing on teaching new nurses how to transition into nurse practitioner roles has evolved into a thriving business with over 14,000 nurses, 175 podcast episodes, and 250 businesses launched.
Harris answered questions on what’s driving nurse entrepreneurship and advice she has for nurses starting businesses.
Q: What common qualities in nurses do you see that’s driving them to seek entrepreneurship?
Harris: A lot of nurses are leaving the hospital setting under the notion that they’re burnt out. As I talk to these nurses, I don’t see burnout. These nurses are passionate about what they do, and they aren’t yet finished doing what they want to do. However, after so many years of service, their commitment and dedication hasn’t amounted to anything tangible. Nurses can’t really show what they have done for the last 20 years — except that they have amassed extraordinary insight and countless hours working with thousands of patients and families.
Q: You’ve talked about leveraging complaints or pain points as opportunities for innovation. Why do you think nurses are in a unique position to do so?
Harris: Nurses hear and see things that others do not. Our patients and families confide in us. As frontline workers, we know what the problems are, and nurses have an uncanny knack for innovative fixes for them. Nurses know how to delegate, work on a shoestring budget, and be resourceful with what is available. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in (without the frontline nurses), where the answer is always, “The nursing staff can do it — the nursing staff can be responsible for this or that.” Because management knows that nurses can fix problems.
What nurses don’t realize is just how valuable their innovative thinking and expertise is. That’s what NursePrenuers is focused on. We are on a mission to help them understand and start demanding more.
Q: What advice would you give to nurses to help them learn what type of leader they are? How might this help them grow their business model and personally?
Harris: What type of leader you are is an expression of your experience and what you have learned along the way. I had to learn about myself, what triggered me to respond, how to deal with challenges, and figure out what works for my team. Business is 90% about personal growth. You must be willing to go into business understanding that you will grow as a human in order to serve as an entrepreneur. And if you resist, your business will suffer.
If I hadn’t found the courage to be taught, it could have destroyed everything. Not all coaching is warm and encouraging.
The best advice I can give nurses who want to start a business is this — listen to what the problem is, experiment with solutions, and allow yourself to be coached. If you believe in yourself and what you are trying to do, persistence will get you to where you want to go.
Q: You’ve talked about your best ideas coming to you when you’re away from the office or having downtime. Why do you think this is so beneficial for nurses to practice?
Harris: This is just a known fact. Some of the best ideas in history came from epiphanies that happened on the brink of sleep, in a daze, when someone stopped thinking about the problem so hard. Action negates thinking. If you are always doing things, you aren’t thinking.
Nurses believe they need to be doing something constantly. Three 12-hour shifts aren’t enough. They’ll try to fill the other four days of the week with extra jobs. I used to work five 12-hour shifts in addition to ten 12-hour night shifts a month. In all that working, I never had any good ideas. In fact, I probably did a lot of cellular damage by not sleeping properly. I didn’t do myself any favors. It took me six years to finish my PhD, because I couldn’t ever focus on completing it.
Finally, at one point I took off for another country for six weeks. I walked and walked and took up other activities. To the outside, it looked like I just gave up and went on vacation. But what really happened was I gave myself space to think. As soon as I came back, I finished my PhD within one semester.
My own team is (jokingly) terrified of me when I come back from vacation because I’ve had time to think, which means I have a million ideas to explode onto them. Working endless hours in the hospital, even in your business is non-productive. It works against you. If you want to be successful in business or in your career, you must carve out time to think and do things other than work.
Do yourself a favor and give up one or two of your current jobs to take time for yourself. This will give you the time and space to think about what you want and where you want to go. And there are so many possibilities!
Nurse entrepreneurship and more
Harris shared more insights during a NurseDot Podcast episode called “Becoming a Nurse Entrepreneur,” in which she chatted with host Cara Lunsford, RN, Vice President for Community for Relias and Nurse.com, about her entrepreneurial journey.
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