The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

 

Many nurses have answered the call to entrepreneurship, starting successful part-time endeavors or profitable full-time enterprises. The nurses profiled here started interesting businesses that are unusual, creative, or outright quirky.

Learn from these nurses as they describe their start-up experiences, and from some business development experts who advise nurses. They will likely spark ideas for your own entrepreneurial adventure.

 

Michelle Podlesni, RN

President of the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA)

 

What do you advise nurses who want to start a business?

I always ask them: What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? Nurses are creative, and there are always ways to express more of who they are. You can design a workstyle around your lifestyle. We’re more than one thing—we may be moms, sisters, executives, fundraisers. Don’t limit yourself, and your potential. There’s no secret to business—it’s simple but, it’s not easy.

To make anything a business you need to make sure you have three things: Somebody who wants, needs, and desires it—and who is willing to pay for it. You have to be able to produce your widget, content, or product. You also have to administer money effectively and profitably. I always advise nurses to identify the fastest path to cash. Bigger than your money investment, even, is your time commitment.

 If a nurse doesn’t have a strong interest or passion, then what?

Some nurses don’t want to do their own thing, they want a business in a box. Franchises are well-suited to nurses. And there are all kinds of opportunities out there. I do have one big caveat —always test your assumptions before investing. Nurses don’t do enough due diligence. Do proper investigation before putting money in anything, whether an MLM, franchise, or a website design service.

What does the NNBA offer someone new to that path?

About 50% of our members are nurses who are aspiring entrepreneurs. We have many resources and tools on our website and Facebook page. Nurses interested in more freedom, flexibility and financial rewards can also attend our Nurse Entrepreneurship & Career Alternatives Conference. It will be held September 27-29, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

Lolita Korneagay, RN, BSN, MBA, LNC

Nurse Medical Cannabis Consultant and Founder of Cansoom

 

Tell us about your unusual new venture.

I started Cansoom in 2017, and my business is all about teaching people to use cannabis in a healthier way. There are two types of people that I teach: Regular people and medical professionals—that’s the train-the-trainer portion of my business.

Cannabis is important because there are 40 million people in the U.S. who use it. (It’s legal in over 30 states for medicinal use, and for recreational use in 10 or 11 states right now.) Year by year, the users are increasing, and medical professionals need to be prepared. But there are not a lot of opportunities for them to learn.

What was the genesis of your business?

It grew out of a personal need. I was diagnosed with a condition and was in a lot of pain. I had surgery, but the pain continued. I thought: If medical marijuana can help cancer patients, maybe it can help me. It took 22 months to come up with a treatment plan. There were no authoritative books, so I tested everything on myself. Then I put it in a handbook, and later I put together classes.

What’s your advice for a nurse who wants to become a medical cannabis consultant?

If you don’t have a passion for a certain business, you won’t be able to keep going. We need nurses to be patient advocates and to dispel myths. Within the African American community, for instance, marijuana has negatively affected it because people were imprisoned for just possession. But that’s not the case anymore.

 

Gwen Jewell, RN, BSN, CWS

Founder of Jewell Nursing Solutions

 

How did you come up with the idea for your wound care pillows?

I worked on a med-surg unit and started asking: Isn’t there anything better for bed sores? Most professionals say to turn patients and reposition them every two hours. But there is so much more to it than that. It’s not easy. No wonder we get more and more pressure ulcers.

I know a nurse who has been a nurse for her whole life and she’s in her 80s. The whole time she never saw a pressure ulcer. At least 50% of what I see now as a wound care nurse is preventable. A nurse’s day is getting more and more crowded with technology. There is less time to do the simple, basic stuff like turning a patient.

My side hustle has been trying to figure out how to make a support cushion that honestly works, as comfortable as possible, without touching the bedsore.

How did you design and develop your invention?

I called up a foam manufacturer and they gave me chunks of foam. I bought a knife to cut the foam and sew the cover. I tested it on myself and others like my brother who is paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.

It’s hard to get this information to the people who need it. There’s a long learning curve. I finally bought Google ads and sell them, mostly to patients at home. I work on it whenever I can before going to work. (I work swing.) It’s become a passion to put it out in the world. I want to leave a legacy and make a real impact toward creating a world where pressure wounds are a thing of the past.

What’s your advice to nurses with a product idea?

Just do it! We have a whole industry around nursing innovation. Like the woman who developed the colostomy bag, way back near WWI time. She did it for her sister, a young woman with chronic Crohn’s who fell into a depression after surgery. She struggled for 10 years to get anyone to listen.

If you have a good idea, then lean into it. Don’t quit your day job. Test it out first. Fear is the biggest deterrent. We’re in a nursing shortage, so we are always needed and can always get work. So, don’t be afraid.

 

 

Clifton Joullian, RN, BSN

The Nurse Farmer

 

How did you come to start this venture?

In studying for my bachelor’s and gathering data, I found some research related to the health benefits of gardening. I was a backyard farmer, so I asked myself: What if I could teach people how to grow their own food organically and how that could help promote health? I had a conversation with Michelle [Podlesni] at the NNBA and she told me it was a great concept, to go to Facebook, create a page, and see where it goes.

How do you fit it in with your nursing job and family life?

My husband and I both grew up in Mobile, Alabama—when I took a job as a travel nurse, we went to Vallejo where we had a large—by California standards—farm and grew citrus, vegetables, and kept hens. That’s where our two sons were raised. We adopted them when they were 4 and 6—and they’re now 18 and 20. For them, gardening was more of a chore. But children will eat more fruits and vegetables if they raise them and those habits go with them into adulthood. It’s like a piece of art: if you raise it, you’re going to share it with others and eat it.

What’s next for you as The Nurse Farmer?

I’m not making money yet, but I plan to kick it up a notch. After both our sons graduated, we moved back to Alabama last year, onto a 10-acre farm. The climate is different, and I made some poor choices, but I’m getting back into Alabama mode. We’ve already got some vegetables; next is herbs and flowers to attract pollinators.

I’m working on a collaboration with The Nature Nurse, Susan Allison, that we hope to launch next year. I’m working with a new local farmers market doing free BP checks. I’m hoping to do cooking demonstrations, like showing people how to process tomatoes, turn them to Creole sauce, but without the salt.

 

Nancy Joyner, RN, MS, APRN-CNS, ACHPN

Owner of Mya & Me therapy dog team and author of Through Myas Eyes

 

How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?

I’ve worked for 40 years as a nurse—I tell people I’m seasoned, not old! I also work as a nurse mentor for a group of diverse nurses. I’ve done everything in nursing—from NICU to hospice—but my specialty is palliative care. When I incorporated Mya as a therapy dog in my practice, she brought so much comfort and joy. I’m retirement age and was having physical and other medical issues so I wanted to try something less demanding.

What was helpful to you in launching your book?

I found the [NNBA] and started a five-year plan there. A booklet was the easiest thing to publish, so I wrote What If the Doctor Asks Me About CPR? My second book was a “real book,” Through Mya’s Eyes, which is told from her point of view. The unique thing about my book is that includes color artwork, drawings, and paintings from students ages 14 to 18. The book is for a younger, family-oriented audience.

You have a multidimensional enterprise—what else do you do?

I own Njoy Publishing, Nancy Joyner Consulting [palliative care consulting service], and a pet sitting business, too. Mya, my therapy dog, is part of my practice. A therapy dog has to go through a lot of training so she can go to the scene of an accident or she can be around during an assisted activity. A therapy dog has to be invited, and there can only be one dog at a time. Mya is a favorite with patients with dementia: They can be mute, and then all of a sudden, with her, they will talk.

 

 

Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN

The Nerdy Nurse and Cofounder of The Health Media Academy

 

What’s the best way for a nurse to explore entrepreneurship?

I always recommend nurses start a business as a side hustle, because it’s too stressful otherwise. If you start off full-time, it’s too hard, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner, which many nurses are. Figure out something you can do part-time on the side and do that. As a nurse, you can work three days a week on the floor and one on your business, and the rest can be for your family. You have to make time for your family—if not, your family will resent it and you really need their support to succeed.

How do you get so much done, with a corporate job, a blog, and now the Academy?

You have to be focused. A lot of people aren’t strategic; they fly by the seat of their pants. That little bit of time that you’ve devoted to your business, you have to be 100% focused to write that blog post. Ask: Is it a task that will produce revenue? However, sometimes a business just finds you. I didn’t start blogging with the intent to produce revenue. I started my blog because it was fun, it was my hobby, like other people crochet. At first, my blog didn’t make money. If it’s not fun, you might as well work more hours at your job.

With so many business options, how does a nurse decide what to pursue?

Don’t begin with deciding if you’ll be selling essential oils or CBD oils. I started my business by focusing on making connections. It’s better to build a personal brand first and cast a net that’s a little wider before niching down. Focus on general wellness, healthy eating, and healthy living; get known for that, then after you’re trusted, later you can sell oils. Build your brand first and your revenue later. Know that it’s a long game, and you may not earn income for six to nine months. It’s been said that “there are riches in niches,” but you don’t want to start out so hyper- focused that you have no ability to pivot if you see a business model isn’t right for you.

What part of the entrepreneurial journey is hardest for nurses?

Nurses are used to hard work, but business is marketing and sales and they’re not comfortable with that. But think about it: everything you do in nursing is a sales pitch—time to ambulate after surgery—that’s a sales pitch. Nurses are masters of persuasion and educating patients on the benefits of completing a task. They just don’t realize that’s what sales is and that they already know how to make a sales pitch; they just call it education.

 

Jon Haws, RN, BSN

Founder and CEO of NRSNG

 

Do you find that any particular skillset or mindset is crucial for entrepreneurs?

One of my favorite quotes is “you are only as successful as the level of problem you are able to solve.” I have no idea who said that, but it has had a profound impact on growing NRSNG. To me, it means you have to be able to take on greater and greater challenges as you grow your business. So, to answer the question, I believe that one of the most important skills a business owner can possess would be the ability to manage chaos and roll with the problems and punches. Just like in nursing, there are 1,000,000 things you can focus on, but only a few matter. Being able to identify those few problems that matter and solve them will help you and your business grow.

What tips do you have for nurses employed full-time who want to make a total transition?

Patience. Many people think they have to “win” today. This mindset will lead them into doing things that simply make money versus doing things that benefit their customers. It’s all about building something that brings real value to the world . . . not about just quitting your job. I think when the customer really becomes your focus versus just trying to make enough to quit a job, this will reflect in your business. Customers will notice that you really do care and you are fighting to solve their problem.

Any other advice for our minority nurse readers about entrepreneurial life?

At NRSNG our mission is to end the nursing shortage. This is a global problem with a huge scale. We respect the enormity of what we are trying to do and that drives our decisions. If we had small goals, we would make small decisions. Instead, we adopt a world-changing goal and make all of our decisions from that vantage point.

There really isn’t anything “easy” about the entrepreneur life, but it truly is the most fulfilling journey in the world. Watching users find success with your product, watching employees buy into the mission, watching your kids find love for the company. It’s incredible. Find a big mission and chase it like hell!

 

 

Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP

Founder and President of Exceptional Nurse

 

How did you come to start Exceptional Nurse?

Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and later diagnosed with autism, OCD, epilepsy, and a host of other autism-related challenges. I quickly became an advocate for her, and overtime expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

Is it a business, or a nonprofit, or a passion project?

Exceptional Nurse is a nonprofit resource network for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. The nonprofit provides information, support, mentors, employment opportunities, social media, and related articles. It also awards scholarships to nursing students with disabilities.

What entrepreneurial lessons have you learned?

Do what you love! Being a risk taker is important along with being resilient… moving past setbacks and criticism. A strong work ethic is also important—being an entrepreneur isn’t a 9-5 job! It takes hard work and perseverance to succeed. Continue to learn new skills, network with others, and ask for help when needed. Give as much as you take. Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Manage money wisely.

What advice do you have for our readers?

To my fellow nurses and nursing educators, I would stress the importance of recognizing that disability is part of life…for everyone! Nurses with disabilities have knowledge, experience, and skills to share. They have walked the walk and gained insight into patient care. Their experiences inform and benefit their practice. Many have a passionate desire to care for others. Nurses with disabilities can be the best role models for patients.

 

Paul Scrivens

Founder of Dare to Conquer

 

What productivity tips do you have for nurses who are employed full-time but want to launch a side hustle?

It’s tough. Mentally, the idea of making it all work is easy, but the execution is really hard. Usually it isn’t because of time. You can always make time. The biggest problem is willpower. At the end of the day, after working your tail off, you usually don’t [have] the willpower to get more things done.

The best thing you can do is come up with a long-term gameplan and lay out the tasks that you need to get done. Then break those tasks down as much as possible into smaller chunks. Now that you have these small chunks, take a look at your schedule.

For about a week, keep a journal with you at all times and every hour that you’re up, write down what you did for that hour. What you’ll usually notice is that the times you aren’t working or sleeping, there are lots of gaps where you’re not really doing anything.

Fill those gaps with bursts of effort where you get your tasks done. If you find that at the end of the day you mentally can’t do more things, then wake up earlier and get them done. Diet and exercise also go a long way.

 

A Nurse’s Guide to Understanding Digital Recruitment Trends

A Nurse’s Guide to Understanding Digital Recruitment Trends

 

 

More and more health care organizations are using big data, predictive analysis, and data metrics to streamline the process of recruiting nursing talent. Over one-third of human resources departments rely on analytics to manage staffing, according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report. That trend has exploded over the last few years, as organizations lean on technology in earnest. For example, approximately 95% of hospitals use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is like a gigantic digital filing cabinet full of resumes, according to industry experts.

Big data (or people data) may sound intimidating to nurses who aren’t tech savvy, but the information that they refer to is often quite simple. “Facebook, Google, the U.S. government—even my own tiny website has its own big data,” says Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, an informatics expert based in Nashville, Tennessee who owns the popular blog The Nerdy Nurse

Big data usually means extremely large data sets, which help reveal patterns and associations, especially relating to human behavior or that look at trends and systems and help make a determination, explains Wilson.

“Data is everywhere and almost all of it is discoverable. I always tell nurses to not post anything online that they wouldn’t put in front of a recruiter when they’re applying for a job. You have to assume that someone is scraping that data and applying it to an algorithm,” she adds.

How Organizations Collect People Dataand What That May Mean for You

In a recruiting context, a nurse’s personal information can be culled from social media profiles, consumer data, and public records, in addition to a hospital’s personnel data or those of a third-party recruiting program vendor. That nurse’s individual data points can then be merged into bigger data sets, so analysts can create algorithms or statistical models that aim to predict which candidates are equipped to succeed in a given role.

For example, automated systems can spit out resumes from applicants in a certain zip code, based on an algorithm set to predict turnover. Perhaps previous employees with that zip code may have been short-timers, due to a grueling driving commute or unreliable mass transit.

Then even if nurses knew why they were getting the cold shoulder from a piece of software, there’s not much they can do about it. Their home address data is out there and available to hospitals, even if they attempted to hide it by using another street address, through a UPS or other office forwarding service, say.

But what if that undesirable zip code is for an area with a large minority population? Recruiters and IT folks are starting to realize how digital “gates,” based on zip code and such, may adversely impact underrepresented populations. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on practices which essentially “profile” applicants and employees.

“We need to attract more racial and ethnic minorities to nursing,” says David Wilkins, chief strategy officer of Woburn, Massachusetts-based HealthcareSource, a provider of talent management systems for hospitals. “We’re thin in labor supply and there’s a high labor demand.” The unemployment rate in health care is so low—RNs at 1.4%, and NPs at 1.1%, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. “With such an acute shortage, it’s hard to believe that people are consciously turning away any candidates.” Wilkins wonders if unconscious bias, such as when an applicant has an ethnic sounding name, may be at play.

Crowdsourcing, One Surprising Cyber Trend in Recruiting

Relode is an innovative crowdsource referral platform for health care recruiting. “In 2014, we saw there were lots of inefficiencies in the hiring process and wanted to use software to solve this problem,” says Joe Christopher, chief technology officer at the Brentwood, Tennessee-based firm. “The platform allows our small team to work on thousands of jobs. Health care is profession-centric, so staffing agencies are ultimately working with the company. We’re trying to help you, as a nurse, to take your next step.”

A nurse can sign up on the Relode portal, then work with a talent adviser who will set up a profile and then make a match with an appropriate job opportunity based on the nurse’s experience, skill set, goals, and other desires. “As a new grad, you may have to take what’s available, but if we know you ultimately want to go back to California, we can help. What if we can connect you to this great employer [in another state] who can train you? And then after a year or two, you can go back home to California or wherever. Or you might like it and want to stay longer.”

Relode offers nurses a way to earn side income through its crowdsourcing platform. “Nurses are used to thinking, ‘if I need extra money, I need to work an extra shift.’ But we believe the best nurse knows another best nurse. So as a travel nurse, for instance, you may know nurses in Dallas and Phoenix, and if you connect us and that person gets hired, we pay $3,500 directly into your account,” says Christopher. In fact, one nurse signed up with Relode and referred seven other nurses, earning money for connecting people she already knew to new opportunities, he adds.

Make Sure Your Online Application is Optimized for Search Engines

Human resource experts claim that very little recruiting happens without technology anymore. “Your first point of entry is very likely going to be a piece of software, an applicant tracking system. It has to determine the degree of fit between you and the job. So, make sure your resume is well-structured, clean, and easy to parse for an applicant tracking system,” says Wilkins. “Focus less on making it look pretty, and instead, make it very scannable and readable. The average time someone is going to look at it is six seconds.”

A big part of what applicant tracking systems search for is keywords and phrases. Recruiters may be carrying 100 plus openings at one time so they can’t look at all the resumes for each position. “In order to be seen, yours must be in the top 10 or top 20 ranking,” he says. “You should have multiple resumes to make sure the keywords match. Most of the time organizations tailor job titles and descriptions to a particular opening.”

A Travel Nurse Weighs in on High-Tech, Low-Touch Recruiting

Jake Schubert, RN, BSN, travel nurse and owner of Nursity.com, an online NCLEX prep course, is no stranger to the recruiting process and shares a few key insights.

1. The nurse-recruiter relationship is becoming less and less personal.

I get hundreds of emails from travel nurse recruiters all saying basically the same thing: “would love to work with you… would love to work with you… would love to work with you…” Don’t spam nurses with phone calls and emails. You don’t like it when people do that to you, so why would you do it to them? But if you really want to be effective, stop with the spam and make your message personal. For example, you can go to my Instagram and you’ll see that I love to scuba dive. Then reach out to me there with something personal like, “Hey I noticed you like to dive. We have contracts with three hospitals in Florida that are close to some great dive sites.” But no, they don’t do that. Instead they fall back on the same line: “Let me know when you you’re ready to start traveling with the best recruiting company!” I feel like responding: “Let me know when I’m relevant to you.”

2. Many nurses are naïve about a recruiter’s role and motives.

New graduates and some other nurses may think: “This recruiter is really on my side.”  But they’re not—they’re being paid by their company so that’s where their loyalty lies. They know when you’re not asking for enough money, for instance, but they won’t tell you where you’re leaving money on the table. It’s not like other industries where people are required to disclose a conflict of interest—when real estate brokers represent both sides in a transaction, they’re legally required to disclose their dual agency.

3. Nurses have the power to create better relationships with recruiters.

I’m one of the thousands of nurses working with Kaiser Permanente right now. You go online and create a profile on their portal, and they email you when an appropriate job pops up. But that’s not how all jobs get filled in a hospital. It’s all about relationships. Managers are always asking me “Jake, do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” Every hospital is looking for good nurses, and nurses who have good communication skills are hard to find. If I had one piece of advice for new graduates, it’s “Don’t text a recruiter, and don’t think of email as a long text. Email is an online version of a letter, so don’t leave out the niceties.” When you communicate fully, you show that you’re different and that you have professional communication skills.

So, for instance, if you were applying for a job as a dialysis nurse, Wilkins would advise the use of a preponderance of keywords related to that specialty. “Of course, use the word ‘dialysis,’ but also all the words alongside it and related terms and synonyms.

Dialysis in an elder-care, or long-term care setting, is different than working with general patients at an outpatient dialysis care clinic. Use senior care words, long-term care versus outpatient care words. The care job is probably the same but the stuff on the edges is different.”

Wilkins offers a final caveat regarding online application systems, which sounds basic, but could torpedo your candidacy if ignored. “The average completion for an online application is around 15%, which means 85% of online applications are never completed. While in some cases, this is because a candidate changes their mind mid-process, most of the time it’s just because the process is long and complex,” he explains. “But the really scary data is that 15% of people think they’ve actually fully submitted their application when they really haven’t. Sometimes they just miss the ‘submit’ button at the end. Go back and make sure you completed all the steps.”

Nurses shouldn’t forget to update their own employer’s human resource portal—it makes it easier for the department (or a hiring manager) to identify internal candidates. When there’s a job requisition for an assistant nurse manager with a master’s degree and a set of relevant experience, for instance, a recruiter can look through the hospital’s internal database of qualified nurses before posting the job publicly.

How to Protect Your Online Privacy When Job Searching

“We need to educate nurses that when you put your resume out there on any career site—upload it to CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed—you’re selling access to that resume,” warns Christopher. An applicant may upload a resume and forget about it, but when they get an email or call from a recruiter, wonder: “How did they get my number?!” When you trace it back, almost always it was that uploaded resume and the terms of service that allow recruiters to contact you.

There are workarounds though, that will protect your privacy without hampering your job search. “Lots of people are able to set up an email address specifically for this use—you’d check it once a day if you’re in the job market, or once a week if you’re not,” says Christopher. “Sometimes the systems also require a phone number. You may be able to set up a Google voice number or use another solution like that.”

When using online job engines and portals, be aware that there are games that some unscrupulous recruiters play, says Christopher. For instance, “a staffing agency that does lots of work with nurses may put up a job listing for an opening that doesn’t exist” at the moment. That gives them a running start for handling hard-to-fill roles, “so that when an employer asks for an ICU nurse, say, they already have 10 nurses that have applied for that. Indeed will no longer host agency jobs, the listing has to be from the employer,” because of recruiter abuses. “Even now Indeed offers applicants a way to filter jobs—there’s an employer of record option.”

Present Your Best Cyber Self to Snag a Job

Nurses and talent recruiters are both figuring out the new communications etiquette, with some stumbles along the way. “I get text messages from recruiters pretty frequently. I was shocked the first time because they contacted me on a very non-professional manner, in my opinion,” says Regina Callion, RN, MSN, travel nurse and owner of ReMar Review, an NCLEX review program.

“Greetings will be skipped, and it will pretty much say ‘Make 10,000 dollars in a month! Sign up today for xyz.’ The lack of formality and information provided is a turnoff.”

That anti-text sentiment is common, even among some Millennial, digital native nurses. “My cell number is the last bastion of privacy for me,” Wilson says. “I don’t want to get a text from a recruiter without my consent. It feels like you entered my living room and sat on the couch and don’t even know who I am.”

But recruiters say that reaching out to nurses in the traditional way isn’t efficient, so they have to employ new channels. “Our team has found that texting is a really great way to communicate for nurses. They’re busy and so instead of leaving a message and waiting for a call back, a text is a brief but direct conversation,” says Christopher. “Obviously, you have to know who the person is and agree to it, but texting is a really efficient way for us to say: ‘Here’s a great opportunity that meets three out of four of your criteria. Do you want to talk about it?’ Or if there’s a simple question from an employer, we can get a quick answer: ‘Are you licensed in California? I know you graduated from school there but …’”

The nurse-recruiter dance requires sensitivity and cooperation from each partner. Recruiters do a service for nurses, exposing them to opportunities they might not otherwise discover and fast-tracking their applications through the hiring process. Nurses can help recruiters by making themselves easier to find and by being open to approach. “It takes a lot of energy to look for a job, and it’s a lot like dating—when you’re not looking, that’s when you’re most desirable,” explains Wilson. “My job before this one was with a startup who found me because I’d SEO’d [search engine optimization, or the process of affecting the visibility of a web page] my profile online so well… I always tell people—take a phone call. You never know.”

Taking a Baby Step Toward Self-Care

Taking a Baby Step Toward Self-Care

Are you like most nurses, filling your days with taking care of everyone else but yourself? That may seem heroic, but putting yourself last ultimately leads to a dip in on-the-job productivity and career burnout. But when you take care of your own needs first, not only do you benefit, and so do your coworkers and patients.

Is there a secret formula to boosting your health and happiness? Fortunately, there is no secret. It’s simple, though not easy, to make yourself a priority in your own life.

By attending to your own self-care, you’re more likely to head off the symptoms of overload which can cut your nursing career short. But where do you start, when there are so many components of a happy, healthy life?

Self-care is easier to establish if you know what’s most important to you at this particular point in time. You may want to focus on a major life activity—eating, exercise, sleep, or relationships—because they seem like obvious drivers of well-being. Improvements in any of those important areas can certainly yield major benefits, but they’re usually tough to crack.

Even if you highly prioritize self-care, it’s difficult to say “No” to that big slice of cheesecake, fit in workouts, or turn in for bed on-time. Especially when your schedule is already jam-packed, your shifts are long, or you work nights.

Why not try another tactic? Consider setting a self-care habit in motion by starting with baby steps toward your ultimate goals. Improvements don’t have to start in your “hot zones” either. Like dominoes, a shift in one habit or routine will cascade down to every other area of your life.

Here are two powerful ideas to spark your thinking:

1. You Need a Budget.

Who even uses a budget anymore? It sounds so old-school, like playing music on 8-track tapes and paying with paper checks at the supermarket. But sitting down to crunch the numbers, and getting a grip on your income and outgo, can be an effective stress-reliever. Your financial situation may remain the same, but seeing the actual facts can stop the free-floating anxiety that’s fueled by imagination.

Your budgeting system doesn’t have to be fancy, either—just use a notebook and pencil to note and track your household expenses and income. Some people like to allocate cash to specific purchases, using an envelope system popularized by Dave Ramsey. One envelope for cafeteria lunch money, another for…

And don’t forget to plan for seasonal outlays (holiday gifts or taxes) and emergencies. That way if you need to replace a dental crown, you’ll have a buffer fund to cover it, and won’t panic as much.

There are also many apps out there for budgeting, including the grand-daddy, You Need a Budget (YNAB).

2. Do a Digital Detox.

Are you always texting, Skyping, Tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise deep in your digital stream? That’s the case for many “social media natives” and even for their oldest colleagues.

Even if you’re following social media guidelines for nurses in your workplace, you may find that digital is a distraction, always in the back of your mind, ringing, buzzing, or vibrating to get your attention. You could get relief from all sorts of social media ills, from text neck to FOMO, by choosing a set time to disable it, for hours or days.

Some people like to set aside long weekends to go away on formal retreats, like the ones offered by Digital Detox while others simply reduce everyday use. Digital refers to all smartphones and computers (sometimes TV’s too), so resolving to stay away from electronics and screens after 8:00pm could be enough to calm your down, and make it easier to get to sleep at a decent hour.

Oh, but wait, what if you ditched your alarm clock? There are all kinds of new devices for improving your sleep hygiene that you may want to check out. One example is the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation, which costs less than $50. The light on this clock slowly gets brighter over a 30-minute span, to gently awaken and welcome you to the new day.

It’s important for you (and your patients) that you engage in self-care every single day. So resolve to take a baby step toward making yourself a priority in your own life.

Why not start today?

Job Search Tips for Minority Nurses From Headhunter Nick Corcodilos

Job Search Tips for Minority Nurses From Headhunter Nick Corcodilos

Are you about to start a job search and confused by all the changes within the world of nurse recruiting and not sure who to ask?:

“A recruiter sent me a DM on Snap—what do I do?”

“I got a recruiting text from a bot—what do I do?”

“I submitted a ton of online applications to hospitals but I’m not getting call backs—what do I do?”

Well, who better to advise you on your job search than a nationally-known recruiter? Nick Corcodilos, publisher of the popular website Ask The Headhunter has all the answers. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, The New York Times, Fast Company, and PBS NewsHour.

In this Q&A interview, Nick delivers hints and tips specifically for minority nurses, who may have unique roadblocks along their job search journey.

For example, there is some evidence of name-based discrimination in recruiting. So, a resume with a “white-sounding” name will result in calls 50% more often than one without. The University of Chicago study is titled: “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” Though not a health care employer-focused study, the researchers do note: “The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital unemployment is at an extreme low of .9%. And yet, discrimination may be so unconscious that it continues, even in a market where health care employers are scrambling to fill long-empty positions.

job search tips from Nick Corcodilos

Ask the Headhunter Nick Corcodilos

Is there anything a minority nurse applicant can do to sidestep hazards of the current recruiting landscape?

Digital “recruiting” and job hunting create special problems for minority job seekers because—and I’ll be very blunt about this—it enables biased employers to waste your time. If you get selected from an online application and then invest your time for an interview, only to find that the employer suddenly realizes you’re of a certain race or the “wrong” sexual preference or other characteristic, you get suddenly rejected out of hand.

You’ve wasted your time because their bias never allowed you to really demonstrate your abilities and value so that you might be chosen for what you can do.

 How should a minority nurse go about applying for a job, if not through a hospital career portal or a recruiter’s texts/emails/calls?

The smart alternative is to invest some time tracking down either the hiring manager, or at least someone who works for or with that manager.

(Studies, again and again, suggest that up to 70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not random digital applications.)

Of course, bias can be introduced into the hiring process all kinds of ways, but I find that doing this person-to-person also helps you quickly identify people who are more interested in your abilities than your sex, race, or football team preference! They’re the people who will speak up and personally recommend you.

This is the only way I know to avoid the almost random, rote digital process of recruiting that often results in rejection due to discrimination and bias that surfaces too long after you’ve already invested your valuable time.

Employers don’t realize how this process hurts them, too, because it costs them potentially great hires.

For tips on how to make professional connections, Nick recommends his blog post: “Network, but don’t be a jerk!” Also, read his post on working with recruiters: “How to Judge A Headhunter”.

Any final food for thought for minority nurses embarking on a job search?

All those conversations you have with people who surround the manager will build a very personal picture of what you can do—and that’s how you get presented to a hiring manager as a great worker who’s worth hiring for their abilities.

I would rather have an early opportunity to recognize biased and discriminatory employers so I can avoid them, rather than let them waste my time.

Of course, the very powerful option you always have is to file an Equal Opportunity complaint. But my job is to help you identify and meet worthy employers. And the best way to do that is to get introduced to them by people they know and trust. Your challenge is to cultivate relationships with those “friends and associates” of the hiring managers—people who are not biased and who will recommend you for your skills and great work ethic.

Start Your 2019 Over, With Better Goals

Start Your 2019 Over, With Better Goals

Did you greet 2019 with so much enthusiasm that you set big, audacious New Year’s goals? Maybe you thought: A fresh year to grow (and glow) personally, an exciting new beginning, with endless opportunity to slay professional goals!

So, what happened to those goals?

If you’re anything like most of us, they were ditched (long-forgotten, even) way before Valentine’s Day rolled around. That feeling of inspiration that struck on January 1st, which is symbolic of unlimited potential, turned into discouragement, apathy, and dismay.

So, what can you do now if you still really want to do and be your best self this year? You can still look forward to making the most of the coming months, even if that means starting over again with resolutions and goal setting.

In fact, you may have seen the meme taking over social streams that says: “I’ve decided 2019 doesn’t start until February 1st. January was just a free trial.”

Consider mid-February your chance for a do-over. Only this time, go with something other than the traditional goal-setting systems, which may work for productivity gurus, but don’t for the majority of us regular folks.

One offbeat method you may want to try that is to choose one word for the coming year, to represent what you want versus listing specific actions or results. That single word will guide you and help you focus, so you live more intentionally day to day, month to month.

Here’s how to choose your word for the year.

First, brainstorm a long list of words that feel meaningful to you and “hang out” with them for a while. You’ll find that some relate more closely to goals you’ve had in the back of your mind for a while. They may even suggest some action steps that you can do in the coming months that will bring you closer to your dreams. Soon, one will present itself as the clear winner.

Some examples of word of the year, culled from recent conversations about this “right-brained” goal setting method: Positivity, Intention, Simplify, Pause, Restore, Build, and Believe. Other popular choices that show up year after year include: Balance, Focus, Organize, Grow, Gratitude, Grace, and Finish.

Okay, now that you’ve picked a word for the year, write it down wherever you will refer to it often during the day. A good place to add it is on the front of your paper planner (or write it out in fancy lettering, with doodles even, at the top of every page, to really drive the message home). Type it up, print out, and slap it up on the wall above your desk, or on the fridge, or your bathroom mirror. Use it as part of your login password, like L1Ve_L0Ve<3, so that you’re reminded of your focus word everyday.

You’ll be amazed at how your subconscious mind gets to work, suggesting actions to further your intention. For example, say you chose the word “Build” as your focus word for 2019. You’d like to build community, build connections, and build trust. You find yourself inspired to join a local nursing organization and regularly attend their meetings. At the end of the year, you might be surprised at how you have indeed built strong, trusting relationships.  And that it happened without setting specific, quantifiable, time-sensitive, or sensible goals.