In 2001, Noriyuki Matsuda, CEO of Sourcenext, realized a need—people wanted to be able to understand others when they didn’t speak the same language. He wanted to create a mechanism that could do this. But at the time, the hardware and software to make this happen didn’t exist. What he envisioned would eventually be known as Pocketalk.
By early 2020, Pocketalk launched their latest device. When COVID-19 hit the United States, the company started a relief program that donated 850 Pocketalk devices to first responders and health care providers on the front lines.
Matsuda talked with us about their relief program and how Pocketalk has helped so many across the country during this stressful time.
Why did Pocketalk feel it was needed to come up with a relief program?
Creating connections and enabling conversations is at the heart of why I founded Pocketalk. Before coming to the U.S., I saw people firsthand in Japan using Pocketalk to hold conversations in different languages and break down cultural barriers, reaffirming our need to take Pocketalk to the rest of the world.
Japan was one of the first countries affected by COVID-19. I started to think about the true mission of Pocketalk, after witnessing the impact the pandemic was having on our communities. And then, I saw the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined at Yokohoma, where Pocketalk helped staff members provide information and updates to concerned passengers quickly and accurately.
I wanted to—we had to—do more to help others during this time of need, and that is what led to the creation of our relief program.
We initiated the Relief Program in the U.S. in March because we knew we had the resources to be helpful for hospitals and first responders, and we wanted to give back during this global health crisis by providing translation services to those in most need. We set out to donate 600 Pocketalk Classic units to qualifying medical facilities, first responders, testing sites, and those in need of translation services. Units were given out on a first-come, first-served basis to those that applied through our website, with a maximum of three units per organization.
Over the course of just three weeks, the Pocketalk Relief Program saw widespread interest from all corners of the U.S. and officially donated more than 850 Pocketalks to qualifying applicants in 41 states to aid in the fight. We hope to be able to continue to give back to the medical community, especially during this time of great need.
Explain to our readers what Pocketalk is. How does it work? How many languages can it translate?
Pocketalk is a multi-sensory, two-way translation device. With a large touchscreen, noise-cancelling microphones and a text-to-translate camera, Pocketalk is able to create connections across 74 different languages. It’s equipped with high-quality, noise-cancelling microphones and two powerful speakers so it’s easy to have full conversations, even in noisy environments. The camera instantly recognizes and translates text, the written word, and signs. A large touch screen provides a text translation for additional clarity.
It seems that Pocketalk was initially designed for businesses/companies. Has it been used by health care workers from the start or did that come about because of the COVID-19 outbreak?
While we appeal to a variety of businesses and individuals who travel for both work and leisure, we knew we also have the technologies capable of helping many people in important industries to perform crucial day-to-day tasks. This includes teachers in our education system who work with students and parents who may not speak English as a first language, medical professionals and first responders who need quick, accurate translations on the job, and flight attendants who require translation services when assisting passengers.
Over the last few months as our world has changed, the need to share Pocketalk with health care professionals and first responders, as well as other industries, has grown immensely. Prior to COVID-19, Pocketalk was already in use at hospitals across Japan—including at the National Cancer Research Center and Ehime University General Hospital—to handle the influx of hospital visits by foreigners.
Pocketalk has also been increasingly used in the classroom by teachers and by volunteers in Minneapolis helping on the ground during recent protests and cleanup efforts. As these opportunities became more apparent, we wanted to do our part to give back to those making differences in their communities.
How has Pocketalk been helpful to first responders and medical professionals?
There are many beneficial features and aspects of Pocketalk offering critical value to medical professionals during the coronavirus outbreak. Our handheld translator is designed for accurate two-way communication at the touch of a button, reducing the time needed to communicate with patients. With the ability to translate 74 languages addressing 90% of the world’s population, Pocketalk also ensures that medical professionals can communicate with most, if not all, potential patients that come to their facilities in an emergency. While Pocketalk is able to support translation in emergencies, it can also be used by medical professionals to help with daily tasks, such as talking with family members of patients and communicating with patients who need assistance throughout the day, such as the need for an extra pillow or a meal.
Most importantly, Pocketalk eliminates the need for a human translator, reducing any human translators’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other contagious diseases. By dedicating ourselves to developing a product that is accurate, quick, and efficient in high-risk situations like those in the medical industry, we are trying to do our part to keep people safe and well-equipped to handle any translation challenges.
Do you have any anecdotes you can share about how they’ve made a difference?
After conducting our relief program, we did hear back from a number of members in the medical community about how Pocketalk has made a difference on the job after only a few weeks.
One respondent, an advanced emergency medical technician, told us that he was able to use Pocketalk to attend to and triage three different patients—who were native Vietnamese speakers and the other a native Spanish speaker. “What typically took 30 minutes, only took five minutes,” said the respondent.
An emergency medical specialist has spoken about Pocketalk’s immediate impact in the ER, noting how much easier it is now to talk with patients for quick reassessments and during critical moments without having to call a human translator. They said, “It’s in my whitecoat pocket on every shift.”
Is there anything else about Pocketalk or your relief program that you think is important for our readers to know?
As our world continues to tackle COVID-19, we are identifying other ways in which we can help other communities in other industries. Translation services are in higher demand right now not just within the medical community, but within other industries. Translators without Borders recently gave community organizations open access to their services, after receiving multiple requests from local organizations and nonprofits that need to translate information for their non-English speaking community members.
In addition to medical professionals, Pocketalk relief units were also given to members within other industries to help with translation needs. While most units were given to doctors and nurses in hospitals, a number of units were also given to workers in fire departments, law enforcement and pharmacies.
This is a time for us to come together as one voice made of many languages to help each other through the power of connection.
Starting now, medical professionals and first responders can purchase a Pocketalk Classic for $129 ($70 discount) using the special code MinorityNurse70 at discount–while supplies last.
Black Lives Matter. These three words have been used countless times in protests and in the media. As a result of the protests, more people are talking about racism and how it affects people who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).
Many nurses have experienced it. We interviewed three Black nurses to listen to their experiences with racism, learn how to begin conversations about it, and how allies can help.
Shantay Carter, BSN, RN, founder of Women of Integrity and best-selling author of Destined for Greatness, and nurse of more than 20 years, encountered racism back in nursing school. She recalls that some instructors would “try to wean students of color out of the program.” “I had instructors accuse me of cheating on tests or tell me that I would never become a nurse,” says Carter. Early in her career, she says, “I had patients say that they didn’t want a colored nurse taking care of them…I have had patients call me the N-word or threaten to hit me….I also experienced medical providers speaking down to me because they assumed that I am dumb.” Carter also got asked, “Are you the nurse?”
Bianca Austin, RN, BSN, CCRN, has been a nurse for 19 years. She works at an inner-city Level I Trauma Center as an intensive care nurse and is also a Major in the Army Nurse Corps, U.S. Army Reserves. Austin recalls an instance in which she and three other nurses, all dressed alike in navy scrubs, were waiting for their assigned rooms. The pod leader made the assignments based on having three nurses on duty. She had to be told that Austin was a nurse, even though she was dressed like the other nurses and wore a badge with her credentials.
Glenda Hargrove, BSN, RN, owner of Pill Apparel, has been a nurse for 11 years. She says that once a patient didn’t want her as their nurse because she is Black. Another instance occurred when she was the only Black nurse working on a unit and also the only nurse who was never invited to after-work staff outings. “At first, I tried to brush it off—until even the new nurses were invited, and I was not,” she says.
We asked all three nurses to weigh in on their experiences with racism and how to start the conversation.
If nurses experience racism, what would you suggest they do? How should they react?
Carter: “In situations where the patient is being really disrespectful, I have asked another nurse to care for that patient. As a nurse, I don’t have to be subjected to or tolerate someone’s ignorance. I also make sure to know the policy when it comes to escalating a situation to management. Knowing my rights as a nurse and employee of the institution that I work in is very important. If you encounter racism, I strongly recommend that you make your manager aware and HR if necessary. Racism and any other forms of discrimination should not be tolerated at any institution.”
Austin: “Use it as a teaching moment. Always be gracious.”
Hargrove: “There is really no easy way to answer this question. Racism has different types—it can be overt or covert. As the nurse, we have to always remain professional because like Michelle Obama said, ‘When they go low, we go higher.’ In some medical spaces, there is no one else who looks like you or even believes racism is occurring. As nurses, we are taught to advocate for our patients, but when experiencing racism, you have to essentially advocate for yourself and your right to practice in a racist-free clinical setting.”
How can nurses start the conversation about racism—and this may be different with patients, coworkers, and facility management? What steps should they take to make sure that if racism occurs, it doesn’t continue.
Carter: “As nurses, we have the power to create change. In order to have a discussion about racism, the hospital, community, and country has to be willing to talk about implicit bias, and system oppression. Joining an employee resource group or (BERG) is a great way, to encourage employees and leadership to come together to address the issues that are affecting their employees and finding solutions to make the workplace a better, more diverse, and safer environment for all. There also have to be policies in place to address those issues and have training on Diversity & Inclusion as well as on Implicit Bias. The culture and tone have to be set by the hospital leadership. Racism is something that can’t be tolerated or accepted.”
Austin: “The steps to take to make sure that racism is stopped is to not let an opportunity pass by to educate someone. Kindly let the person know the offense and explain why you were offended. They would tell us if we said something to offend them.”
Hargrove: “Nurses must start the conversation about racism by acknowledging the African-American nursing pioneers. Every nursing student learns about Florence Nightingale, but the majority have no idea who Mary Mahoney is. She was the first African-American Nurse to work professionally in the United States in 1879. When I started the brand, Pill Apparel, the mission has been to educate and acknowledge Mary Mahoney and her historic contribution to our profession.
“If racism occurs the only way to make sure it doesn’t continue is to NOT ignore it. Don’t let racism be the ‘elephant in the room’ but acknowledge it in order to learn from it and prevent it in the future.”
How can the community at large be an ally or offer support to BIPOC nurses in these situations?
Carter: “The community at large can be our allies by calling people out on their racist behavior towards others and standing with them in solidarity. BIPOC nurses would appreciate their friends and colleagues to stand up for them. We have to come together as one in the face of adversity. Just because you are not a BIPOC nurse, doesn’t mean you can’t fight against what’s morally and ethically wrong.”
Austin: “The facility I work for makes annual statements that they encourage diversity. It is a major player in the community with many business alliances. I would like to see more recruitment of BIPOC nurses, starting in high school. I believe the University and the hospital could improve enrollment and employment of BIPOC nurses if they start at that level, and the community could offer resources such as money, opportunities for shadowing, and help with preparation for nursing school.”
Hargrove: “We all know the difference between right and wrong. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’”
Travel nurses are in great demand right now, as they are helping to relieve frontline workers during COVID-19. While health care facilities are doing everything they can to make environments safe, there are still specific risks that travel nurses are dealing with during this pandemic.
Georgia Reiner, Senior Risk Specialist, Nurses Service Organization (NSO), gave us the latest information about what’s happening with travel nurses, what the risks are, and what they can do to protect themselves.
Are hospitals throughout the country calling on travel nurses to relieve frontline workers? Is the main purpose to alleviate burnout of the frontline workers?
Travel nurses are in high-demand across the United States as hospitals work to treat surges of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. This crisis arrived at a time when nurse staffing was already a concern due to a multitude of factors, including the growing health care demands of an aging population and nurses aging out of the workforce. Therefore, the demand for travel nurses seems to be primarily driven by a need to build up hospital capacity to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Data from different staffing platforms show that throughout the pandemic, travel nurses are in highest demand in areas most impacted by the coronavirus, like New York and Washington State, and certain nursing specialties like ICU/Critical Care, ER/Trauma, and Med/Surg.
Certainly, as the pandemic continues, the sense of burnout among health care workers will intensify, and travel nurses will likely play an important role in helping to alleviate burnout.
This is a different situation for travel nurses. One risk is checking licensing in different states. What can travel nurses do to be sure that their license transfers? If it doesn’t, but frontline workers are still needed, are exceptions being made?
Before deciding to accept a job, nurses need to ensure that their licenses will allow them to practice in that state/jurisdiction. Multi-state licenses are available for nurses who meet the requirements, which include elements like background checks and education criteria. Temporary licenses are also an option—these are generally reserved for travel nurses who have accepted a job in another state and are awaiting their permanent license.
During the nationwide public health emergency due to COVID-19, some statutes and regulations regarding licensure portability may be relaxed or waived, so it is important for nurses to be aware of what the requirements are both during and following the emergency period. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has compiled information about the nurse licensure compact and emergency action taken by states, which is a great starting place for information.
When travel nurses are thrust into an unknown situation in a hospital/medical center that isn’t familiar to them, and they are working with systems they’re not familiar with, what’s the best way for them to cope? How can they avoid burnout themselves? Please explain.
Working in a new environment is inherently stressful. Getting used to new processes, technologies, hospitals layouts, and new people can be overwhelming under normal circumstances, and can be amplified during a crisis like COVID-19. Travel nurses should make sure to take time for self-care to preserve their mental health. This is a stressful time for everyone, so don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues with questions and for support. Failing to make an effort to cope with these rapid changes can have a negative impact on personal wellness and patient care.
What about a nurse’s scope of practice? what can nurses do to make sure that they are acting in the scope of practice? What if the facility allows them to do more than their own state? Does their scope of practice relate to the state they’re in or the one they’re licensed in, or both?
As the COVID-19 crisis rapidly evolves, travel nurses may be given patient assignments outside of their typical practice areas and locations. When faced with situations that exceed the scope of practice for the state in which they are practicing, or the skills or knowledge required to care for patients, travel nurses, like all other nurses, should develop and implement proactive strategies to alleviate unsafe patient assignments. Nurses need to advocate for patient safety and for their nursing license by speaking up if an assignment does not fall under their scope of practice.
When the assignment is within a nurse’s scope of practice, but not within their realm of experience or training, saying “no” to the assignment could lead to dismissal. At the same time, if the nurse does not feel they are equipped to handle the assignment, they could potentially put patient safety at risk. In these scenarios, nurses should tell their supervisor that they have very limited experience in that area and should not be left in charge. The nurse should describe the task or assignment they don’t feel equipped to handle, the reason for their feelings, and the training they would need to be more confident and better prepared.
What changes have occurred during COVID-19 regarding travel nurses and the risks they face that you think should be permanent either for the near future or forever?
Currently, there are certain state and federal regulations, declarations, and orders that extend liability immunity in the fight against COVID-19. What’s not clear at this time is the breadth and scope of these regulations and orders.
For example, it is not clear if these orders and declarations extend to all providers in all areas of service or if such immunity will be limited and specific to certain types of health care providers. Since there is lack of clarity in terms of immunity, it is prudent for nurses to not presume they have any immunity.
Further, plaintiff’s counsel can file a lawsuit, immunity or no immunity, if the plaintiff’s counsel believes the client was injured and that injury was the direct result of the nurse or other health care professional providing or failing to provide professional services. In the best-case scenario, the suit brought against the nurse will be deemed baseless and their malpractice insurer will work to get the suit dropped/dismissed.
Is there any other information that is important for our readers to know?
The COVID-19 pandemic is still evolving, and there is much we still do not know about the virus. All nurses should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates and guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus and protect themselves and their patients.
With visitors being banned at most hospitals and health care facilities because of the spread of the coronavirus, nurses are often now one of the only contacts that patients have. So how can you help keep your patients calm during this scary time?
Dr. Judi Kuric, academic coordinator for Walden University’s MSN Gerontology Acute Care NP program, and a nurse practitioner board-certified in adult-gerontology, family, and emergency care. She took the time to answer our questions about keeping your patients as calm as possible.
What are the easiest things that nurses can do to help keep patients calm?
Nurses should keep patients informed about their status and treatment plan. There are a lot of scary stories circulating that can increase a patient’s fears about their own condition. Clear, simple, and individualized information will help allay a patient’s fears.
Set expectations and next steps for the patient each day. Identify one or two daily goals to help the patient understand their priorities for the day. Goals could include exercising their lungs by expanding them hourly or walking around the room three times daily.
Provide meaningful distractions such as favorite television shows, movies, or music to entertain and engage the patient and decrease anxiety.
What are some tips that nurses can use to keep patients calm on a daily basis?
Hospital routines and activities like repeatedly checking a patient’s vital signs can increase their stress. Counteract this by providing reassurance on their physical status. Give feedback when their status is stable or better. If a patient’s physical status is worse, help them understand the plan for improvement. Provide ways patients can help themselves and involve them in developing goals. These can be as simple as taking 10 full, slow, and deep breaths every 30 minutes.
Many facilities are playing uplifting songs or classical music throughout the hospital or unit several times a day.
Encourage contact with family and friends using social media.
What can nurses say to patients?
Open, honest, and calm communication is always best. A patient’s imagination can add to their fears about complications or outcomes that may not apply to them. Engage patients in discussions about their fears and try to address each one. Build continuing and meaningful dialogue with the patient by asking them about a family member, a favorite vacation, or their hobbies. This helps you learn more about the patient and also engages them in positive memories.
How should nurses act around them to keep them calm? Confident? Use calming voices?
The stress nurses are feeling has increased in the pandemic. The pandemic means nurses are providing higher levels of care that require additional equipment, procedures, and safety measures. Restrictions on visitors mean nurses must strive to fill the void for conversation, compassion, and smaller tasks that comfort patients.
Avoid passing on your own stress and anxiety. Try to refocus as you enter each patient’s room; use a calm voice, and make sure your activities seem unhurried. Don’t talk with patients about your stresses.
Nurses need to take care of themselves. If your stress level is lower, you’ll be less likely to pass on your worries to patients.
What can nurses encourage family and friends to do to help the patients stay calm and more relaxed? Write letters? Use social media? Facetime?
Now is the perfect time to use social media. Have set times for family members to video chat with the patient, and ask loved ones to send emails or post on social media. If hospital policy allows it, provide the patient with pictures and letters.
It’s important to encourage families to be calm and use their interaction time with the patient to be positive and supportive. This isn’t the time to detail all the anxiety they are feeling or the stressful things happening at home.
In many states, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can open their own practices. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Here’s how to decide and, if you choose to, the types of actions you’ll need to take.
When Scharmaine Lawson, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, had been a nurse for 15 years, she had worked in many different specialties. One of her favorites was home care. In fact, it was her passion.
“I wanted to help my community, and a physician approached me about starting my own clinic/housecall service. It was a ‘right time/right place’ moment,” she recalls.
Lawson ended up founding a VIP housecall practice, Advanced Clinical Consultants in Louisiana, which has been successful for the last 15 years. She also penned Amazon’s number one house call book, Housecalls 101: The Only Book You’ll Need to Start Your Housecall Practice. Finally, she’s designed a course called Housecalls 101, in which she teaches other clinicians how to start and maintain a successful home visit program. Since 2008, Lawson says she has trained more than 600 nurses on how to do this themselves.
“When the opportunity presented itself, it was a natural fit in an environment I felt comfortable operating in,” says Lawson. “Plus, I saw the community need and felt I could best be a servant leader. At the end of the day, the ability to serve is my superpower. It’s an honor that I don’t take lightly.”
Should You Open a Practice?
As Lawson says—and as do our other sources—first, you need to find your passion. You also need to decide if this is something you really can do. “Opening your own practice takes guts, time, and dedication. If you’re missing any of those, it’s not worth it,” says Graig Straus, DNP(c), APRN, CEN, FF-NREMT, founder and owner of Rockland Urgent Care Family Health NP in New York. “I always knew that I wanted to be my own boss, make my own rules, and care for my patients on my own terms. Having that desire really drove me to the point of wanting to open my own business.”
While fulfilling, opening and running your own business isn’t easy. “Nurse practitioners should only open their own practices if they want all the things that go along with owning any business: bookkeeping, marketing, networking, hiring/firing, social media, etc.,” says Bradley A. Bigford, MSN, APRN, NP-C, CCHP, founder and owner of Table Rock Mobile Medicine, PLLC in Idaho. “If they like working 9-5 jobs, owning their own businesses likely isn’t for them. They have to put in long days and nights, weekends, and holidays.”
If you’re up to the task, the next step is to determine what kind of impact you want to have on your community and profession, while making sure that what you want to do matches up with a need in the area you want to serve. “It was a simple decision for me,” says Maurice D. Graham, DNP(c), MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, CEO of Graham Medical Group, a concierge medical practice in Maryland. “As an African American male, [I know that] we are often undertreated for health care issues, accompanied with the fact that African American men do not seek routine screenings and prevention.”
Ask yourself tough, but important, questions. Melanie Balestra, JD, NP, MN, of the Law Offices of Melanie Balestra, is a lawyer and an NP and has been working with other NPs in a legal capacity to help them set up their own practices for more than 25 years. She says you should ask yourself some of the following questions:
What are the goals of opening your own practice?
Where will it be located?
What will be the focus of it?
Will you take insurances or be cash based?
Will you need support help?
Will you be taking out a loan? If so, where will you apply for one?
Will you be able to function in the red for at least a year?
“The biggest challenge is that it does not happen overnight,” says Balestra. “The NP needs patience and be able to evaluate what might not be going right in the practice. This is why location is important. Collections can be a nightmare, so it’s important to have a good billing and collection service. The biggest mistake is expecting overnight success, and then when it does not happen, giving up.”
What to Do First
The first thing you need to do if you plan to open your own practice is to develop a business plan, says Balestra. “If you are in a state that requires a supervising physician, make sure you have him/her on board. When this is done, hire an attorney who has experience with setting up NP businesses and understands the laws of your state. Hire an accountant to work with the lawyer on setting up the best entity for you legally and tax wise,” she explains. Have several office spaces in mind and make sure they are zoned for medical practices. If you need a loan to start business, it may be a personal loan but a note can be written so that the business pays back the loan.”
Do your research. “Nobody should just open a practice for the sake of opening one without any research into their idea or doing market analysis,” says Lawson. “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Bigford stresses that you also need to talk with your family. “It takes a buy-in from everyone because of the significant work it takes from everyone involved and their loved ones to pick up their slack,” he says.
As for how long it will take—for our sources, it took anywhere from four months to two years before they opened their practices.
Straus says that after you incorporate, you should also get a group NPI number—this is different from the personal one you would have gotten when you initially began practicing. “This establishes your company as an organization capable of being recognized by CMS,” he says. He then went and spoke with his local Industrial Development Agency to determine what tax breaks and industry connections he could get. “This will help to reduce costs and potentially hasten any permits needed to build a practice. These are quasi-governmental agencies who have the ability to lessen the tax burden placed on you in the initial stages of opening a business. The goal of these agencies is to promote sustainable businesses and help support local communities.”
You’ll also need insurance—for yourself and your business. “Insurance is a necessity prior to your business opening,” says Emily Keller Rockwell, RN, MSN, CRNP, owner and founder of The Montchanin Center for Facial Aesthetics in Delaware. “Without question, have a detailed meeting with your insurance agent, discussing your business in detail—making sure they understand all aspects of your business and will provide the adequate coverage and limits to protect you and your business.” A few kinds of insurance to discuss, she says, are property, liability, errors and omissions coverage, umbrella, and disability, among others.
Some of our sources didn’t hire staff—at least for the first year. “Staffing depends on the volume of business being generated,” says Graham. “My first year, I didn’t hire anyone. I did all my administration duties and cared for my patients. My goal was to keep my overhead as low as possible without lowering the level of care given to my patients. This worked out well for me.”
Rockwell also waited a year to hire an assistant. Now she has three and a full-time publicist. “I am able to do speaking engagements, conduct trainings, and attend training events to further my professional knowledge,” she says.
If your type of practice requires that you have staff from the beginning, Balestra says to know what you’re looking for in attitude, skill level, and personality.
Bigford says that “Hiring non-revenue generating staff should be kept at a minimum.” When you hire anyone, he suggests that you find people who have a good work ethic. “Someone personable, easy going, and friendly is important,” says Straus.
Once you’ve determined your business, you may need to find a place. (Obviously, if you choose to have a house call business, you don’t need a brick-and-mortar office.)
“Think about the services you want to offer and the space you need to do it in,” says Straus. His urgent care facility needed a lot more resources than a primary care office. “I specifically met with architects who specialize in medical offices to help determine the size and capabilities of the space, based on my needs.”
Graham had one large room that included his own personal desk as well as all the equipment he needed to conduct assessments and provide routine care to his patients.
Rockwell says that when designing your space, keep your clients’ need in mind. “Design a warm, comfortable waiting area to keep patients relaxed,” she says.
All our sources say that you must have a website. Even if it doesn’t bring clients in directly, they will want to look at it to get information about you and the kinds of services you offer.
Don’t discount word of mouth. This can be one of your best marketing tools.
Social media is your friend. Learn how to use it. If you don’t know how, hire someone who does.
When using social media, decide which is best for you. For Rockwell, Instagram has brought her the most clients. Bigford says to go where your core consumers are. His are on Facebook and Instagram. “Post every single day. Go to Facebook groups. Facebook and Instagram ads work really well for me to build trust,” he says.
Straus suggests having “coming soon” ads before you actually open to build up curiosity. “Ads in local papers that cater to your community could be beneficial,” he says. He adds that advertising in church newsletters, school calendars, and through the police athletic leagues—any organization that involves your community—can be beneficial to your business.
Our sources also stress getting patients/clients to give you reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook. High ratings attract new consumers.
Before you start your own business, there’s still more to know. “Get experience elsewhere first,” says Bigford. “If you’re trying to learn to be an NPand start your own business, you’re going to struggle at both.” He also suggests that you get traction with patients. It took Bigford about a year to get a steady stream of patients and referrals. “If you have a high overhead in the beginning, you can go out of business before you even see your first patient,” he cautions.
Be sure that you know how to properly manage your time. That was Rockwell’s biggest challenge. “I wanted to see and help every patient who inquired,” she recalls. “I quickly found out that I needed to manage my work time and personal time equally. As with anything in life, you need to reboot or you will burn out. Schedule yourself into your schedule!”
Look for a mentor. “NPs should look for a mentor or someone who has already established a clinic, and pick their brain. That’s what I did,” says Graham.
Have enough money to get you through. “In jobs that rely on insurance, payments are delayed. You do not simply offer a service and get paid the exact moment of exchange. A claim has to be made, filed, and processed. Then payment is issued per contracts,” says Straus. “A solid 4-6 months of cash on hand to cover expenses is needed while you establish your practice, build clientele, and await the beginning of insurance reimbursements.”
Despite all the hard work and sacrifice needed to run your own practice, our sources wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lawson’s biggest reward in having her own practice? “Complete autonomy,” she says. “It is the biggest entrepreneurial superpower.”
Disclaimer: This story is meant to give general advice. For specific individual advice on starting your own business, be sure to consult a lawyer, an accountant, and other professionals.