Catie Harris, PhD, MBA, AGACNP, FNP, ANP, and a nurse entrepreneur, knew she loved nursing, but she also knew the crazy schedules weren’t giving her the balance she needed and wanted in her life. Rather than leave nursing, Harris took another look at how she could continue in an industry she loved, but with more control over her schedule, projects, and even her salary.

With her knowledge from a nursing career and a business degree and a lot of innovation, NursePreneurs was born. Harris is determined to help other nurses find a nursing path that suits their needs best.

For National Nurses Week, Harris recently answered a few questions from Minority Nurse about the importance of finding your best path.

Many people, nurses included, overlook the essential business skills nurses bring to the industry. How can nurses determine if an entrepreneurial path is a good match for them?

Nurses are trained in nursing school to be entrepreneurial.  In fact, I relied more heavily on the nursing process to teach me how to run my business than anything I learned from getting my MBA.  That might sound surprising, but the MBA teaches you how to operate within a business, not start one from the ground up. Whereas the nursing process teaches you how to assess a population, diagnose a problem, plan for a desired outcome, intervene with the solution and evaluate the response.  These are the essential business skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Even though every nurse learns this entrepreneurial design in the nursing process, not every nurse wants to become an entrepreneur. There are certain qualities that simply stand out in entrepreneurs such as:

  1. Adaptability – business is inherently risky and unpredictable.  A business rarely becomes successful from the first unaltered idea.  When the idea is floated to an audience, the market decides what it wants and the entrepreneur either adapts the business or risks failing.  An entrepreneur must be flexible enough to adapt to whatever evolution the business needs to go through to evolve and sustain itself. Change is inevitable and an entrepreneur has to be willing to accept it frequently.
  2. Resilience – there will be many failed attempts at starting and scaling a business.  An entrepreneur must see every attempt as an experience and not a failure. No entrepreneur would ever be successful if they focused on all the things that go wrong.  Entrepreneurs must see every obstacle as a challenge to overcome and not a dead-end.
  3. Persistence – Entrepreneurs have to be persistent.  A “no”, simply means your audience doesn’t understand what you are offering and the message needs to be adjusted.  You have to be ok with getting candid answers to the solution your provide. Entrepreneurialism is not for people who attach all their self-worth into a solution or suffer from perfectionism.
  4. Excellence – Entrepreneurs love to over deliver and provide massive value.  They are consumed by learning, growing and sharing their knowledge. The entrepreneurial path is for people who want the freedom to pioneer their own way and decide how to focus their attention and energies.  This is definitely not the space for anyone who needs to follow an agenda.

In what ways can an entrepreneurial nurse make an impact on healthcare policies and industry practices and, of course, patients?

All nurses can make a huge impact on healthcare policies, industry practices and patients.  Being at the bedside, nurses know more than anyone what patients need, want and desire. Nurses are the number 1 trusted profession, and because of that ranking, patients trust us with incredibly sensitive information.  Patients tell us their fears and frustrations about their disease and health conditions. Nurses are in a unique position to use that information to create businesses that serve the patients in a way that benefits them.

Nurses are also keenly aware of how hospital policies and industry standards impact the services provided to patients.  For instance, one of my students is working on a business model that helps cancer treatment centers to educate their staff on how to communicate with patients. There are many questions and concerns that patients have that never get addressed out of embarrassment, worry that they are taking up too much time or being burdensome or because they simply don’t understand what is going on.  This type of business has strong potential to alter how cancer education is delivered in the healthcare system.

What can nurses do to gain business skills and education that will help augment their nursing skills?

Nurses can gain business skills and education through books and online education.  There are many groups out there who are helping nurses to gain the knowledge they need to support their business models.  Investing in seminars, conferences and networking events is also hugely beneficial. Finally, nothing will fast track business success more than finding a mentor who has done what it is that you want to do and start working with that person as early on as possible.

How did you discover this path for your own nursing career?

I have had the entrepreneurial itch for decades!  I also suffered from “bad employee syndrome”, meaning I always wanted to pioneer my job in directions that weren’t exactly in line with what my employer had in mind for me.  I didn’t like being reigned in and having a defined job. I wanted to explore what was possible and continue growing and learning. The only “job” that truly allows this type of occupational freedom is the one you can create for yourself.  I might not have started my business if I found a job with occupational freedom that paid well, but it didn’t exist for me, so I created it.

What makes your role as a nurse entrepreneur so rewarding?

I love seeing the impact of my students on their clients.  When they have success, I celebrate it as if it were my very own.  When you see how your work helps others to help others, it’s incredibly rewarding.  My goal is to help 1000 nurses to start up their businesses in the next 2 years. Imagine the impact of 1000 nurses in business helping others to achieve healthier lifestyles, improved outcomes and live happier lives.  Pursuing my passion, living my purpose and using my talents is what makes being a nurse entrepreneur so rewarding.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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