As nurses, we all know that the only thing to expect during our shifts is the unexpected. Especially with the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve seen this to be especially true. As a result of my nursing career, I’ve learned to roll with the punches, which particularly came in handy as I transitioned to the business side of the field.
When I first became a nurse, I never dreamed of starting my own staffing agency. After several years of working as a long-term care nurse in assisted living facilities around the country, a few fellow nurses gave me the idea. I was told by colleagues and supervisors that I had a knack for managing the team, and those simple acts of encouragement gave me the push I needed. Ever since then, it’s been a rollercoaster ride and a ton of on-the-job training. In honor of Nurses Week, I’ve compiled six key learnings from my experience as a nurse turned business owner.
1. You won’t have much time to be a nurse
While I will always be a nurse at heart, I am now very much a businesswoman. At first, I continued to work as a traveling nurse as I was afraid to give all my time to this endeavor – I still had many bills to pay and picking up extra shifts gave me steady income. Eventually, I hit a tipping point as I was completely overwhelmed, which wasn’t healthy. Now I run the company’s operations and spend most of my time in an office. While I love it, it’s a huge transition from being a nurse but the core of providing care for others is still there and that passion is what keeps me going.
2. Fail quickly, but never give up
Going from a nurse to a business owner was a tough transition, and I almost quit on more than one occasion. But I knew I had to keep going for my community, and I realized I’m passionate about providing jobs for other nurses. Hearing from those nurses and seeing the bigger picture helped me put one foot in front of the other, no matter the barriers I hit. Once I took the leap of faith and gave my business 100%, I’ve never looked back.
3. You’ll have to make an investment to grow
Facilities usually have 30-60 days to pay their invoices, while most nurses are paid on a weekly basis. The startup money I had went quickly, which meant I had to get creative with funding solutions. I had trouble getting a traditional bank loan, but instead came across an alternative financing company called FundThrough, which I still use today to keep my nurses paid and help bridge the gap between invoices.
4. Keep track of your books
When I first started, one of the hardest things I had to learn was the financial side of the business. Because I’ve never run a company before starting Nurses at Heart, I didn’t know the best way to track my expenses and income. When it came time to file my taxes, I realized I needed help and enlisted an accountant who showed me how to use QuickBooks. Now we meet every three months to review the books together and ensure everything is on track. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses as a business leader and get the help you need from other professionals.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
I realized quickly that I can’t do everything on my own. Today, my agency employs more than 100 people spanning two states, which requires a lot of coordination and management on my part. I’ve been lucky to build an incredible team that I lean on daily, but I have to put trust in my team and let them do what I hired them to do.
6. Your nursing experience will always come in handy
From my experience, I’ve found that those running the business side of the staffing agencies often don’t have prior nursing experience. Because I started my career as a nurse, I know how to speak to administrators, other nurses, and patients. I can relate to nurses and understand their unique challenges, while my bedside manner helps me navigate difficult conversations with ease. I’ve found that both my clients and employees respect me because I know how the healthcare system operates. This experience is what helped make my staffing agency stand out from the competition.
As a proud nurse and newfound business owner, I can tell you that making a paradigm shift wasn’t easy. But along the way, I found success and happiness by following my gut and persisting through the tough times. Similar to the characteristics that make a great nurse, business owners also need to stay calm, level-headed and trust their team. You never know what life is going to throw at you, but with your experience and skills as a nurse, you’ve been given training for so many other situations. You can overcome any challenge with perseverance and trust, and by remembering you have an army of supportive nurses behind you.