Nursing Side Gigs: Nursing the Family Farm

Nursing Side Gigs: Nursing the Family Farm

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a nurse’s family farm.

Eileen Shlagel, RN, CEN

For 40 years, Eileen Shlagel, RN, CEN, has worked as a nurse, the last 30 of them in the Emergency Department of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, Maryland.

“I feel honored to be able to work in a career that I love and in a hospital that I love,” says Shlagel, who now works part-time. Another added bonus? Her only daughter also works there.

That’s not Eileen’s only job, though. Since the mid-1980s, Shlagel and her husband have been operating the family farm, Shlagel Farms, LLC. Located in Southern Maryland, Shlagel Farms is a Century Farm—this is a title of recognition given to any farm that has been operating continuously for at least 100 years. Shlagel says that in the state of Maryland, there is a ceremony every couple of years, at which the Governor presents the farmers with a sign and a certificate.

By 1990, the Shlagels had five children, and they would work with their parents every day. Today, they grow many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. They raise cattle, turkeys, chickens, and a few pigs, and also grow horse-quality straw, wheat, and hay. Shlagel says that in addition to operating a farm store, they also sell their goods at 10 Farmers Markets in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. They also provide their produce to two major grocery chains and to a broker who sells supplies to area restaurants.

Shlagel with her grandchildren

Three of her sons work at the farm full-time, and, overall, the farm supports 12 families.

 “I personally take care of the 19 bee hives, go to Farmers Markets, schedule and run the field trips that we host for kids, do payroll, keep the books, schedule the employees, and wash all of the chicken eggs. I’m in charge of the USDA Certified Food Safety Program,” says Shlagel. “When you live on a farm, you work there full time. There is always something that needs to be done—from first thing in the morning until dark.”

Shlagel believes that people would be surprised how scientific farming is. “It’s so much more than putting a seed in a hole and giving it water. We attend classes every winter to learn the latest techniques, updates, and legislative issues that could impact our business from the USDA, FDA, or the Maryland Department of Agriculture,” Shlagel explains. “A farmer must be a biologist, a chemist, a vet, a careful money manager, and you have to be really adept at prioritizing. You can do everything right, but if it’s at the wrong time, it’s worthless. Timing is everything.”

The most rewarding part of the job for Shlagel is spending time with three of her sons as well as her 13 grandchildren. “It’s rewarding teaching them how to complete jobs that will make them feel successful and proud of themselves. Recently, I took three of them to the green bean field to pick a mess for dinner. They picked them and snapped the ends off and then we cooked them together and they ate them for dinner. Additionally, I love to show them all of the beauty in nature. We take walks around the farm, and we might spot a frog or a snake or a turtle and we talk about it and then they research it later,” says Shlagel.

The Shlagel Apiary

The greatest challenge that Shlagel has faced on the farm was learning to care for and expand their Apiary. “I took a class and read two books, but that in no way prepares you to be surrounded by 50,000 stinging insects! I had assumed incorrectly that you put them in a box, and they go pollinate and everything is lovely,” admits Shlagel. “They require inspections every two weeks, which still take me five to six hours. You have to make adjustments in their living area, give them water and food in the winter, and make sure their Queen is alive and happy. Most of what could go wrong, did for me in the first year, but I have learned to fix the problems before they get bad. And I have certainly learned to take a sting!

Even though she worked two full-time jobs for many years—nursing and farming—Shlagel says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love every single day that I go to work at the hospital, and I am very happy at home, working outside with my family.”

Nursing Side Gigs: Jax Nurses Buy Houses

Nursing Side Gigs: Jax Nurses Buy Houses

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight Jax Nurses Buy Houses (JNBH).

More than 10 years ago, when they were still in nursing school, Chris McDermott, MSN, APRN, AGNP-C and Joshua Rodenborn, BSN, were discussing the idea of starting Jax Nurses Buy Houses (JNBH). They founded the company in 2019 with friend Sunny Kapadia, as a way to build a portfolio of rentals for retirement as well as a chance for them to give back to their community. As life-long natives of Jacksonville and seeing multiple areas for improvement there, they made it their social mission to donate a portion of our proceeds to medical care and research.

McDermott works full-time in private practice in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Kapadia, although not a nurse, is a specialist in the health care field, coordinating physician groups within the greater Jacksonville area. Finally, Joshua Rodenborn is an Intensive Care and Post-Anesthesia nurse in a major hospital in Jacksonville, Florida as well as a managing member of Jax Nurses Buy Houses.

McDermott and Rodenborn told us all about their business.

Explain what Jax Nurses Buy Houses is—what do you do?

JNBH acquires residential properties through traditional or distressed sale. Often, we help sellers who perhaps inherited a property or just want to sell fast to someone reputable and honest. Distressed sales include properties we acquire at foreclosure or tax deed auctions. We will analyze a property and determine if it is a good fit for our rental portfolio, renovate and retail, or wholesale.

Do you personally rehab houses or do you subcontract out?

When first starting out, it was “all hands on deck.” As we have continued to scale our operations, we have subcontracted work to skilled contractors. DIY sounds romantic and lets you keep more profit; however, it is near-impossible to scale up a business this way. And your results may not be a professional-level quality. We learned early on that building a team is the key to success (and much less stress).

What do you like most about your business?

It is rewarding to take a home that is the biggest eyesore in a neighborhood and bring it back to life, turning it into affordable housing. It’s one thing to talk about transforming a neighborhood; it is a whole other thing to literally do it yourself through your own will from start to finish. 

There is a double pay-off: the satisfaction of being your own boss in a well-run business and the satisfaction of improving a piece of this city, one brick at a time.

What would readers be surprised to know about your side gig?

Joshua, while working as a nurse, actually cared for the wife of a rental applicant months before he applied. It’s surprising how small the world is sometimes.

What have been some of your most challenging experiences with your side gig?

There is a saying, you can have a job good, fast, or cheap, but you can only pick two. For example: If you want a job done good and fast it won’t be cheap. Another example, if you want a job done cheap and fast it won’t be good.

Challenging experiences include dealing with and selecting contractors, while staying on schedule. We’ve had contractors not show or even do something incorrectly—once damaging our air conditioner in our newly renovated home.

Spend your time vetting and getting to know your contractors and vendors of materials.

What have been some of your best experiences/greatest rewards with your side gig?

The relationship the founding members have built with each other is one of the most unexpected and rewarding things that have come. Early morning breakfast—where we divvy up the tasks and plan our next move—have become a welcome staple in our COVID-restricted social world.

Another experience: We were able to help a prospective tenant move from a crime-ridden area (shooting occurred outside/bullets struck her headboard) into a newly renovated home in a matter of days. 

What have you learned from having this business?

Formulate a plan and have multiple exit options. It may sound trite, but not having a plan is a plan to fail. With all of us working full-time jobs and having full-time families, it has been imperative that we all stay on the same page through the acquisition, renovation, and disposition process. We each rely on one another to complete our roles through each step of the process.

Jumping into real estate is like a very complex ICU patient with multiple variables that are interdependent on each other. If you are starting down this journey (“I wanna be a real estate investor!”) you need to build a team to be successful. Think of needing to call a consult at midnight, and you know they will respond. Now think of this as plumber for a pipe that just burst. Additionally, you need to be organized and know your cost and expenses for each project.

Is there anything else that is important for our readers to know?

Stay positive and remain adaptable to your conditions. With COVID-19, we have suffered delays with acquisitions of new properties and our local county courts. There will always be a hiccup along the way, and you never know what’s going to happen. Don’t take it too personally, never kick yourself when you’re down, and get back up and keep trying. You have to feel success in your bones.

Nursing Side Gigs: Working as a Photographer

Nursing Side Gigs: Working as a Photographer

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a photographer.

Boxter and her family
Credit: MB Photography

By day, Shannon Lynn Boxter, RN, works as a travel nurse at Duke University Medical Center, in the COVID ICU and at the University of North Carolina in their Cardiothoracic ICU. But in her spare time, she captures beautiful images of clients through her side gig—a photography business.

Boxter got started with photography when she was in nursing school and needing a creative outlet. Armed with a small digital camera, she began experimenting on shooting at different angles. “I guess the bug bit me then,” she admits.

At the time, she offered tons of free shoots. When she graduated from nursing school, she purchased her first semi-professional DSLR camera.

Credit: Shannon Lynn Photography

Her photography business, Shannon Lynn Photography, was started as a passion project. “I wanted to document my friends and family. However, I was so intrigued with how other photographers captured beautiful images that I wanted to know more,” says Boxter. “I taught myself everything I could about lighting and shooting. I offered my services for free and was a second shooter for photographer friends. I learned so much! Most of all, I have been perfecting my style and who I want to be as a photographer for the last six years.”

As for the type of photography she does, Boxter says she identifies most with photographing families and couples. “Anything that has a promise of an adventure is something I’m interested in documenting. I think the process of finding your style is very complex and directly tied to who you are as an individual,” she explains.

While she’s mostly self-taught, Boxter enjoys learning and continuing her photography education. She says that she still gets excited at each shoot because she knows that she’ll be providing her clients with lasting memories.

Credit: Shannon Lynn Photography

“It renews my faith to see a baby being born or a couple so in love during an engagement shoot,” she says. And even a young family member seems to be following in her footsteps. “My little boy, who’s almost four, has developed an interest in taking pictures and he now has his own little digital camera. It’s adorable to watch his eyes light up when he captures something new.” 

“I love the creative freedom photography allows. I feel free when it’s just me and my camera. I find it a challenge to capture the in-between moments and identify as a lifestyle photographer; I give prompts and let the moment be what it is,” says Boxter. 

There’s another reason that Boxter loves photography. She also fosters dogs through Cause for Paws. “A good photo of a rescue dog is so important for future adopters to see,” she says. “I really enjoy being able to use my photography to help these dogs find forever homes.”

Pro Boxer Kim Clavel to Receive Tillman Award for Elder Care Nursing in Pandemic

Pro Boxer Kim Clavel to Receive Tillman Award for Elder Care Nursing in Pandemic

She may have left some male sparring partners with broken noses, but Canadian pro boxer Kim Clavel spent most of her twenties balancing pugilism with shifts as a nurse on a maternity ward. Nursing was a side-gig, though, and in August 2019 she started to fight full-time, winning the North American Boxing Federation female light flyweight title in December.

The novel coronavirus outbreak happened just as Clavel’s boxing career was ascending. As she was training for her first-ever main event in Montreal, the match was cancelled owing to the pandemic. Her intense disappointment, however, did not blind her to the urgent needs of the population most vulnerable to the virus. Clavel readily threw herself back into nursing and spent the next three months working night shifts at elderly and retirement care centers. Owing to the shortage of nurses, she often worked overtime. In an interview, Clavel told the Montreal Gazette that providing care during the outbreak was “really hard psychologically. Those old people feel alone. They’re sad. Some of them don’t understand the (COVID-19) situation, so they don’t want to stay in their rooms… We have to play nurse and psychologist at the same time.”

At the June 21 ESPYS, Clavel will receive the Pat Tillman Award. When ESPN made the announcement, Clavel stated, “It is an honor to receive the Pat Tillman Award on behalf of all the health care workers battling COVID-19 on the frontlines. Just as Pat put his NFL career on hold to serve his country, I felt the same duty to serve my community. Although recently I have pursued my dream of boxing, helping people is my passion and I’m proud to be able to make a difference.” Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, commented, “In spite of the dangers from COVID and delays to her budding boxing career, Kim chose to focus her energy on those most in need. In Pat’s name, we are honored to present the Tillman Award to Kim for her service and leadership in her healthcare work and throughout this crisis.”

For more details on Kim Clavel’s return to nursing, click here for the full story on the ESPN site.

Nursing Side Gigs: Children’s Book Author

Nursing Side Gigs: Children’s Book Author

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a children’s book author.

Children's book author Scharmaine Lawson
Dr. Lawson

When Scharmaine Lawson, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, was looking around to find children’s books that both talked about the role of Advanced Practice Nurses and included children from various cultures, she was disappointed.

She couldn’t find any.

So Lawson took charge and decided to write and publish some of her own. In 2015, the first book in her series of Nola the Nurse books was published under the publishing company she established, A DrNurse Publishing House.

To date, Lawson has published 17 books, for children ages 4 to 8, with 15 of them being about Nola.

“I felt it was important to show the role of the Advanced Practice Nurse. I felt like our children needed to see what these frontline professionals do and be able to at least pronounce their titles,” Lawson explains. “It was equally important for me to create culturally sensitive literary works for the new generation of future health care professionals.”

Lawson admits that she never had a desire to be an author. In fact, she was actually searching for books for her newborn daughter that talked about Mommy’s work and had characters that looked like her. But when she realized that there weren’t any books of that kind for an older age group, she knew she needed to step up.

“Our books are the only children’s books that introduce children to the world of Advanced Practice Nursing, foster cultural sensitivity, and provide authentic cultural recipes to the reader at the end of each story. Nola learns about a new culture in each story, and they eat a special meal from that featured culture at the end of every story,” says Lawson.

Currently, she is finishing up the “Germ Series.” Lawson explains that the series talks about all the germs around us, including the coronavirus. “It’s a new format, and I’m excited about it,” she says.

Lawson admits that she’s always writing and publishes a new title every quarter. “We are constantly expanding the brand and looking to add animation in the near future,” she says. “Children need more options for careers, and they need this information early. The sooner, the better.”

Nursing Side Gigs: Actress, Director, and Scream Queen

Nursing Side Gigs: Actress, Director, and Scream Queen

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight an actress/director/scream queen.

As a nurse for more than 20 years, Sheri Davis, RN, has worked in a variety of settings: hospitals, the medical device industry, and as an aesthetics nurse with Kalologie MedSpa primarily at the Thousand Oaks location in California, where she works now as a master injector and trainer.

But on the side? She’s a scream queen.

(If you don’t know what a scream queen is, it’s an actress who has performed in a lot of horror movies.)

“To date, I’ve been in around 70 films,” says Davis. While they’re not only horror—she’s appeared in and worked on dramas, thrillers, sci-fi, family films, and comedies—she’s worked on horror films the most. And Davis has won a lot of awards for her work.

“The first film that I directed, ‘Hair of the Dog,’ is actually a film about alcoholism and domestic violence. That film has won numerous awards and continues to do so in the film festival circuit,” explains Davis. “We have won in pretty much all categories including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Thriller, Best in Fest, Audience Choice Award, etc.”

Davis got started in acting when her oldest daughter was working as a child actress and model. Often, Davis was on the set, in acting classes, or at auditions with her. Although she describes herself at the time as self-conscious and shy, Davis learned so much from being on the set, and she loved it. So she decided to give it a shot.

As a single mom of two daughters—one of whom is away at college and the other who has autism and lives with Davis—she says that the most difficult part of her side gig is finding the time. “It is pretty difficult to juggle everything in my life,” says Davis. “I have to stay extremely organized with my time and be disciplined. I have had to learn to really balance everything.”

In her typical work week, Davis says that she works three days at her nursing job and then spends the other days working in entertainment. Sometimes, that will flip-flop, and she’ll work four or five days in nursing and a couple on films. “Every break and every morning and night before and after work, I am answering emails, social media messages, and text messages. I’m submitting to projects via casting networks, doing auditions, etc.,” she says. She also has an agent, manager, and publicist.

Scream queen Sheri Davis on set

Something that really ties her nursing job with her side gig is working with special effects. Davis often works with makeup artists on set “to help make sure the special effects makeup looks real. I have seen a lot of really horrible and sad things working in hospitals, especially the emergency room. However, that is a beneficial quality to have on a horror film set,” Davis says. She’s also been able to help set up scenes with different medical devices, such as IV’s, catheters, and various medical equipment—and make sure it’s done properly. Davis assists with making sure that if they call a “code blue,” it happens as it would in real life. She says that making these scenes appear real for the screen are crucial as is making sure that the dialogue is realistic. Davis has even served at the set medic/nurse at times as well.

“There is nothing worse for me than to be watching a medical show and see things are so unrealistic—it makes me crazy!” Davis admits.

Why does she love acting? Davis says that it allows her to become characters that are completely different from who she really is. “Acting allows me to experience an entirely different world. As an actor, I can become anything or anyone, and the roles that I have played have mostly been entirely different from my real life,” she says. “However, being a nurse as well has opened many doors for me in the entertainment world. I have played a nurse, doctor, and been a medical advisor on sets often.”

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