Nursing Side Gigs: Online Studies and Focus Groups

Nursing Side Gigs: Online Studies and Focus Groups

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a nurse who participates in online studies and focus groups.


As his full-time job, Charles Prendergast, BSN, RN, works as a registered nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. But in his spare time, he has a side gig, participating in online studies and focus groups.

We asked him about his part-time work so that other nurses can learn about it too.

How did you get interested in doing online studies and focus groups? When you do an online study, what exactly does that involve? With a focus group, same thing.

I have been participating in online studies and focus groups for five years. I became interested in online studies and focus groups when a nurse colleague of mine introduced me to Focus Insite, and I started following them on their social media platforms.  

When I am chosen to do an online study, I am contacted through email with very detailed, but clear, instructions on how the study will be performed. Once I receive and reply to the initial email, the next steps are given to me on how a study will be carried out.

Online studies are very reliable and easy to do because they are done at your convenience at home.

With a focus group, they start with a similar email and are followed up with a time that you choose and a date that works for you! The locations are convenient and are in or close to metropolitan areas. Once a date and time are agreed upon, I travel to the location and complete the survey.  

How often can you participate in online studies and/or focus groups? How much time does each tend to take up? For focus groups, are they being done virtually right now?   

I can participate in multiple online studies and focus groups in a year. How many studies I participate in depends upon if you fit the criteria the surveyor is looking for. This past year I have participated in about 10 studies and have made a considerable profit. Each study takes roughly one hour to complete. Some studies are two-day surveys and usually are less than two hours total. Some studies are being done at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic and they are very easy to do! All supplies are shipped to your home and all you need is your computer to hook up the camera they supply and a video Zoom call takes place walking you through each step.  

What types of surveys do you do? Can you give me a ballpark idea of what they’re about? What kinds of topics they cover?  

Primarily, I complete medical studies. Qualitative market research is my focus. They range from numerous topics from injection devices, nursing concepts and ideas, to new drugs on the market. Comparing new products to the medical field to products in use now is a fun and easy way to make money for your own opinion! 

If nurses are interested in getting involved in this kind of work, what would you suggest they do? What kind of fee can they expect to make for each survey or focus group?    

If you are interested in getting involved with focus groups and surveys I would suggest following @focus_insite and @getpaidmedical on Instagram and Facebook. Go to their web page www.focusinsite.com and sign up to part of their mailing list to hear about new and innovative market research studies. Once you sign up for their mailing list and complete your profile, they will reach out to you via email and/or phone call. Compensation is very generous for these surveys and each study pays roughly $250+ for an hour’s worth of your time. They will also compensate you for parking costs if needed.  

Why do you enjoy doing online surveys/focus groups? What do you get out of it beside the money?  

Besides earning some serious cash, I enjoy participating in market research studies because it keeps me up-to-date on the latest new equipment and nursing concepts that will be coming to our field. Being able to give you opinion on how a product looks, feels, and performs before it is distributed to the market is incredible, and you can say you had a lasting impact on products that you and your colleagues will use every day.  

Lastly, I would like to recognize Focus Insite Group for giving me an opportunity to express my ideas and opinions on products I use in my professional career. The Focus Insite employees are always professional, helpful, reliable, and respectful. They are a pleasure to work with to get you set up with making a little extra income and provide you with a pleasurable experience. A relationship with Focus Insite is key to long term success!  

Nursing Side Gigs: A Model Nurse

Nursing Side Gigs: A Model Nurse

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


When Sara Marlow Hunt, DNP, FNP-C, was just 12 years old, she wanted to get into acting. So when Barbizon Modeling opened a branch and offered classes near her home, her parents signed her up.

Sara Marlow Hunt, DNP, FNP-C

“It taught me about self-care, skincare, exercise, and how to break into modeling and acting. I wasn’t really interested in modeling at the time, but was told modeling was often a stepping stone to acting,” recalls Hunt. Soon after, Barbizon signed her as a model at their agency, and she got her first paid modeling gigs. At age 13, she signed with Cast Images Talent Agency, a larger modeling agency and began taking more acting classes and going on commercial auditions in addition to modeling/talent castings.

“My first paid job was as a hair model for Sebastian when I was 12,” recalls Hunt. “I loved it so much and was instantly hooked.”

Hunt quickly started working with talent agencies nationwide such as Mitchell Model Management, Soma Models, Coast to Coast, MDT Agency, Renee Godin Agency, and others. She even competed in the Elite Model Search in competition for a $1 million modeling contract and won the regional contest.

Like many other models in the United States, Hunt has a regular “day” job. A Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and licensed Public Health Nurse, Hunt works at MinuteClinic.

In terms of her modeling career, Hunt has been represented by at least one agency since she began. “If you have a professional agency, it’s a good idea to hold on to them because you may not get one again,” explains Hunt.

Maternity shot by Amy Shuman

For the past couple of years, Hunt has been having children, and although she was pregnant at the time of this interview, her agency knows that if an opportunity for a pregnant commercial print of pregnant fit model to keep her in mind. Primarily, Hunt works in Sacramento and San Francisco, California.

Hunt has done runway for brands such as Chaiken, Missoni, Dockers, and Levi’s; fitness modeling for Nautilus Fitness Equipment; promotional modeling for Pantene, CoverGirl, Olay, Febreze, and Swiffer; and she’s modeled for companies like Zobha and Charlotte Russe.

“I feel really lucky to have been able to work in this industry at all, much less to do crossover work,” says Hunt. “But my favorite is still acting, and I’ve done a couple commercials, music videos, and a short film.”

Hunt says that her biggest challenge in working as a model is that it’s always contract work, so there is no guarantee of work, no benefits of any kind, and you always risk not getting paid.

“It is risky work. If you need a reliable income, modeling and acting are not the way to go,” says Hunt. “Most people have flexible day jobs that allow them to go on castings and auditions. People always forget the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes—auditions, staying fit, audition outfits, flexibility with your time, professional photos, practice—before you even get one job. So, you can go on numerous auditions and still not get a job. Each audition/casting is a gamble and it can get expensive fast. Paying for gas to the audition, parking, commute time, and clean/professional clothes for auditions can rack up fast without a reward. Also, there is always a risk your agency could drop you and you’re out of work.”

Fitness shot by Lisa Keating

Obviously, there are rewards for Hunt. “I think the greatest reward is that it can be very fun, creative, and push you to do things that scare you,” she explains. “I would always get so nervous for runway shows or taping on camera, and I think it has been good for me to overcome those. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many great people.”

Hunt also wants to dispel a stereotype about modeling.

“People only see famous actors and models, but most aren’t and most have regular day jobs” says Hunt. “There is a stereotype that models are vapid and are poorly educated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in my personal experience. Models whom I’ve worked with have are exceptionally bright, hard-working, modest, kind, and business savvy. Some are engineers, some have been doctors, and some went to college, but chose to model full time.”

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.

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