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Adaptability, organization, and communication are among the skills you bring to patient care every day and are some of the same qualities that can help you succeed away from the hospital as a nurse entrepreneur.

Nurses have a variety of traits that qualify them for an entrepreneurial path. For one thing, “nurses are the best problem solvers, and that’s a quality that will take them quite far regardless of their setting,” says Michelle Podlesni, RN, president of the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA), said to be the only nursing organization dedicated to nursing entrepreneurs.

“Nurses have a lot of qualities very similar to what entrepreneur qualities are across the board,” said Podlesni during an interview. Podlesni has compared the traits of RNs and the characteristics of entrepreneurs. She says nurses have excellent communication skills, can prioritize, know how to organize, and are adaptable. In addition, they have sound judgment, dedication, and a commitment to continuing education.

“Serial Entrepreneur”

Podlesni’s path offers a study in becoming a nurse entrepreneur. She started as a Navy corpsman, then attended nursing school and worked as an ICU nurse. She then transitioned to a case management position with an insurance firm. After that, she worked in various other companies, winding up in executive management.

She subsequently started her own senior care company and became an author, speaker, coach, and consultant, becoming president of NNBA in 2014. In addition, she contributed a chapter to the Springer book Evidence-Based Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Nursing and Healthcare. “I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for years,” she says.

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COVID’s Impact on Nurse Entrepreneurs

As might be expected, COVID has sparked additional interest in nurse entrepreneurship. “We definitely have gotten a lot more interest and membership growth,” says Podlesni.

In 2013, she wrote “UNconventional Nurse: Going From Burnout to Bliss!” Then, 30% of nurses were considered burned out, she says. Now, 50% of nurses are looking to leave, she says, pointing to a recent survey with that finding.

Conversations Podlesni has with nurses about COVID take two forms. The first is the nurse who is looking to do something different. The second is with business owners who need help dealing with the impacts of the pandemic on their businesses. Podlesni says she saw nurse entrepreneurs take advantage of legislation allowing more use of telehealth because of COVID.

Types of Businesses

Consulting services rank as the top type of business for nurse entrepreneurs notes Podlesni. “It’s unbelievable the knowledge and experience nurses have that translates so well to providing consulting services, depending on the specialty they’re involved in.”

Education and training represent another big area for nurse entrepreneurship. Elder care is a further area of opportunity, she notes. She says that with insufficient facilities available to care for those over age 65, how seniors will age in place and maintain their health provides an “endless array of services” in the senior care market. Other popular areas for entrepreneurship include mental health and wellness; holistic nursing; informatics; and legal nurse consulting.

Getting Started as a Nurse Entrepreneur

Nurses, notes Podlesni, need to be mindful of the business aspects of healthcare, including such areas as technology, legislation, and socioeconomics. Such awareness can alert them to opportunities. “Nurses just becoming more aware and understanding that they have potential to practice independently as they choose” is important, she notes.

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Achieving Autonomy

Nurse entrepreneurship involves “nurses understanding and believing in themselves, that they can create a business and independence that allows them to have the lifestyle they choose to lead,” says Podlesni. “I think that’s what most nurses want. They want more autonomy.”

Louis Pilla
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