Have you ever seen a problem in the nursing field at work or in nursing school and thought, “I know just what to do to fix that?”
Latoya Smith did. She’s an RN who works with critically ill patients in a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH). She teaches nursing students at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Health and Safety Education Training Center. (She was recognized as “Nurse of the Day” in both houses of the Oklahoma Congress in 2020.)
What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.
How did you develop the idea for teaching nursing students about dosage calculation?
I kept seeing nursing students fail out of nursing school because of dosage calculations! I kept thinking they just needed it to be simple and fun—and then they would do great.
And that’s when I had my Steve Urkel moment and said, “I can do that!”
Why did you decide to start your side gig with this? When did you start it, and how did you go about it? When did you write the book, and why? Do students buy the book to go along with what you teach?
I spent a year writing the book and ensuring all graphics were right. The goal was to make it fun, simple, and bright. It’s a dosage calculation that clicks and sticks! ™And it speaks to nursing students in a way that traditional texts do not.
The book was released in the fall of 2020 during the pandemic when nursing students were forced online, and it was a real struggle for them and nursing instructors, too.
No nursing student should fail dosage calculation.
My curriculum has been adopted by the Health and Safety Education Training Center in Tulsa, OK. I also consult other nursing instructors on the best techniques to teach dosage calculation.
When did you decide to create an app? What’s it called? How did you go about doing it? Is it solely for nursing students? If not, who else would benefit from using it? What does it do?
I created the app because nursing students were asking for it!
Nursing students need an app that is in touch with their needs, speaks to them in their language, and can take it anywhere they go. And the Dose Calc App does all of the above.
I took all of my knowledge and put it into this app. I also have an incredible partner named Carmen, who is building (coding) the app alongside me. What’s fantastic is that Carmen used to be a medication aide. So, both of us together make an excellent team.
The app is for nursing students, nurses, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy students. It’s for anyone who needs to be proficient in drug calculations.
Did you have previous entrepreneurial experience? Or did you learn on the go? Did it take a lot of time or money to establish your business?
I have been learning on the go! What’s pretty awesome is that I use all my nursing skills as an entrepreneur. I did have a business where I created super cute merchandise for nurses, and then I pivoted during Covid and focused solely on helping nursing students.
Do you plan to add anything else to this side gig—in products, speaking/teaching more about dosage calculations, etc.?
Yes! I will be headed to student nursing conferences this fall, so say hi if you see me out there.
I’m writing a pharmacology mnemonic book that will mesh well with The Trap Guide to Nursing Dosage Calculation. And if I am available, I’ll also speak at nursing schools and student nurses’ associations.
What did you enjoy most about your side gig?
The thing I enjoy most is seeing nursing students make that connection! When they finally get it, it’s incredible. I love it so much.
It is a game-changing experience where they realize they can do anything. The confidence and motivation that they receive make my heart so happy!
What are some of the challenges?
I think one of the challenges is getting to nursing students before they’re at the point of failure. I want to help them way before failing on the table.
We need more nurses, and dosage calculation won’t be why they fail if I have anything to do with it!
Another challenge is that I still work full-time for three 12-hour weekly shifts. It can be challenging, but this is my purpose and passion, so I power through.
What are the most significant rewards of having your side gig?
My biggest reward is doing something I love and am good at.
I have been tutoring and teaching students since college. It is a gift, and I am so thankful for it. I am energized and fulfilled by what I do. This is so cliche, but it doesn’t feel like work when you love what you do!
What would you say to someone considering starting their side gig?
I recommend: DO IT! And I mean right now. Take whatever you have and get to work.
Too often, we wait for the right time, situation, or amount of funds. This is it for any nurse on the fence or waiting for a sign to start their side gig. Start your side gig today!
Anything else to share?
Readers need to know that nurses must be expert and confident calculators.
We are the line of defense between the patient and medication administration error. Dosage calculation is an integral part of what we do, and there is no shame if you need a little help learning dosage calculation after graduating.
Nursing is the future! Look out for nurses changing the game in all arenas all over the world!