A new survey from connectRN and The Nursing Beat found half of over 1300 American nurses polled have side hustles outside of nursing to earn extra income. Additionally, nearly half of the new nurses (in the profession for less than three years) plan on transitioning their side hustle to their full-time job. Eight in ten of those nurses have ambitions to start their own businesses.
“It comes as no surprise that nurses are multifaceted and wish to pursue different opportunities. However, the amount of new nurses who surveyed that they plan to leave permanently for their side hustle is alarming. There is an enormous amount of work to be done to better support our young nurses, who are a different generation, requiring different standards. If we don’t begin to listen and solve archaic institutional employment requirements, we will ultimately loose our nursing workforce,” says Tamara AL-Yassin, former bedside nurse and CEO of The Nursing Beat.
The survey comes when nursing is seeing increasing popularity of per diem nursing due to burnout. Companies like connectRN aim to address the shortage by offering nurses flexibility in their jobs with options to work when and where they want to. This week, The Nursing Beat reported, “Burnout is among the common influences hurting healthcare workers. Routine shifts already last 12+ hours, and many involve overnight work. Workloads have become more intense than ever, with 62% of nurses reporting an increase since COVID started.”
“Today’s nurse – the “new nurse” – has a multi-dimensional life and is entrepreneurial. A side hustle allows them to explore interests outside of nursing and to take care of themselves and their families. For the “new nurse” side hustles provide financial support and the space to pursue the interests and relationships that contribute to their well being,” says Ted Jeanloz, CEO of connectRN. “Side hustles allow nurses to thrive and keep them in the profession.”
Nearly 90% of nurses surveyed felt these were the top five factors that were extremely important to them:
- Maintaining their mental health
- Being present for their family and friends
- Maintaining a work/life balance
- Maintaining their physical health
- Excelling at work
Nearly 50% added that their work as a nurse impacted household management and health and fitness goals negatively. Additional areas that suffered were relationships with loved ones and time with friends. While about a quarter of nurses are pursuing additional educational opportunities, more than half are interested, but their current schedule makes it infeasible.
Read the entire survey findings at thenewnursebyconnectRN.com.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes, this can even happen in your own life, as it did for Janice Wong, RN, the founder of BeCeBe Cloth (which sounds a little like “busy bee”).
She thought about a problem she wanted to fix, and in doing so, she started her side gig.
For ten years, she worked in psychiatric nursing and leadership positions. But, she says, after giving birth to her first child, she wanted more flexibility to prioritize her family’s needs, so she began working as an acute care case manager.
Wong took the time to answer our questions about her business. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.
How did you come up with the idea for BeCeBe Cloth? Why did you decide to start your side gig with BeCeBe Cloth? When did you start it, and how did you go about it? What product was first?
I started BeCeBe Cloth after witnessing the destructive wildfires in California in recent years. In September 2020, the sky in San Francisco Bay Area turned orange, and I couldn’t help but wonder how my children’s future could be affected by climate change. So I started to pay close attention to the environmental impact I create as a parent of two kids. I began cloth diapering when I saw disposable diapers overflowing from my municipal trash bin.
The start of my cloth diapering journey was overwhelming. I spent weeks researching how the product works, how to wash the diapers, and potential hygienic concerns. But it turned out that cloth diapering was so easy, manageable, and fun! When I told my friends about my journey, I realized the steep learning curve was the biggest barrier. So I was determined to design my cloth diaper features that make it easy and “mess proof.”
Without any prior experience, I learned everything via YouTube and Google on product design, creating a prototype, fabric sourcing, and searching for overseas manufacturers to keep prices affordable while maintaining a healthy profit margin to sustain the business and its mission.
My first product was a set of uniquely designed, leak-proof cloth diapers that offer maximum absorbency. I also designed a two-sided, multi-purpose blanket that parents love when kids are potty training to help keep upholstery protected from accidents.
In Oct 2021, I launched a crowdfunding campaign to promote my company’s mission and products. Subsequently, I launched my e-commerce store and marketing campaigns.
What exactly do you do now with the business? Do you take all the orders and send out the products? Or have you farmed out those tasks? Please explain.
I am the solo worker in my business and wear all the hats–from marketing to shipping the products. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, and building brand awareness takes longer than most people think. My plan is to minimize expenses and operate my business from home until sales can match the wages of a nurse.
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? Please explain.
Although I’ve had operational experience and budget oversight in nursing leadership, I had no prior experience in entrepreneurship, and I learned as I went along.
I made many phone calls and asked many questions when my children took naps, and after the whole family was asleep. I also joined female founder networking groups to hear about the experience of other founders.
Before launching the crowdfunding campaign, I invested in a marketing accelerator to learn more about one of the most important areas of a business and won the pitch competition.
What did you enjoy most about your side gig?
The most rewarding part of my side gig was hearing first-hand from other moms that my products saved the day!
The mission of BeCeBe Cloth is to make parenthood easier while reducing waste. Knowing that I was able to help a fellow mother is what keeps me going!
I also enjoyed learning about marketing, various business modules, and meeting other female entrepreneurs.
What are some of the challenges?
The time, courage, mistakes, marketing effort, and consistency required to start and grow a profitable business exceeded my expectations. It’s certainly not as easy as one may read in an entrepreneurship article, and entrepreneurship failures are not discussed in mainstream media. Over 20% of small business fails within the first year, and over 50% fail within the first five years (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
Aside from business strategies and maintaining positive cash flow, staying consistent even when sales are slow is crucial in maintaining the business’ livelihood.
What are the biggest rewards of having your side gig?
Despite all the hard work, investment of time, and money, my side gig offers hope for building financial freedom while fulfilling a bigger mission–to help others outside of my nursing career.
I also have met a lot of inspirational and amazing female founders on the entrepreneurial journey. Many are willing to share their experiences to help each other succeed.
What would you say to someone considering starting their side gig?
Ask lots of questions, thoroughly research the pros and cons of your business idea, and know that it may take months or years to reach your goal.
There is a lot of noise on the internet about overnight success and passive income. However, discerning and filtering information is essential to take the best next step on the entrepreneurship journey.
Anything else we haven’t asked you that you think is important for readers to know?
Nurses are adaptable and have amazing skill sets! So don’t be afraid to explore what side gig may light you up!
Laughter is the best medicine, especially when being a stand-up comedian is a nursing side gig that helps nurses deal with the profession’s stress. Just ask Kelli Dunham RN BSN, Community School Director of NYC Public Schools. Dunham has been performing comedy as a nurse for 25 years.
Dunham is the author of How to Survive and Maybe Even Love Nursing School (FA Davis), the best-selling puberty guides The Boy’s Body Book and The Girl’s Body Book (Cidermill Press), and a collection of hilarious tragicomic essays, Freak of Nurture (Topside Press). Dunham also does some per diem home health.
Dunham chatted with Daily Nurse about how she got into her comedian side gig.
How did you get interested in being a comedian? What drew you to it? How long have you been doing it?
I’ve wanted to be a comedian since I knew it was a thing a person could be, which was when my dad let me stay up an hour past my bedtime to watch a Steve Martin special. I grew up in rural Wisconsin and had a mile walk from where the bus dropped me off at my house. After I watched the Steve Martin special, I was late for chores every night because I would be telling jokes to the cows in the pastures on either side of the road all the way home. You could have worse first crowds! I’ve had tougher audiences since then!
However, the way to be good at being a comedian is by being bad at as a comedian in front of people. There’s no substitute for that stage time. And I didn’t have the confidence it took until my mid-20s, and I have nursing school to thank for that. You know, at the beginning of clinical rotations, you feel so lost? (that’s not just me, right)?) You must call your instructor because you don’t know how to get the side rails down. A patient calls out, “hey, nurse” and you think, “oh please, please, please don’t be talking to me.” You go home covered in four different body fluids from four other people. But progressing through nursing school, and seeing how my skills improved despite feeling quite hopeless in the beginning, gave me the courage to make a fool of myself on stage.
In addition, worrying about making a medication error puts stage fears into perspective. If you bomb on stage, the worst thing is that you won’t get laughs. Maybe someone will heckle. Or I will call you a very personal name. Maybe at the worst clubs, someone will throw a beer at you. But you’re in no danger of killing anyone.
All that to say, I’ve been performing comedy for the same amount of time I’ve been nurse-25 years.
Did you have to get additional training/education to do it? Or have you always been funny?
There’s no specific training/education for being a comic (see above). It’s a learn-on-the-job, fail-on-your-feet kind of situation.
When was your first gig/presentation? Did you know then that you wanted to become a comedian? What types of people/clients do you perform for? What are they looking for, and what do you provide for them?
First, this is a great question, and I rarely get asked this question: what are folks looking for when they book me?
My very first time on stage was at an open mic at a comedy club in the basement of a hotel in Northeast Philadelphia which did not advertise comedy but did advertise its drink specials. It was extremely unpleasant for everyone involved. After a few months, I realized that perhaps performing for extremely drunk people and with extremely drunk comics might not be honing my skills the way I might have hoped. I started modeling my career after my indie musician friends, performing at coffee shops and church basements. This was much more hospitable, and I didn’t get thrown up on nearly as much. (you know your comedy career isn’t in the right place when you see more body fluids at the clubs than at the hospital)
Now I’ve built a career as a trauma-informed comic, often performing/presenting at times and places you might not expect a stand-up comedian. For example, at a child protective services conference last year, I asked, “why are you at my presentation,” and a person in the front row said, “yours is the only workshop that doesn’t have the word child abuse in the title.” That pretty much sums up what this aspect of my career offers-I am comic relief.
Nurses (and others in the helping professions) often use humor to de-stress. But I can invite them to allow themselves to laugh and provide tips for deliberately finding and creating positive and constructive humor.
I think of the other service I provide as Spoonful of Sugar comedy, working closely with healthcare facilities and organizations struggling to make their services LGBT-inclusive. Although this is a serious and important topic, I can provide the information and guidance and include funny personal anecdotes so that participants feel more at ease. I reinforce that better care for LGBT patients is better care for everyone. Plus, I have a nice, round, friendly midwestern face and say, “hey, ask me all the things you maybe shouldn’t ask your LGBT patients.”
Do you find being a comedian easy to do even while working as a nurse?
If my goal had been to build a more traditional comedy club career, it’s possible that would have caused scheduling headaches. No one wants to run around town, hitting a half dozen comedy clubs after working a 12-hour shift. However, because I’ve been performing at colleges, conferences, faith communities–even occasionally a livestock auction–I’ve been able to flex my schedule to accommodate shows.
I am still a Wisconsin farm kid inside, and I like to get up when many club comics are just coming home. I’ve had a few conferences where I was a 7 am breakfast keynote! That might be a nightmare for many comics, but it’s a dream for me! Well, not a dream exactly because I’m awake, even though it’s early. But you get what I mean.
What do you like most about working as a comedian?
What I like most about working as a comic is helping people laugh even (or perhaps especially) during hard times.
Sometimes this comes in the form of sharing my own experiences. For example, my current one-hour show, Second Helping, is about losing two partners in a row to cancer–sounds hilarious, right? But more than the losses, the show is about my struggle to learn how to ask for and accept help. Relatable nursing content!
Other times, this is simply about reminding people, “hey, it’s okay to laugh at the funny parts,” and also reminding them that crying at the sad parts is important.
What are your biggest challenges as a comedian? Have you ever bombed doing a gig/presentation? What are your greatest rewards as one?
Oh, I have bombed! As referenced above, you get good at comedy by being bad at comedy. So there have been times when I’ve misjudged the crowd, written material that seemed like a universal experience but turned out to be unrelatable, or didn’t take the stage with enough confidence, and the audience didn’t know what to do with me. Being met with silence can make the time you’re standing there with the mic seem very long.
Once, I was asked to perform at a boating expo in a big convention center. Even though it was early in my career, it made sense, I was living on a houseboat, and I did have some liveaboard material. I was impressed with myself. But when I arrived at the convention center, I found I had been booked to perform at an individual booth. The person sold special floating keychains with very early GPS technology. She set up a karaoke machine and a step ladder and said, “here’s the stage,” and I was just supposed to, I guess, shout comedy at people as they walked by. I was using the karaoke mic, which I did for 10 hours. She paid me 100 bucks. Talk about comedy boot camp! But if you can perform comedy standing on a stepladder to streams of hundreds of uninterested boat enthusiasts, it makes any situation with a stage, and an audience look like you’ve won a comedy sweepstake!
I want to say I have never made another mistake like that, and while I’ve never made that exact mistake again, I’ve had to learn the hard way to ask important questions before I say yes.
Will there be a stage? Will there be a microphone? Will there be an audience? Will the audience know they are an audience? Will they be expecting comedy? These are all important questions to ask.
No show is so bad that you can’t learn from it or at least get a good story out of it, but I’m glad I have much fewer character-building shows these days.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that is important for our readers to know?
In the past few months, there has been some well-deserved uproar about nurses on Tiktok and other social media platforms who have posted ostensibly funny but ultimately disrespectful/inappropriate content referencing patients. I’m glad discussions about that kind of content are happening, but I’m also worried about humor ending up as the scapegoat.
Context is important here; a funny remark about a frustrating situation to a coworker in the breakroom (assuming nurses get their breaks- ha, now that’s a real joke) might be a perfectly reasonable way to deal with a difficult day. But that remark might be harmful (or potentially even a HIPAA violation) on social media or in the hallway where a patient’s family member might overhear.
We need positive, constructive humor and laughter to deal with the profession’s stress and have conversations about what positive, constructive humor looks like. This is a whole discussion. I do a presentation for RN students called Nursing Has 99 Problems, But The Jokes Aren’t One, in which we consider these issues). Still, one simple way to think about constructive humor is to consider punching up versus punching down. Punching down is making fun of someone or a situation with less power than you- making fun of a patient’s use of the call bell is an example. Punching up means satirizing a person or situation who has more power than you. For example, making fun of the healthcare administration’s ridiculous rationalizations for chronically understaffing nurses is punching up. Of course, I’m not saying punching up will never get you in trouble, but it’s the kind of trouble that can advance important conversations.
Oh, and also, please, someone start some initiatives to send creative people with a caring and science aptitude to nursing school. Patients get nurses who are also actors, comedians, or playwrights with other interests but still have the energy to care about their job, and the creative folks get the world’s best day job!
When nurses have side gigs, they are opportunities that may have fallen into their laps. At other times, the nurse may pursue a specific side gig because it helps them out personally.
Thureiyya Rodriguez, DHA, MSN, RN, WOC Nurse, is the founder of Agni NY, a Black female-owned, artisanal holistic shop based in New York City. Rodriguez chatted with Daily Nurse about how she got into her side gig.
How did you get interested in making and selling candles and relaxing fragrances? What drew you to it? How long have you been doing it?
I have a chronic illness, and I work in healthcare. Having an illness and working in a demanding career can take their toll on the body. To stay healthy, I need to ensure my stress levels are under control. I have used essential oils throughout my life to help reduce stress and relax. Relaxation techniques and essential oils helped me when my disease flared.
I started my business to share essential oils and aromatherapy with others who may have similar experiences and are working in stressful environments. My mission is to inspire others to incorporate relaxation into their daily routine–even if this means only taking out time in the shower.
Is selling through your website your primary way to sell? Do you do pop-up events? How do they work? Where do you do them, and how often?
Yes, my primary sales are online. However, I do, on occasion, participate in flea markets and pop-ups throughout the city.
To participate in a pop-up, you sign up as a vendor and pay a fee the host has set. Then, on the day of the event or before (based on the host’s directions), you will bring your products and set up the designated space to sell your items. You are usually only allotted a 10×10 space or (1) table and a chair.
The items I choose to bring to the market are based on the theme, neighborhood, and season. For example, I do not bring beard products to a Mother’s Day event.
I started vending before going to pop-up events in front of my house. It allowed me to experience selling to customers and setting my table. As a result, I have purchased an entire setup for my products to be displayed at the pop-ups versus just having a table with a cloth.
Owning a shop is different from working in nursing. Likewise, entrepreneurship is entirely different from being an employee because your outcomes are based on the work you put into the business.
I conduct pop-ups throughout the city. My participation in pop-ups varies by season. I participate in pop-ups approximately 3-4 times per month in warmer months. I am also more active from November through December because it is the holiday season.
Did you have to get additional training/education to do it? Or did you hire someone to set up the website?
I did not get additional training. However, I did attend online webinars to learn about entrepreneurship and running a business. I also read books and researched successful businesses in a similar field.
In addition, I signed up for a mentor, whom I still meet with today.
I am a nurse, and one of the things about me is that I am technical. I want to know “why” and “how.” I do not want to deliver an incomplete product. I watched many YouTube videos on a website and set mine up without help. I used the template on the host site and made edits over the years. The template version is easy to follow. I had an idea of what I wanted the website to look like based on similar businesses.
Do you find your side gig easy even while working as a nurse?
Working a side gig and having a full-time nursing career is difficult. You are tired at the end of your work day and know the body needs rest.
I work full-time as a nurse in healthcare administration and leadership. I am busy meeting with executives and developing action plans during the day. My full-time work entails long hours. Having a side gig is another job.
The time dedicated to a side gig is based on your desired outcome. I plan out my time for the side gig to avoid burnout. I cannot devote as much time to the business as I would like, but I see its growth potential. But balance is still my priority.
What do you like most about your side gig?
I enjoy creating products and seeing my ideas being brought to light. When I am at a pop-up and making sales, I feel satisfied with what was accomplished.
What are the biggest challenges in your side gig?
My biggest challenge with the side gig is scaling. I need to gain strength in marketing products. It is stressful trying to gain new customers online. Selling in person is different. The customer sees and interacts with the products through touch and smell. This makes it easier for sales versus online, where the customer is still determining what the end product will be able to do after it arrives.
What are your most significant rewards from it?
My greatest reward from this business is meeting new people, learning a new skill, and offering a product that a person can enjoy.
What would you suggest nurses do if they wanted to have a side gig? What do they most need to know?
Any nurse interested in a side gig should go for it. However, I recommend they do their homework on the area of interest and make a solid plan to execute. Look at competitors and join groups with similar interests. Be prepared to make mistakes and grow from those mistakes. Most importantly, have balance. Make sure to fill the calendar with work and remember to make time for yourself. Side gigs are great, but a work-life balance is essential.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that is important for our readers to know?
Side gigs can grow into a full-time business. When you begin your side gig, know that the time invested and the quality will make a difference in the outcome of the product. There are free resources which include mentorship. Also, use the public library to gather information on the business.
Imagine coming up with an idea to help yourself, and then you thought it might help other people too, well, something like what happened to Stephanee Beggs, BSN, RN. But she was doing training videos to help herself be able to study for the NCLEX exam during COVID-19.
She had no idea at the time that a video of hers would go viral, leading to a multi-million-dollar business and being selected as one of Forbes 30 under 30.
Beggs, 28, answers questions about this whirlwind experience and why she’s still working as a nurse in an emergency department of a hospital in Los Angeles. Because she’s also the CEO of RNExplained, which, as she says, is “an educational platform that offers nursing study sheets and tips/tricks for nursing students and nurses across the globe.”
Beggs sat down with Daily Nurse to talk about how she went from side gig to CEO.
Usually, nurses don’t hold the position of CEO as a side gig. Explain how this all came about. What was it like to go unintentionally viral?
I was studying for my NCLEX exam when the pandemic began. We were in quarantine when I graduated and began to study for the NCLEX. I didn’t have anybody to study for the exam with, so I started recording myself teaching concepts that were hard for me to grasp. It helped me better understand a topic when I could speak it out loud and play it back..
At the time, I posted one of my teaching videos on social media, which went viral. After that, I began to post more teaching videos that gained thousands of followers from students across the nation.
Shortly after that, I launched RNExplained, which offers more than 308 various medical conditions in digital and print forms and educational videos on social media.
Becoming unintentionally viral made me realize that many nursing students worldwide have the same learning style as I do.
What does your company offer nurses? Please explain why these study sheets are important.
Too often in nursing school, we are given a dense amount of information to read/study, which becomes incredibly overwhelming. My study sheets aim to teach various nursing topics clearly and concisely without all the fluff.
I cover 300+ topics that are taught and tested on in nursing school and the NCLEX. It’s extremely important to find a resource that breaks down information in the most appealing way, and I am confident that RNExplained does that.
What did you think when you were selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 list?
I was extremely shocked, yet I felt blessed to be chosen as a Lister. I sometimes can be hard on myself and think someone deserves that honor more than I do, but I remind myself that I worked so hard to be here and earn that title.
Your “side hustle” has already made $2 million in sales. So why do you still work as a full-time night shift nurse in the ER?
My love for working bedside and having direct patient care hasn’t faded. I genuinely enjoy working in the emergency department and getting to critically think in real life with real people. I could not have that job, but it’s another part of me that I have a passion for, and I want to experience it as well.
How did you become a pharmacology professor at Mount St. Mary’s? What kind of education or certification did you need to do that?
One of the directors of my alma mater nursing program offered me the position. She had seen my success and felt like my teaching style would fit the program well.
Do you still speak out on social media with nursing educational tools?
I do! I post a handful of times weekly on my social media accounts with various educational tips, tricks, and real-life experiences. I try to incorporate some learning “lessons” into everything I post. On some days, I will create educational content for students; on others, I aim to cater to new graduates.
Is RNExplained, Inc. now providing you with passive income? Or do you still have to be involved with the company by creating new study sheets, etc.?
It is! Most of my products are sold digitally, so I receive passive income each time I make a sale. I also offer a handful of tangible products, and my aunt ships out all of those products! I am highly involved in the company still. My aunt has helped with the shipping and many administrative tasks, and we work daily for the company.
What are your biggest challenges with this new business? What are your greatest rewards?
The biggest challenge is learning how to grow and scale the business. RNExplained has grown organically, and I’m learning how to continue that growth.
The greatest reward of having a social media presence is the feedback I get from students in my DMs or messages. Knowing that nursing students trust me to guide them through nursing school is one of the best rewards.
I put my all into this company, and it’s comforting to know that others are reaping the benefits.
You’re an influencer in the nursing field. Tell me about that. Do you feel any responsibility that comes with that?
I feel a sense of responsibility for the position that I have in the nursing community. So I go through a series of checklists before I post anything on social media to ensure that what I put into the community is valuable, factual, educational, and positive. People around the world value my opinion and take my advice, so I try to be mindful of what I say and how I say it.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I try my best to stay active and take at least one hour a day to work out. I’ve had a trainer for a few years now who has helped me stay committed in the gym, and it has become my favorite form of self-care. Aside from that, I keep my work and social life in two separate boxes. I stay present and turn off the nurse/influencer mode when I’m with my friends.