Nurses have in-demand skill sets that translate well to careers beyond bedside care. Nurse entrepreneurs open businesses that not only meet a critical need but also influence healthcare access and policies.
What Is a Nurse Entrepreneur?
There are many types of nurse entrepreneurs, but in general, this is someone who uses their nursing skills, education and experience to start a healthcare-related business. Common business models usually center around one or more of these services: consulting, coaching, advocacy, education and direct care.
Individuals typically choose a career in nursing because they want to make a difference. Nurse entrepreneurs build on that desire, using their unique healthcare background to create a product or service that meets an unfulfilled need. Nurse entrepreneurs who pursue administrative or executive roles within hospitals, healthcare facilities and on various boards and professional associations can guide new policies, advance nursing practice and contribute to the development of more equitable and sustainable healthcare models.
What Are Some Examples of Nurse Entrepreneurship?
Nurses can become entrepreneurs at any point in their careers. "I've been an entrepreneur for 25 years, even before I knew it!" said Tina M. Baxter, APRN, GNP-BC. As a nursing student, Baxter taught CPR classes for extra income. She eventually became a licensed nurse practitioner. In 2015, she opened Baxter Professional Services, where she serves as a legal nurse consultant for attorneys and insurance professionals. Baxter also offers wellness and chronic disease management coaching and supports nurses interested in launching and scaling a business.
Juliana Parker, RNC-OB, has been a labor and delivery nurse for 17 years. Early in her career, she began teaching childbirth education classes and eventually started an online prenatal and infant care program called Accel OB Partners in Care. "My business started because I decided to make extra money for my family by teaching people how to have babies," explained Parker. "The doctors loved my classes and immediately began seeking my classes for their patients. I put in a lot of hours on top of my nursing job. I knew eventually it would pay off, and it has."
How Can You Become a Nurse Entrepreneur?
For many nurse entrepreneurs, figuring out the business idea is easy because of their patient experiences. They recognize gaps in care or services and identify ways to fill the void. Transforming ideas into full-fledged businesses is more difficult, but experts say aspiring nurse entrepreneurs can increase their success by doing the following:
Build their business acumen. When Baxter knew she wanted to branch off into entrepreneurship, she took an online college course to ease the transition. "[N]urses who are looking to start their own business [should] realize that additional education and training is required," said Baxter. A Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Executive Leadership (MSN – NEL) degree can jumpstart this process for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. It explores how to combine nursing competencies with proven business principles to effect change.
Research and plan. Baxter encourages nurses to research their area of interest, whether it is legal consulting or IV hydration, and make a business plan. "Invest in your personal development by taking a business class or formal coaching program, reading books, attending lectures, listening to podcasts and [conducting] market research," she added.
Form key partnerships. While nurses know the ins and outs of patient care, they may lack an understanding of key business ownership topics, like marketing and tax laws. "Nurse [entrepreneurs] need to understand how to budget and project expenses as well as have a decent understanding of how taxes are calculated to avoid a large tax bill at the end of the year," said Parker. It can be helpful to establish a relationship with a tax professional, and she strongly recommends that nurses consult a lawyer too. "As an RN, you want to be sure you are not violating your scope of practice or any HIPAA laws," she added.
A Healthcare Entrepreneur
Nurse entrepreneurs create innovative healthcare-related business models that often simplify access to care and improve outcomes. While nurses have tremendous clinical experience, they need to acquire business skills to be successful. An online MSN – NEL program offers a pathway for nurse entrepreneurship.
Baxter, T.M. (April 2021). Email interview.
Parker, J. (April 2021). Email interview.
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