What Is a Nurse Entrepreneur, and How Do You Become One?

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Hundreds of nurse entrepreneurs have used their nursing skills, knowledge, and education to start businesses, writes Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN, in Working Nurse. Yet on the whole, nurse entrepreneurs are still largely unknown.

Nursing career site Nurse Theory defines a nurse entrepreneur as a nurse who leverages their healthcare background along with creativity, business systems knowledge, and successful investment strategies to develop their own business in the healthcare industry. These professionals have a range of roles and enjoy a number of benefits different from those of traditional nurses. Discover how this motivated and growing group of nurses, often aided by a Doctor of Nursing Practice or another advanced degree, could change the way we think about nursing.

A nurse entrepreneur works on her laptop

What Is a Nurse Entrepreneur?

Nurse entrepreneurs combine healthcare knowledge and business sensibilities to develop successful business ventures that center around optimal care delivery. Nurse entrepreneurs can focus their business on any of numerous health-related categories, such as information technology and patient data storage, healthcare services, or medical devices.

The work of nurse entrepreneurs carries the potential to make a profound impact on healthcare. By independently working to create new and innovative tools and systematic industry advances, they can help lay the foundation to move the concept of care delivery forward in many ways. These can include more cost-effective means of care delivery, more efficient patient treatment, and the ability to create more robust individualized, proactive patient wellness strategies. Ultimately, nurse entrepreneurs can make it possible for patients to have better control over their health and healthcare costs, which could go a long way toward helping them improve their quality of life.

How to Become a Nurse Entrepreneur

Becoming a nurse entrepreneur can give a nursing professional a significant measure of freedom to build their healthcare career on their own terms. However, this freedom is carefully shaped and earned by a specific step-by-step process.

Education

Like other professions in the nursing field, the first step to becoming a nurse entrepreneur is to earn a degree. Typically, an advanced degree is not a requirement; however, earning an advanced degree such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice can help build an individual’s career.

Certification

Once an individual earns a degree, they would then need to gain certification. The certification commonly associated with nurse entrepreneurship is obtained through the National Council Licensure Exam for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is a test administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing that is designed to confirm proficiency in metrics like safety, psychosocial integrity, and health maintenance.

Experience

After obtaining licensure, nurse entrepreneurs need to gain experience in the nursing field. This not only allows nurses to build a record of demonstrable knowledge and skills in a real-world environment but also enables them to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This can allow a nurse to improve and optimize their approach to healthcare delivery before they strike out on their own health-related venture.

Nurse Entrepreneurship Qualities

Successful nurse entrepreneurs possess a skill set that allows them to seamlessly integrate healthcare and business, such as strong leadership, analytical, and communication competencies. At the same time, they must possess other characteristics that can enable them to apply their skills independently.

Business Development 

Nurse entrepreneurs must be able to see how their healthcare experience can lead to the development of a successful business. An example of this in action stems from Seattle Sutton, RN, BSN, of Marseilles, Illinois, whose Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating prepares thousands of nutritionally balanced meals every week for clients across the U.S.

Another example of nurse entrepreneurial success is Pat Bemis, RN, CEN, who has built a care-based empire through her website, CDs, seminars, and books, including her self-published debut “Emergency Nursing Bible.”

Independence

Nurse entrepreneurs must have the ability to work independently, which means more than just not working underneath a head nurse or nursing executives. It means having the self-discipline and motivation necessary to shape an effective business model. This can range from deciding how their work is done to determining how much they can charge for their services. Earning an advanced degree such as a DNP can help individuals develop this discipline.

Passion

It is essential for nurse entrepreneurs to effectively channel the interests they are most passionate about, such as nutrition, technology, or education, into a specific field. For instance, the nurse entrepreneur who is passionate about reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease may focus their career path on developing devices that can help people better manage their blood pressure, cholesterol, and other elements that can impact their heart health.

Flexibility

Nurse entrepreneurs need to embrace the flexibility that comes with the role and use it wisely. Working independently gives nurse entrepreneurs the ability to control their own schedules and build a better work-life balance. However, it also comes with the responsibility to build their schedules in a way that optimizes effectiveness for their businesses to grow and develop.

Nurse Entrepreneurs Are Making an Impact 

Clara Barton is considered the first nurse entrepreneur. She founded the American Red Cross in 1881, and her organization continues to make a profound global impact today. Other nurses have followed in her entrepreneurial footsteps and made an impact in their own way.

One of these nurses was Gayle Francis, who founded AMN Healthcare in 1985 under the name American Mobile Nurses. The company she founded changed its name in 1998 to create an umbrella organization that could house the smaller companies that AMN Healthcare was ready to acquire. Over the past two decades, AMN purchased over a dozen healthcare staffing companies and their affiliated sub-brands.

Another nurse entrepreneur making a difference is Cyndie Colarusso, RN, BSN, CPTC, CTBS. The company she founded, Pathways Consulting, provides services to the procurement and tissue banking community. Pathways also helps to enhance the care and appreciation of donor families whose loved ones gave the ultimate gift.

A third example of successful nurse entrepreneurship comes from Renee Baldo, RN, BS, MBA. Baldo is the founder of Unlimited Potential, a skincare and wellness studio that takes a holistic approach to mind, body, and spirit. Her own experience with therapeutic face and body treatments and her deep understanding of stress and its effects ultimately allows her to encourage her clients to be proactive in preventing negative effects over time.

Promote Real Change in Healthcare

Entrepreneurial nurses are changing the field of healthcare, and you could be next. Maryville University offers several nursing programs, including an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program and an online Master of Science in Nursing program.

For aspiring nurse entrepreneurs preparing for the future of healthcare and looking to build their skills and experience with a terminal degree, Maryville’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice offers a curriculum that helps them pursue a host of healthcare leadership positions, including as business owners. To get started on the path to advancing your nursing expertise and career, explore what the online DNP program can do for you.

Recommended Reading

Future Trends in Healthcare for DNPs

Nursing Ethics: Ethical Decision-Making for Nurse Leaders

Treating Patients in the Future of Medicine: What DNPs Need to Know

Sources

Amazon, “Emergency Nursing Bible”

Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum, Biography

Entrepreneur, “Passion, Freedom and Impact: The 3 Ingredients of Business Success”

Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Nurse Entrepreneur

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX & Other Exams

National Nurses in Business Association, Welcome Page

Nurse Theory, “What Is a Nurse Entrepreneur? Job Description & Duties”

NurseRecruiter, “A Brief History of Travel Nursing”

Seattle Sutton, Your Good Health Is Our True Mission

Unlimited Potential, About Unlimited Potential

Working Nurse, “Nurse Entrepreneurs”

Working Nurse, “The Nursing Chain of Command”

Workology, “What Healthcare Providers Can Teach Us About Business Leadership”