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Nurse Entrepreneurship: No Longer on the Fringes

By: Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

A decade or more ago, when I told someone that I was a nurse entrepreneur, I would get the most quizzical and confused looks, including from quite a few nurses. They would say, “But nurses can’t be business people.” And I would say, “Wanna bet?”

While “nurse” and “entrepreneur” might still seem completely unrelated to many who hear them used in the same sentence, the concept is indeed making headway, both within the nursing world and beyond.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

The notion of being entrepreneurial harkens back to when proto-humans lived in caves. Let’s say that cave person X had accumulated expertise in tanning animal hides to make clothing, bedding, and other items, and neighboring cave dweller Y was very adept at making highly useful tools from bone. If X the hide tanner needed a new tool and Y the tool maker needed to keep warm, they could come to a mutually beneficial agreement, and trade would commence.

In more advanced iterations of human society, various forms of money were developed that took the place of bartering. In essence, the concept of entrepreneurship was born as soon as one human had a skill that solved a problem for another human who lacked that skill.

In the 21st century, the entrepreneurial mindset is not just reserved for those with business degrees, nor is it reserved in the healthcare space solely for physicians or nurse practitioners with their own private practices. Rather, this idea is for any nurse who has an idea they’d like to implement. And while nurses are sadly not taught any business skills whatsoever during their nursing education, plenty of resources can help the earnest nurse entrepreneur in realizing their dream, as daunting as that may seem.

The Nurse Entrepreneur Is Ubiquitous

Private practice nurse practitioners are an example of nurses with advanced training who go into business for themselves, or perhaps as a member of a group. Aside from the world of NP private practice, what types of nurse-owned businesses are currently being pursued?

  • Acupuncturist
  • Aesthetician and spa owner
  • App developer
  • Cannabis consultant or trainer/educator
  • Childbirth educator, doula, or lactation consultant
  • Consultant
  • Freelance writer and author
  • Influencer
  • Inventor and product developer
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • Life, health, or mindfulness coach
  • Massage therapist/bodyworker
  • Online course creator
  • Owner of a skilled or non-skilled home health agency
  • Podcaster
  • Private duty or concierge nurse
  • Public speaker/presenter
  • Trainer/educator
  • Yoga teacher or yoga therapist

Basically, if a nurse has an idea for a service or product that solves a problem for a group of people willing to pay for that solution, a viable business idea has been created.

Alternative Pathways of Being a Nurse

There will (hopefully) always be nurses willing to apply their knowledge, skill, and expertise in hospitals, clinics, and other core healthcare settings. We need such nurses, and the ongoing education of emerging generations of nurse clinicians is central to the successful functioning of the larger healthcare system.

Having said that, there will also always be nurses with the tendency to color outside the lines by seeking alternative pathways to fulfilling their career aspirations, frequently without necessarily serving as a nurse in the more traditional sense. These nurses also serve vital functions.

Despite long perpetuated myths that nurses can’t own businesses and that entrepreneurship is beyond nurses’ reach, those with the drive to do just that will continue to forge alternative pathways to career success. Lamentably, nursing schools may never teach business skills, but generations of savvy nurses will always find ways to learn what they need to know to bring their entrepreneurial vision to life.

There are as many potential avenues to a satisfying nursing career as there are nurses to dream those avenues into being. The word “nurse” and “entrepreneur” are not mutually exclusive, and a growing community of successful nurse business owners is proof positive that nurses have what it takes to successfully manifest any career reality they care to imagine.

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, and author.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s podcast, The Nurse Keith Show, offers inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management reaches nurses worldwide and he can be found on social media, as well as at NurseKeith.com.

The views and opinions expressed by My Nurse Influencer contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

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