The Entrepreneurial Fire

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Can this career be saved? This is an ongoing series about real nurses, real challenges, and real solutions.

Corrine* had been in nursing for 24 years and had had enough. “I’m tired of managed care cutbacks, office politics with nasty people, paperwork, and regulations. I’m worn out and fed up. I don’t want to be a nurse anymore. I’m considering getting a real estate license.”

This was my introduction to Corrine at a networking meeting of women business owners about two years ago. A friend had dragged her out in an attempt to lift her spirits. We happened to sit at the same table for dinner and struck up a conversation. Had fate stepped in?

I reminded Corrine that she had great experience, knowledge, and nursing credentials, and that it didn’t make sense to chuck it all and move into another profession. I went on to say that there are many different paths to take within nursing, and since being a real estate agent is a form of self-employment, I posed the question: “Why not start a nursing business?” Her initial response was, “You mean like private duty or a staffing agency? No thanks.” So I explained that there are many different types of nursing businesses to get into: coaching (life, wellness, or career coaching), speaking and education, writing, research, editing, and consulting of all types. These are all low-risk businesses that do not require much capital to get started, have low overhead, and are relatively quick and easy to get up and running. She was interested but remained wary.

I related how I got started as a speaker and mentioned that I knew very little about business when starting out. I wasn’t even feeling very good about myself when I took the entrepreneurial plunge, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. Corrine was surprised to hear that, assuming that anyone who starts a business must be brimming with confidence and know-how. I described how, in the beginning, I spent considerable time in the library reading business and motivational books to jump-start my new career path. I had also contacted established speakers for advice and support and joined professional associations related to speaking, business ownership, and nursing through which I could learn and grow while rubbing elbows with other successful business owners for inspiration, advice, and support. Corrine turned her chair toward mine and wanted to hear more.

We discussed all the transferable skills we develop as nurses and explored some of the things she enjoyed doing or considered herself good at. Corrine admitted that she loved to write and that she had written for some association newsletters and had had some articles published. “But no one makes a living at that. I’ve got to support myself,” she declared. I informed her that there are multitudes of people who make their living writing and doing related work within the health care industry. Corrine looked surprised as she listened to all the different ways that nurse writers were able to make a living. She was now leaning toward me with a look of excitement on her face. Corrine was starting to believe that she actually could do this.

Today Corrine owns a freelance writing business. She writes articles for various nursing and health-focused magazines, physician association newsletters, and a few health care websites that are targeted to consumers. She also ghostwrites for health care professionals who want to publish but don’t have the time to research and write articles themselves. Additionally, Corrine teaches a class on medical terminology at a local community college and occasionally subcontracts work from a legal nurse consultant.

Corrine is a different person today than when I first met her. She is more confident and enthusiastic, and she feels good about herself and about nursing. She is especially thrilled to be in control of her own schedule and have flexibility in her day. Corrine says: “I now have an entirely different perspective on my career. I am thrilled to be using my clinical knowledge and experience as well as my creative abilities to make a difference in a whole new way. I just needed to open my eyes to the possibilities and have someone light the path for me. I’ll admit that I had to step way out of my comfort zone to get to where I am today, but the risk was worth it. Nursing totally rocks!”

*Name has been changed.

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