From opening nursing consulting and patient advocacy businesses to innovating new devices for clinical uses, nurse entrepreneurs have been using their education and experience to develop targeted services and products across the United States.
While nurse entrepreneurship dates back to the earliest days of modern nursing, more recent calls by healthcare organizations to fill gaps in care has prompted even more nurses to design, create, and innovate. Factors that include healthcare reforms, regulatory changes, and advanced technology have encouraged the growth of nurse-owned businesses.
Some nurse-owned businesses solve on-the-job problems to make a direct impact on patient care, while other businesses focus on independent service ventures while utilizing professional expertise and skill. Either way, entrepreneurship has been lauded as a way to help registered nurses (RNs) develop skills and competencies outside of their clinical expertise, as well as provide the boost they need to prevent burnout and stress.
“Nurse entrepreneurs use their nursing platform to educate, empower, and engage others. Their businesses identify existing challenges in health care delivery or education, develop workable solutions, and often bring new products to the market,” researchers Marla J. Vannucci and Sharon M. Weinstein said in “The Nurse Entrepreneur: Empowerment Needs, Challenges, and Self-Care Practices.”
RNs who are working toward bachelor’s degrees may have an added advantage in business and innovation by transforming new educational experiences into original enterprises.
Steps To Becoming A Nurse Entrepreneur
Experts agree nurses are innovators and problem solvers by nature. Every day they use their skills to make fixes and workarounds to ineffective equipment or processes and move patients toward their healthcare goals. However, converting the newly found solutions to business opportunities may not be in an RN’s toolbox.
Business professionals advise anyone considering launching a new venture to take careful steps. For RNs, the advice is no different:
Identify the problem
RNs identify problems and come up with solutions every day. If the problem appears to be one that other nurses face, the solution may be marketable.
Such was the case for RNs Terri Barton-Salinas and Gail Barton, who created colored intravenous (IV) lines so healthcare professionals could quickly note the different medications and fluids provided to patients. Their invention has been patented and sold worldwide since it was developed in 2003.
Research the idea
Like any new invention, innovative ideas by nurses should be researched to determine if they would sell to a larger audience. The process includes finding patients that the product might help the most.
When Danish nurse Elsie Sorenson saw her sister was struggling after an ostomy operation in the early 1950s, Sorenson invented an ostomy pouch that is still used today. In the development phase, Sorenson’s sister tested all the prototypes, which collect bodily waste from a stoma. Sorenson’s resulting company, Coloplast, has more than 7,000 employees worldwide today.
Find a mentor and financiers
Studies have shown that inexperience is one of the factors that lead to the failure of any business. Mentors guide new ideas from development to sales, providing the business acumen many nurses may not have. Mentors also bridge the gap between inventors and financial backers.
In addition, specialty crowdfunding sites such as MedStartr create a venue for healthcare innovators to enter into cooperative relationships with financial backers.
Don’t quit your day (or night) job
RNs are advised to keep working at their first love (nursing) while seeking opportunities to advance their products and relationships with customers and investors. That’s where entrepreneurs such as Anna Young, the founder of MakerNurse, steps in.
MakerNurse provides venues, called MakerSpaces, for nurse innovations to become a reality. The organization, founded in 2013, provides hospitals with prototyping tools, such as 3D printers, that allow nurses to transform their ideas into reality.
Why Nurse Innovation Is Important
Nurses today are expected to take on expanding roles beyond bedside care, including coordinating care with multiple providers, transitioning patients from hospitals to home or other settings, working as health coaches, promoting wellness, and preventing illness. They do all of this while taking prominent roles in technological advances and emerging fields that include informatics and genetics.
Several healthcare advocacy groups, including the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, have called on nurses to take part in the modernization of patient care. At the same time, the steep cost of U.S. healthcare, the aging population, increased retirements of healthcare professionals, and a rise in chronic illnesses have compelled nurses to act first in discovery and innovation. Without such movement, patients might not see many of the medical advances used today, experts say.
Innovation And Education
A key component of innovation is education that promotes critical thinking and independence. RNs who advance their careers to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree are particularly qualified to open businesses and innovate new products because they learn how to apply experience to everyday problems, promote change for the future, and tackle difficulties with evidence-based solutions.
At Duquesne University, RNs learn about the role the BSN-educated nurse plays in the advancement of healthcare innovation. A BSN education prepares RNs to take leadership roles in clinical and business settings
About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Degree Program
Duquesne University’s RN to BSN program prepares RNs for new and different career challenges. With a BSN-education, nurses can utilize their skills to pursue opportunities in a wide variety of healthcare settings.
Duquesne University’s School of Nursing is a nationally recognized pioneer in nursing education that promotes innovation, exploration, and discovery. Learn more about Duquesne University’s online RN to BSN program.