Brief History of Nurse Entrepreneurs
I’d like to talk about the history of nurse entrepreneurship in this post. Who are your favorite nurse entrepreneurs of the past? Here are some of mine.
As you might imagine, the first entrepreneur was Florence Nightingale. She started the first secular nursing training was in England in 1854. Despite chronic brucellosis, which left her severely disabled, she made a worldwide change in health care. Unfortunately, little regard was given to the importance of a nurse’s work and they were considered secular servant nurses and paid the same wages as the servants of the day.
Mary Grant Seacole
Another nurse entrepreneur of the same era was Mary Grant Seacole, a freeborn black Jamaican. She volunteered her services in the Crimean war effort. But, the Nightingale School of Nursing and the governing military forces rejected her. Undaunted, she started a hotel where the wounded soldiers on both sides of the conflict could recover.
Another nurse entrepreneur is Clara (Clarissa Harlow) Barton. She began her career during the U.S. Civil War. She established the Bureau of Records of Missing Army Men at her own expense to help families find their loved ones. In 1881, she founded the American National Red Cross.
Nurse Entrepreneurship Evolution
Nursing and nurse entrepreneurship continued to evolve and during times of peace, many nurses turned to private duty nursing. They were self-employed and provided nursing services to patients either in the hospital or in the patient’s home. They selected the hours and the cases they would work. Eventually, independence and self-employment gained them respect as professionals.
After the depression in 1929, nurses were forced back to their alma maters, the hospital, to find work. Patients and families could no longer afford to pay the private duty nurses. At times of military conflict, the nurse enjoyed increased popularity as a hard worker dedicated to her profession, but the public image of the independent professional never returned. A few self-employed, private duty nurses lasted well up into the 1950s. As payment for healthcare became the responsibility of the insurance companies, the self-employed private duty nurse all but disappeared.
In the 1970s, nurses began to alter their nursing career paths by developing businesses and consulting services that stepped out of the traditional mold. Nurse Karon Gibson started a nursing agency, American Nurse, in Chicago, a first of its kind. Nurse Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio developed her company, Education Enterprises, in New York. She provided CPR training to businesses. By 1980, nurse Clarissa Russo from Southern California, started presenting seminars nationally addressing career options and business opportunities for nurses. Russo, by her example, proved that nurse entrepreneurship was possible and financially feasible.
At the same time, nurses and nurse attorneys were pioneering the field of bringing nursing expertise to attorneys and insurance companies when judging the merits of a case based on the adherence of the medical care to the standards-of-care in the U.S. The role of the legal nurse consultant grew rapidly.
By the mid 1980s, nurse consultants were practicing in many areas. Individual nurses were developing fields of consulting that never existed in the past. They were selling their services to healthcare facilities, attorneys, and insurance companies.
Support, Education, and Advocacy for Nurses in Business
In 1985, it became evident that nurse entrepreneurs needed a support and networking system. David Norris, a male critical-care nurse in Petaluma, California, foresaw the need to support nurses in business. He started a newsletter to promote and support nurses in business and the National Nurses in Business Association was begun. By 1989, the association was serving nurses across the country as it continues to do today.
The National Nurses in Business Association, Inc. (NNBA) is the pioneer association dedicated to promoting and supporting nurses in business. It provides nurses information on business startup that gives them the confidence to continue when they thought there was no way to succeed. The NNBA makes available to nurse entrepreneurs the collective wisdom and practical suggestions of many successful nurses. Gross income for some NNBA members exceeds 35-million dollars annually.
Who are your favorite nurse entrepreneurs of the past?