NNBA Featured Expert
From ED Staff Nurse to Successful Nurse Educator and Entrepreneur
By Shelley Cohen RN MSN CEN
In 1995, I met my first mentor Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio-a former President of NNBA- how lucky can a girl get? She challenged me, questioned me, disagreed with me at almost every turn- and thank goodness I listened and paid close attention. With her guidance and the expertise of several other NNBA leaders, this is one staff nurse who has achieved success-but by no means on my own.
If you have ever considered taking the path of owning your own nurse education business, let me share my #1 piece of advice, and that is listen to those who have achieved and sustained success. In your own journey, you may come across people who are telling you the exact opposite of what you are planning or developing. Before you quickly dismiss them, thinking you know more than they do (which you don’t)-really consider their input after all, they have “been there and done that.”
My mentors came from a variety of sources and through NNBA, I clearly understood that you need advice from people who have already proven the principles of business success. You would not take dieting advice from someone who has been on multiple diets and never lost any weight- would you? And, you would not want to take financial advice from someone who is so in debt that they live paycheck to paycheck – would you? The same principle applies here- look for mentors considering the following criteria;
- Proven success in their business (determine how you are going to measure success!)
- Ethical business practices
- Effective listener (You don’t want a mentor who does all the talking and just brags about what they accomplished. You need a mentor who is an effective listener.)
- Willing to challenge you-their job is not to do the “work” for you
- Working within their scope of practice as a nurse
How long is “lifelong” learning for a staff nurse? Put on your hat that is pushing you to the world of entrepreneurship and add to the need of ongoing nurse education the following additional “business” knowledge elements that need to be maintained for business success;
- Updated tax/business laws and rules
- Current assessment of client needs
- Accounting requirements
- Evaluation methods of services provided
- How to perform marketing research
- Timely and effective marketing methods
- Copyright law
- And more!
Recognizing and respecting the value of the term “credibility” early on will take you a long way as you establish yourself as an educator. Current nursing practice experience may prove as valuable as your degree in some scenarios-clients are looking for programs and people that “understand what staff are dealing with.”
When I “took the leap” to embark on this journey I needed to understand the following;
- ssuring family/support systems understand the goals and how success was going to be measured
- I would need to continue working as a nurse to assure financial security for the family
- I would need to return to school to get a bachelor’s degree (this was back in 1997)
- The concept of a normal workday would no longer exist, and I would be working 7 days/week
Now, it is one thing to bullet point these items and look into the eyes of your spouse as you relay these details. It is a different process to live through the days and weeks of working multiple jobs, going back to school, all while assuring your family this is going to all work out.
The term emotional and physical roller coaster does not even come close to describing the journey, yet if you can stay grounded, you will survive the ride.
Should you have any opportunity to work with an established nurse education business that has demonstrated sustainability, this can prove to be of great benefit for you. With proven education resources and methodology along with an established client base, this option can serve as your steppingstone into the world of entrepreneurship! This also provides a vested mentor for you by your side for when they may decide to transition the company through retirement, etc.
If you are ready to take the leap and want to develop or invest in a nurse education business, here are some steps to get you started in the right direction;
- Join NNBA
- Identify mentors
- Research current nurse education companies and compare longevity, their topics of focus, etc.
- Evaluate your current credentials and identify any gaps that would require being filled
- Talk with your family/support systems about your plans and be open to their feedback
Challenges aside, it is time to look at the incredible benefits of owning a successful nurse education business. The greatest benefit from our perspective has been our ability to give back. Giving back is so powerful that we have it as part of our mission statement! Our present “giving back” program works directly with Purple Heart recipients from our military-a truly humbling experience. The second most important benefit has been the privilege of working with nurses internationally and finding flexible education solutions to meet each of their unique needs.
When we began this journey, we never imagined it would lead us to where we are today and we are so grateful for those who were a part of us achieving success.