Dr. Catie Harris, is one of the estimated 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States. While the number of nurses in the U.S. likely continues the grow, the number of nurse entrepreneurs in the U.S. has stayed relatively small.
After more than 20 years of experience as a nurse, Harris created a mentoring business platform for nurses across the U.S. to help nurses turn their expertise into a profitable business. The platform is called NursePreneurs.
We had an opportunity to interview the founder of NursePreneurs last week. Check out our Q&A with Dr. Harris below:
1. What prompted you to pursue a career in the nursing/medical field?
I went into nursing for reasons many people do - I wanted to help people, I wanted to make a difference and impact. I also really liked the mystery of the hospital and wanted to be a part of what went on "in there".
2. When and why did you start NursePreneurs?
I started NursePreneurs in 2016 mostly as a way out of the hospital so I could really make a difference and an impact. What I found "in there" is that nurses really do everything they can to help people, and I love that part of it. However, I also found that the nurses are restricted and marginalized. By this, I mean we are restricted in how much we can help people. Research shows that nurses spend almost 40% of their day charting on the computer. If you have 10 patients to care for, that doesn't leave much time for anything but tasks. Going from task to task is exhausting and not rewarding. Despite being the largest employee base of any hospital system, nurses have traditionally not been nurtured into leadership roles or encouraged to speak up unless it's to agree. NursePreneurs was started to provide a creative outlet for nurses who had tens of thousands of hours of experience working with patients.
3. What exactly is NursePreneurs? A nursepreneur?
A NursePreneur is an expert nurse with an incredible knowledge base and expertise who wants to make an impact but is tired of trying to make any changes within the healthcare system, because no one is listening or taking our ideas seriously. NursePreneurs allows nurses to grow into a leadership role of their own, find their voice and the courage to present their ideas to the world in a way that benefits their patients and improves the way healthcare is delivered.
4. Why do you believe this program is needed?
I believe this program is desperately needed because so many nurses are leaving the profession at the prime of their experience. If you look at statistics, over 50% of nurses are looking for a way out in some fashion, whether it's retirement, another career or a reduced lifestyle so they can work the least amount of time possible. For me, those nurses with tens of thousands of hours of experience are the gems of healthcare. They are the thought leaders and the voice of nursing who haven't been nurtured that way, so they just go away. A program like NursePreneurs and other programs that harness this knowledge from senior nurses are the most valuable ways to re-engage them instead of losing them.
5. Did you always see entrepreneurship as a path for you? What was that transition from nurse to entrepreneur like?
When I first started nursing, I figured I had given up the opportunity to have an entrepreneurial life because I couldn't see how it would be possible. Then I went through various roles including becoming a nurse practitioner, working in academics and for Walmart corporate headquarters. My position at Walmart led me to meet so many incredible nurses who were making an impact outside of the hospital system. It was around that time that I had an epiphany that I could do the same, so I started my first business which evolved into Concierge Nurse Services. NursePreneurs was really an outgrowth of that first business because other nurses wanted help to do the same. At some level, I realized nurses just needed validation to step out into the entrepreneurial role, so I created a community around this need. The transition for me has been tough at times. I had some preconditioned ideas of what nurses "do" or "don't do" online, so it took me a while to create a personal brand. I see the same struggles with my own students in NursePreneurs. I think a lot of our resistance to being seen or heard is from our experience of working for so long in the hospital and feeling invisible.
6. How has everything you learned throughout your career in the field, helped you as you founded Nursepreneurs?
The irony about starting a business for me was this: When I first started out, I felt the need to ditch everything I learned in nursing thinking I needed to be tough and sell all the time. However, as I started going to marketing seminars and sales seminars, what they taught was basically the nursing process - listen to people, get to the root of the problem, figure out how they have been trying to solve their own problem and then help them with the solution. I've even seen seminars on empathy marketing. Essentially, this is what we learned to do in nursing school. When I look back at what they taught us in nursing school - empathy, listening, therapeutic communication, resilience, delegation and critical thinking - I realized it was everything that needed to be reinforced in my programs. Becoming a NursePreneur isn't about getting away from nursing, it's about coming back to nursing.
7. How can current or inspiring nurses get involved?
I would encourage any inspired nurse to start in my free programs to make sure this is the right path. There are lots of ways nurses can creatively express themselves and I list out 200 non-clinical positions they can consider in my blueprint to becoming a NursePreneur which can be found on my website.
8. What do you think can be done to bridge the gap between the nursing field and the business field? What impact do you think bridging that gap can make on a broader scale?
I think the link that is missing are the role models. Nurses don't realize they can do something else and they are not limited to the hospital system or the outpatient setting. There is an entire world of opportunity out there for nurses. One of my missions is to bring these role models to nurses, so they can see what others are doing and be inspired by them. I have a podcast that highlights NursePreneurs every week, a YouTube channel that focuses on the how-to get started aspect of starting a business and a Facebook group of more than 5,000 nurses who are interested in starting a business or who have started a business and now they have a place to ask questions.
9. What advice would you/do you give to other nurses who have/want to get involved in this program?
My advice to nurses is to just try something. I have programs that are free, that are a small investment and a large investment. There is no need to jump in the deep end. Start with the free programs, decide if this is what you want to do and try your hand at something. Thinking about getting started can be a phase that lasts forever. Once you start making incremental moves towards what you want, you will be more comfortable making an investment in yourself to achieve the results you want.