More than 120,000 nurses now work outside the profession, according to Florida Today.
While this might seem like a problem, especially against the background of the nursing shortage, nurses in Florida don’t see it that way. The expansion of the field beyond bedpans and blood pressure checks allows RNs to utilize their knowledge and experience while making choices that are well suited to their lives. Some of the many avenues nurses have pursued include consulting, teaching, writing, and developing products, among many other specialties.
For example, Pat Bemis, a longtime emergency room nurse, thought there was a better way to develop nurse training in an ER setting and so she went ahead and did so. She has also written a popular book about ER Nursing (now in its fifth printing) and is currently the president of the National Nurses in Business Association.
Judy Young of Melbourne has an entirely different background and now, profession. A retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, she did not plan to work full time but did wish to remain in the field after retiring in 2004 as chief nurse at Patrick Air Force Base.
She became a legal nurse consultant, the definition of which is “a licensed, registered nurse who performs a critical analysis of clinical and administrative nursing practice, healthcare facts and issues and their outcomes for the legal profession, health care professions, consumers of health care and legal services and others as appropriate,” according to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
It also is a job that probably will allow her to remain in nursing longer than she might have in the strict clinical setting.
“Formerly, many nurses who were older simply retired because the physical demands are so great. It can be a physically and emotionally exhausting job, and after you spend so many years in it, you’re ready for a change. I had been a nurse since 1976 and I realized that nursing on a daily basis would be tough.”
Young, who returned to college at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center for a master’s of health law degree, said being a nurse-entrepreneur has allowed her to travel — she and her husband are avid boaters — and set her own schedule.
Pat Lewis, a registered nurse for 30 years, “decided to make the break from (full-time clinical nursing) in 2006,” is a licensed health care risk manager at Brevard Specialty Surgical Center and owner of Patricia A. Lewis, RN, Legal Nurse Consultant.
She also sees nursing-entrepreneurship as a way to keep going.
“After so many years, you do get burned out, and this way, we can keep our senior nurses, whose experience we need so badly, in the profession,” the Melbourne resident said. “It is better than seeing someone of a certain age having to completely reinvent herself or himself. This way, we do not lose all that experience.”
Experience critical to succeed
Experience does count, the nurse-entrepreneurs agree. All three continue their involvement in clinical nursing, Young and Lewis in part-time positions at local hospitals and Bemis as a certifier of E.R. nurses.
None denigrate or discount the importance of traditional, clinical nursing experience, which they say is critical to success as a nurse-entrepreneur.
“Younger nurses do need to do their training in the clinical setting,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone going into these fields unless you do your clinical time. It gives you so much understanding as well as experience.”
Furthermore, nurses who look to entrepreneurship must realize that it comes with all the aspects of being an independent contractor/ business owner, like lots of bookkeeping and no benefits packages.
“Another of the drawbacks is that the work is not always consistent in some fields,” Lewis added. “It can be that way with legal consulting, for example, although risk management is a continuous thing.”
That nurses have expanded their profession and have chosen to stay in it, is of great satisfaction to the country’s top advocate for nurse-entrepreneurs.
“You know, there used to be a book called ‘101 Careers in Nursing.’ The latest edition of the book is ‘201 Careers in Nursing,’ ” she said. “That’s wonderful.”