What Is a Nurse Entrepreneur?
Nurse entrepreneurs are nurses who leverage their professional nursing experience to start their own business.
The roles and responsibilities of a nurse entrepreneur are specific to the business they build and can vary from one nurse to the next, depending on the size of the business and experience of the entrepreneur. On any given day, these tasks may include:
- Caring for patients
- Managing employees and schedules
- Promoting the business, goods, or services to potential clients
- Buying supplies and paying invoices or payroll
- Negotiating contracts
What Type of Businesses Do Nurse Entrepreneurs Start?
Whether opening a storefront, traveling to patients, or working from their dining room table, nurse entrepreneurs work in a variety of environments, depending on the nature of their business. Examples include:
- Home healthcare
- Private practice
- Media publishing
- Med spa/cosmetic nursing
- Public advocacy and education
(Check out the "7 Business Ideas for Nurse Entrepreneurs" section below for the top seven nurse entrepreneur careers.)
What’s a Typical Salary for a Nurse Entrepreneur?
How much you make as a nurse entrepreneur will depend on a lot of things. Where you live, the field you work in, and your ability to successfully grow and run your business can impact how much money you bring home. That said, many nurse entrepreneurs are able to pay themselves the same salary they earned in traditional healthcare roles — between $60,000 to $150,000 per year — though some earn significantly more, says Michelle Podlesni, RN, nurse entrepreneur, and president of the National Nurses in Business Association.
Veronica Pike, FNP-C, owner of Med2You, and co-founder of the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs says she earns more than three times the amount of money she would have made as a nurse practitioner in a more traditional healthcare setting. She attributes her high earnings to her experience and her business model.
Advanced practice nurses tend to earn more than registered nurses, Pike says, and those working outside the traditional health insurance model — such as in private-pay practices or as consultants, often make more than those with high overhead costs or reliance on third-party payers.
How Do You Become a Nurse Entrepreneur?
There’s no one right path to becoming a nurse entrepreneur. Some choose to start their own business after decades working in a traditional nursing role, while others branch out after only a few years. There are a few things you’ll want to look into when considering becoming a nurse entrepreneur, including training, credentials, and professional associations.
Education & Training
The kind of experience or training needed before starting your own business will vary by industry, but generally speaking, to be a nurse entrepreneur, you should have the following training:
Nurse Training: (Required if you plan to continue to work with patients)
- Earn an Associate of Science in nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN).
- Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX exam).
- Have some professional nursing experience, preferably in a field relevant to your new business.
- Be a current registered nurse (RN) or MSN license in the same state as your business.
- Have certifications in your specialty.
Additional Business Training To Consider:
- Business licensing in your state
- Accounting and taxes
- Payroll, if hiring staff
- Marketing and social media
- Legal training or education on the local laws and regulations that apply to your field or business structure
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Certifications & Credentials
You don’t need an official certification to become a nurse entrepreneur, but there might be some credentials that will help you and your business gain traction with customers and comply with local and federal regulations. For example, if your business is a home healthcare service geared toward parents of newborns, becoming a certified pediatric nurse (CPN) could help appeal to new parents, while getting the needed permits from your state health department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will make sure you’re covering your bases legally.
Professional Organizations & Associations To Join
Joining professional nursing associations can help entrepreneurs in all industries grow their professional network, market their goods and services, and get help or education on launching a new business from the ground up. Some of these organizations include:
- National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA)
- American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs
- Industry-specific organizations, such as the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- University-based organizations, such as Northeastern University’s Healthcare Innovation & EntrepreNURSEship program
- Local small business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce
7 Business Ideas for Nurse Entrepreneurs
Nurse entrepreneurs working in the area of aesthetics perform non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as facial peels or Botox injections. In some cases, the nurses open their own spas or work as independent contractors within existing facilities. Nurses (even advanced-practice nurses) need formal training to perform injectable procedures, and standards of practice pertaining to cosmetic medical procedures differ by state.
2) Communication & Education
Education is a huge area for nurses, Pike says. Many use their knowledge to educate others through freelance writing, blogging, podcasts, speaking engagements, book publishing, or other forms of communication. In some cases, this type of work starts as a side business, but many people make a decent living doing this kind of work full-time.
3) Concierge Nursing & Case Management
Concierge nurses provide personalized patient care services that can involve anything from administering medicines to identifying specialists based on symptoms and filling out the paperwork. Part case worker, part care healthcare provider, these nurses help patients navigate the healthcare system and coordinate care based on the patient’s unique needs. It’s highly customizable — from offering on-call health services for a monthly fee to advocating for children with special needs in school.
4) Home Healthcare
According to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), home health services accounted for more than $4 billion of state and federal medical assistance spending in 2015. That number will likely only increase as baby boomers age and require more medical attention. Nurses launching their own home health services typically care for people in their homes with medical needs (ex. wound care, managing medications) and with personal care, like bathing and dressing. It’s also great for new parents who hire infant care during the first few weeks at home.
5) Outpatient Nurse Practitioner Clinics
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 75 million people in this country live in areas where there aren’t enough primary care providers to go around. Currently, more than 20 states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, allowing advanced practice nurses like Wendy L. Wright, APRN, FAANP, to set up their own practices. Not only do Wright’s clinics help meet that need, she says, but she’s also able to provide healthcare services on her own terms in a way that makes her patients feel cared for and respected.
6) Legal Consulting
Legal nurse consultants help judges and lawyers understand medical facts and the healthcare industry, as well as provide expert opinion and analysis of medical procedures, services, and outcomes. These nurses tap into their knowledge of medicine and the medical industry to assist in legal cases where such expertise is crucial, such as in medical malpractice cases or when healthcare language needs to be translated for use in front of a jury.
As more and more healthcare institutions transition to electronic medical records and utilize data to provide and improve patient care, nurses with a strong handle on these technologies are increasing in demand. According to the HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, nurse informaticists often make six figures working as consultants to help medical organizations establish processes for using new technologies and leveraging informatics to make healthcare more efficient and effective.
6 Tips for Being a Successful Nurse Entrepreneur
1) Brush up on business strategies.
When nurse entrepreneur Alexa Nicholls Costa, NP, launched her business LexRx in 2015, she knew a lot about being a great nurse practitioner but not a lot about business. Doing things like forming an LLC and getting an EIN were totally new territory. To build her business, she relied on her personal and professional networks to learn about business strategies like marketing, sales techniques, and financial management.
2) Surround yourself with good people.
Wright takes hiring very seriously. She knows her staff is a reflection of her and her practice, so she makes sure everyone on her team shares her same core beliefs and has the right expertise and disposition for the job.
3) See what’s already out there and find your niche.
Knowing your market is business 101. Your idea might be amazing, but it’s not likely to be successful if there isn’t enough people or organizations out there willing to pay for whatever it is you’re hoping to offer. As Wright puts it: Figure out the issue, and solve it.
4) Take advantage of resources.
Your local small business administration (and other similar organizations) can help you navigate the processes needed to make your business “official” in your area. Many nurses also join professional associations or business-oriented groups to identify mentors that can offer advice on how to build and market a new business. For example: Costa pitched her idea “Shark Tank”-style to a nearby program out of Boston University, and they hooked her up with a business consultant who helped her refine her brand and tighten her marketing approach.
5) Start out small.
It can take months or even years before your business starts to pull in enough revenue to pay you a decent salary. When Costa launched her aesthetics business with her business partner, they wanted to be conservative. They started with a single box of Botox. When that was sold, they bought two boxes and worked their way up. For them, bigger wasn’t better. Being better was better.
6) Go rogue.
Just because you have a nursing degree doesn't mean your business idea has to be about healthcare. If you have an idea, create a plan and go for it!
The Benefits & Considerations of the Nurse Entrepreneur Life
You’re your own boss.
When researchers asked nurses what motivated them to become entrepreneurs, 30 percent said that being their own boss was a critical motivator, and 77 percent said they wanted the ability to make their own decisions.
You have more flexibility.
In that same study, roughly half of study participants said that wanting flexibility, control over time, or better work/life balance contributed to them launching their business ventures or contributed to the success of their business.
…But you also have more risk.
Many nurses leave traditional healthcare settings because they burn out or become frustrated with a lack of work/life balance. But nurse entrepreneurs aren’t immune to stress. In that study mentioned above, 48 percent of participants said they found juggling multiple roles in the business to be one of the biggest challenges to running their own organization, with one commenting that they had “no idea” what they were getting into with the business aspects of their new role. Others found it difficult to manage travel, not overcommit, and maintain their partners’ support.
10 Successful Nurse Entrepreneurs Who Are Making It Work
Marlyn Boyd, RN, Ph.D., paints images of nurses and nursing caps that are then sold as wall art or printed on items like tote bags, pillows, and beach towels.
Keith Carlson (“Nurse Keith”), RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a long-time nurse, blogger, author, podcast host, and — as if that weren’t enough — career coach. His coaching business is specifically geared toward helping nurses assess their career paths, spruce up their resumes, and make a plan for future career development.
Alexa Nicholls Costa, NP, and her business partner, Alexandra Rogers, NP, co-founded LexRX, a boutique aesthetics practice that specializes in injectables and caters to millennials.
Joyce Harrell, RN, OCN, is a wellness coach that focuses on holistic health, a field that attempts to meet the needs of a person’s spiritual and mental well-being, along with their physical health.
Christy Hendricks, RN, has made a living by helping other nurses get their businesses off the ground. Through her site, Change of Shift, she teaches online classes on how to make the transition from nurse to nurse entrepreneur.
Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN, founded FreshRN to help nurses fresh out of school transition into patient care. Through her books, blog, podcasts, and courses, she offers practical, tangible advice on caring for patients.
Veronica Pike, FNP-C, owns Med2You, a primarily business-to-business healthcare company that works with substance use treatment facilities and other organizations to provide direct patient care services. She also co-founded the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs.
Michelle Podlesni, RN, is the president of the National Nurses in Business Association, as well as an author, speaker, and management consultant.
Beverly Thomassain, RN, MPH, CDE, BC-ADM, founded Diabetes Education Services. The organization offers a combination of free and paid webinars, online courses, live seminars, books, and teaching tools for healthcare providers interested in learning how to better care for patients with diabetes.
Wendy L. Wright, APRN, FAANP, owns multiple businesses, including two nurse practitioner-led primary care clinics (Wright & Associates Family Healthcare, PLLC), and the medical education company Partners in Healthcare Education.