I used to be a clinical nurse on an emergency assessment unit. What that meant is that I was a nurse who needed to monitor and assess patients, observe, prioritise action and implement immediate responses to prevent them from deteriorating clinically. It was my job to work with the emergency assessment team to admit, observe, and discharge patients in a timely manner. If patients deteriorated, we needed to act quickly to clinically stabilise them.
People didn’t stay with us for long. Within 72 hours, patients would either be discharged home, or to another ward for ongoing and longer-term care.
But how does this relate to the world of business?
A chaotic day was my norm
I’m going to give you an example…
I remember this shift as clearly as if it had happened yesterday.
I was 23 years old, fresh-faced, not long out of university, and I was in my dream job as a Registered Nurse on an Emergency Assessment Unit.
I’d wanted to be a nurse for as long as I could remember, ever since I’d been talked out of being a police officer by a friend who promised me that it was nothing like being on The Bill, and I’d started watching Holby City instead.
I’d always wanted to work in emergency medicine. I loved needing to think on my feet and working to solve a problem as quickly as possible.
And this shift delivered on those loves.
I vividly remember walking into bay 3 and being faced with 6 beds, 3 on each side of the room. I can’t tell you what was happening with the patients in beds 1 and 3, other than that they needed their observations taken for the start of the shift. Bed 6 had severe dementia and was trying to get out of bed to go for a walk. The problem was that they did not have the ability to safely walk without the assistance of a frame and a member of staff. They were a falls risk and being in an unfamiliar environment made them even more likely to fall.
Bed 4 had only just been admitted from the Emergency Department. They needed their admission paperwork filled out, something that, depending on how in-depth their medical history was, could take some time.
Bed 2 was experiencing an asthma attack. They needed a nebuliser, urgently.
And bed 5 was experiencing trouble with their oxygen levels and this needed to be addressed so that their condition did not deteriorate.
In most other jobs, I’d probably have walked out. Stunned in horror at what was being asked and expected of me.
But I couldn’t do that. I was a nurse. I had a duty of care to each and every one of those individuals. Plus, even if I wasn’t a nurse, I can be a bit of a do-gooder, so I probably would have stuck around to lend a hand anyway.
So, what did I do?
I got stuck in.
I called one of my colleagues, a health care assistant, to help me. I delegated her to bed 6 to help calm the patient and make them comfortable again, hopefully lessening their desire to walk and risk breaking a hip.
I walked to bed 2, whilst smiling in acknowledgement to bed 4. I stuck an observation monitor onto bed 2’s patient and set up their nebuliser. They breathed steadily as the medication kicked in. Bed 5 was next, and they quickly settled as I tried to split my eyes between the readings on their oxygen level readings and those of bed 2.
To cut a long story short, everyone in bay 3 was fine for that shift. We all made it through and I smiled when handing over to the night staff who were taking over.
Transferable nursing skills
But what has this got to do with business?
Well, a lot, really.
You see the skills that I learned as a nurse have set me up well in the world of business.
After prioritising literal life-or-death situations (or at least life and harm), leaving an email reply an extra 24 hours really doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.
I know that the world won’t stop turning, nor that anyone will die if I don’t keep exactly to my Instagram posting schedule. And I also know that nothing catastrophically life-changing will happen to anyone if I don’t reply to their LinkedIn message straight away.
The point is, as a nurse working clinically, I often failed to see the skills that I had that could be transferable to running my own business. Now, I am proud to identify that my background as a nurse:
- Is responsible for my being able to prioritise my workload,
- Helps me to recognise when I am getting stressed,
- Enables me to communicate with a range of people from a variety of backgrounds,
- Means that I document EVERYTHING,
- Makes me understand the need to have, implement, and follow policies, procedures, guidelines, and legislation,
- Helps me see my business holistically as opposed to through a never-ending list of tasks,
- Taught me how to reflect and consider how I can always strive to improve my services,
- Gave me to the ability to think critically and quickly to make tough but thoughtful decisions.
6 top reasons why nurses make good business owners
In summary, here are my 6 top reasons why nurses make good business owners:
- We’re resourceful. We’re used to working in short-staffed and sometimes under-resourced areas. We know how to handle ourselves and use what’s around us to get the job done.
- We’re excellent timekeepers. Medications need to be given at certain times, patients need to get to clinics and appointments – nurses know how to create and stick to a schedule, no matter what.
- We can deal with the unexpected. We’re used to having to think on our feet and deal with being thrown into a completely unexpected situation and not bailing out of it.
- We know how to work outside of our comfort zones. Every day in nursing is different, no two patients are the same, and our team mates change with each shift. Because of this, we know how to adapt to whatever challenges get thrown our way.
- We know how to evaluate. When you administer medication or a treatment to someone, you can’t just leave them and think the job’s done. You need to evaluate for the effectiveness of what you’ve done and prepare to action plan for the unexpected.
- We have great communication skills. From the patient who can’t thank us enough to the one who thinks we’re a failed doctor; to the team mate who’s brand new and still learning to the one who is struggling to sleep between shifts; children, the elderly, the terminally ill, the ones who don’t want to be cared for, and the ones we want to adopt into our family; nurses have to communicate with everyone they interact with. And because of this, skills such as listening, knowing when to talk, when to hold silence, and when to be firm are second nature to us.
The way I see it, there’s truly only one difference with clinical nursing and business ownership: each day, and each interaction, is a new lesson to be learned. Your attitude is what will determine your success more than anything else.
And just like in nursing, every day is different in business.
As a business owner, I’ve found the skills that I learned as a nurse have been invaluable to starting and running a business. The key is to simply keep learning, making mistakes when necessary, and above all else, have fun!
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