‘I’m just a nurse’. I couldn’t tell you how many times I added this caveat when introducing myself as a new business owner.
I always felt like I was starting on the back foot when it came to being an entrepreneur. I didn’t have the business acumen or experience that it seemed most others did before being their own boss.
My first experience of business ownership was launching a maternity clothing line in 2016. At that point I’d been a registered nurse for nearly 10 years and apart from childhood lemonade stands, I had zero business background. At 17, I went straight from high school to uni where I completed my Bachelor of Nursing, then onto a career working in a major tertiary hospital in WA. I’ve dabbled elsewhere, had a few kids but have spent most of my years working in emergency.
Essential nursing skills
When you think of nurses, you can immediately conjure up the kinds of skills you just know they have in their arsenal. I mean, there’s a reason nurses continually rank in the top most trusted professions. Being a nurse is synonymous with being caring, selfless and hard working, amongst other things. With the job comes certain skills that are a shoe-in, too.
Working as part of a multidisciplinary team requires excellent communication skills to support best patient outcomes. Not only do nurses need to communicate effectively with the allied health team, they need to be responsive to family, friends and next-of-kin as well.
It’s no surprise that nursing, especially in a clinical setting like a busy hospital ward, is a dynamic and often fast-paced environment. It usually means you’re responsibile for the care of at least 4 patients with different healthcare needs. Throw in medications or observations needing to be administered as specific times, appointments, scans and medical reviews and you have yourself a recipe for total and utter chaos. Time management is an essential skill that nurses hone very early on in their careers.
Critical thinking and problem solving
As part of the afforementioned fast-paced and dynamic environment, comes the need to troubleshoot regularly. The ability to ‘think on your feet’ comes with the territory of nursing.
Confidence and ability to practice within their scope
Nursing is a profession where the saying ‘fake it ’til you make it’ absolutely doesn’t apply. If you don’t have the knowledge or skills to perform a task as a nurse, you are risking the lives of your patients and it’s a no-deal. You need to have confidence, not only in your skills but even more so in the skills you haven’t yet acquired. It can feel challenging to speak up, especially in an environment where people are busy and chronically stressed, but it is 100% necessary for patient and staff safety.
Compassion and empathy
Would people be nurses if they really didn’t care? I’m sure there are some people who may disagree with this but I really don’t think so. Nursing is a physically and emotionally taxing job – not something you could continue to do if you didn’t ultimately give a shit about others.
Ever-changing environment (dynamic/fast paced etc. etc. – you get the drift) means you can’t get too set in your ways. Change is the only true constant in life and this can apply on a minute-by-minute basis in nursing. You need to adapt not only to the ward/clinical dynamics but also to the individual needs of the people you are caring for. This ties nicely into problem solving. Nurses are the innovation experts and can think of a myriad of unique ways to get things done.
Nursing isn’t a 9-5 job
Something I used to hear (a lot) from other entrepreneurs was their desire to escape the 9-5, corporate ‘grind’. They spoke of roles as Consultants and Specialists – jobs titles that, in my experience, were reserved only for leading doctors with decades of training and study.
There were phrases like key stakeholders, KPI’s and financial leverage and other words I didn’t compute.
I felt out of my depth.
I’d never experienced this corporate grind that my fellow entrepreneurs seemed to know so well. I never wore heels to work, never needed to schedule meetings and certainly didn’t own a vague, corporate job title. I created a story for myself that I was missing the crucial experience needed in order to truly ‘make it’ in business.
I was wrong.
And after spending the better part of the past 7 years learning and evolving in life and biz, I’ve changed my tune. Being an emergency nurse has given me some of the greatest gifts and skills transferable to business (just minus the vague job titles).
If nursing skills were corporate job descriptions…
Nursing is such a niche profession, it can feel like none of the skills translate into other industries. But as I’ve been exploring, all it takes is a little creativity!
I’ve come up with the following 5 skills if you had to apply clinical credentials into the corporate jungle.
1. Change strategist and management.
Emergency nursing is a constantly evolving, dynamic environment. There’s zero opportunity to get comfy or do the same things day in, day out. You have to ‘think on your feet’ and innovate the eff out of less-than-ideal situations.
Apart from the neverending stream of new patients, there’s always new staff, new equipment and enough policies and procedural changes to make your head spin.
Humans can find change hard. We innately crave structure and routine. But when you’re faced with it daily, you become pretty darn good at working moment to moment and making do with what’s at hand.
2. Customer complaints and feedback officer.
Being in hospital is often a challenging time for patients and their loved ones, resulting in heightened emotions. This, combined with a health care system that’s under-funded and under-resourced leads, unsurprisingly to disharmony at times. Wait times blow-out, there’s a lack of physical space to house patients across departments and with this perfect storm, things go wrong.
Providing timely care, communicating between parties and being sensitive to situational or cultural concerns, without things totally blowing up, takes skill and experience.
There’s also times when the shit’s already hit the fan. You have no choice but to lean into disaster management and problem-solving to find a way forward.
3. Communications coordinator.
As part of a multidisciplinary team- you’re responsible for people’s health, wellbeing and sometimes, lives. We work alongside numerous specialties every single day. Understanding team dynamics is something nurses understand very well. Not an easy task either when your team is huge, with varying degrees of life experience, skill and a myriad of personality traits.
4. PR and Head of customer experiences.
Nursing provides us the privilege of being allowed into some of the most vulnerable moments of people’s lives with zero context or intros needed.
As soon as a patient enters your cubicle or ward space, they are usually prepared (sometimes willing) to share intimate details of themselves and their lives. There is an inherent trust and responsibility that comes with being a nurse that we don’t take lightly.
This glimpse into the most personal aspects of complete strangers sees us become attuned to the intricacies of humankind. We observe people in life changing moments – sitting at the bedside of their dying mother, through to babies taking their first breaths, witnessing their very private physical bodies – versed with scars and stories.
Nurses understand the art and impact of space-holding and how trust affects outcomes. We recognise when medical or nursing care requires adaptation. And we do this, because we appreciate the intrinsic human need to feel safe.
5. Metaphysical energy expert.
Speak to an experienced nurse and they’ll tell you how they just get a feeling when something is off in situations or with certain patients/people. And when an experienced nurse tells you this, you listen! Years of reading vital signs and interpreting data, combined with reading people and interpreting relationship dynamics makes for some sharp AF intuitive skill.
In short: Nurses know how to read the room.
Job titles don’t always matter but experience always does.
It doesn’t matter what your previous job titles are. The skills you acquire and the impact you have in your work far outweigh your assigned job title or role. Your unique life experiences and wisdom accumulated from even just simply existing can positively contribute and in fact, be the point of difference in your life and business.
In hindsight, I thought that being ‘just a nurse’ held me back. Now I see it’s a story I created to sabotage myself. In reality, nursing has given me the skills to thrive and be where I am today.
My ability to see people deeply and facilitate connection between strangers, from different backgrounds, is a skill. To create a safe, welcoming space where people feel comfortable to share and be vulnerable has been finessed through years spent behind the curtains of emergency cubicles and is something I’m grateful for.
Perhaps this is why I’m not ready to completely ‘let go’ of nursing. I love working for myself. Added to that, the opportunities available to me right now feel much more expansive compared to working in nursing (especially in the current healthcare climate). But nursing is part of my identity and directly aligns with my core values of community, connection and my desire to help others.
Ultimately, I also know the special kind of magic that comes with being ‘just a nurse’ and the intangible trust, comfort and integrity it embodies.
And I know there ain’t no corporate job title that would even come close to explaining all of that.