CNS Entrepreneurs: Taking Your Skills to a Wider Audience

By Suzanne Purvis, DNP, APRN, GCNS-BC, FCNS Aug 17, 2023

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Deciding to be an entrepreneur is an exciting opportunity and, surprisingly, you are not alone in considering it.

History of Nurse Entrepreneurs in the United States

Deciding to be an entrepreneur is an exciting opportunity and, surprisingly, you are not alone in considering it. Florence Nightingale started out as a self-employed entrepreneur; nurses in the late 1800s and early 1900s independently contracted their services. At several 'registries,' nurses could find clients who wanted to hire a skilled nurse. It wasn't until the Great Depression and the creation of hospitals (offering health insurance and regular paychecks) that most nurses became employees.

Today, with more nurses having advanced education, an increasing number of them own small businesses. In 2022, there were an estimated 31 million entrepreneurs in the United States. Health, education, government, and social and consumer services made up 20% of these entrepreneurs' businesses. In addition, it is thought that the pandemic and the accompanying difficulties in healthcare have increased the number of nurses choosing to leave their current jobs and launch health-related businesses.

Business Ideas for Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)

Do you have an innovative idea or product, or a new way to teach health and wellness? CNSs have an ethical obligation to use their knowledge and skills to help everyone live better-quality lives. Through our spheres of influence, these initial ideas can help you consider your own venture:

  • Health coaching
  • Care navigation
  • Education/consultation
  • Product development
  • In-home care
  • Legal consulting
  • Health writing
  • Nurse product review
  • Health/medical software development

Business Ideas for Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)

A CNS may choose to launch their own health-related business for many reasons:

  1. Experiencing the independence that comes with owning a business. You choose what to work on, where you work and your goals.
  2. Fully using your skills, including those hard-earned and applicable CNS skills that you may not have the opportunity to fully actualize in your current job
  3. Collaborating with peers, other business owners, community nonprofits, etc.
  4. Helping your community by improving your neighbors' health and quality of life

I have discovered that being an owner of my own business has helped me do all of the above! Starting my business has opened the door to the following opportunities:

  • Teaching geriatrics to nurses at all levels, including advanced practice nurses
  • Educating staff who work in nursing homes and home health
  • Having more time to spread knowledge about aging in my community, the region and the country
  • Assisting businesses in managing the health of their older employees

Recommendations for Launching a New CNS Business:

  • While you're still employed, consider volunteering at community and statewide healthcare agencies to gain knowledge about the gaps in health knowledge and skills that a CNS is suited to fill.
  • Pursue knowledge in areas you may be weak in, such as marketing, accounting and/or business management.
    • The Small Business Association (SBA) in your area can get you started on finding out what general business information you need to know:
      • Purchasing a domain
      • Starting your website
      • Creating a business plan
    • Their services are free, and they want to see small businesses succeed!
  • Their services are free, and they want to see small businesses succeed!
    • Your mentor can help you manage your expectations in the beginning, and provide emotional support and practical advice.
    • Your professional organization might know a good place to find a healthcare business mentor.
  • Start doing your research:
    • Are there nurses with a similar business?
    • How many, and is there room for another?
      • Maybe you have a new spin on an idea?
      • Collect data on these businesses, perhaps including a public survey.
  • Consider how you could use social media:
    • Which apps should you be more familiar with?
    • Some apps are more oriented toward business and professional colleagues, or for reaching the public.
    • Do you have skills in making videos that can be uploaded?
  • Is there a colleague who might like to join your entrepreneurial adventure?
    • Look for a partner who can augment your skills. I found a colleague who has a doctorate in nursing, experience in rehabilitation nursing and research skills! She has been very helpful in ensuring that everything that my business, Confidence in Aging, offers is current, evidence-based and accurate.

As a CNS, your skills and knowledge are needed in your community and beyond, no matter what your area of specialization is!

Questions for CNSs Considering Their Entrepreneurial Journey

  • What are the gaps in care that you see where you work? Do you keep seeing the same problem not being addressed?
  • Do you have a passion to make an improvement in healthcare? Your passion may be a good place to start your business.
  • How can your specialized skills and knowledge fill a gap in care or address a healthcare need?

Take the next step - become an entrepreneur!