How to Start Your Own Practice as a Nurse Practitioner
You may be thinking, "What do I need to do to open my own business as a nurse or nurse practitioner (NP)? How hard is it going to be? What support will I need?"
Opening your own business is not quite like nursing school or your first nursing job. It's similar in that you will:
- Still need to put in a lot of work
- (Potentially) pull all-nighters
- Need a great support network
But like nursing school and that new job: In the end, it's worth it.
We spoke with business owners Wendy Jules, RN, BSN, and Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC, who know a thing or two about nurse entrepreneurship. Both opened their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic!
8 Pandemic-Proof Steps to Opening Your Healthcare Business
As registered nurses (RNs), Jules and her cofounder Carla Nelson knew they had the skill set to open a healthcare business. Their education and nursing experiences gave them confidence.
"[We] just had to take the leap of faith in opening Fleur De Lis Beauty & Esthetics," Jules says.
Being passionate about the services or products you are offering is key, they say. If your passion doesn't shine through, your clients won't be passionate either.
Roberts also notes the importance of taking your time. Due to the pandemic, it took Roberts almost a year to open the doors to Trust Women's Healthcare. Although this was a long time, starting a business is a huge responsibility. There are many risks involved, and you want to do it right.
"This isn't a race; it's a marathon," Roberts says.
Ready to take the next step? Here are eight essential steps you need to take when opening up a new business.
1. Know Your 'Why'
Although opening a business can be profitable, knowing your 'why' is even more important than making money. If you want to have a successful, scalable business, take some time and write down exactly why you want to be a business owner.
For both our nurse entrepreneurs, the 'why' behind their businesses hit home in personal ways, including representation, accessibility, and giving back to their communities.
Jules and Nelson noticed a major lack of representation of Black skin care providers in their community. This was when they came up with the idea of opening Fleur De Lis Beauty & Esthetics, a medical spa in Brooklyn, New York.
"Our goal was to provide easy access to corrective skin care," Jules says. "We also wanted to create a beautiful space where clients can come, relax, and make self-care a priority."
Roberts penned Trust Women's Healthcare as a way to give back to her community. After completing her doctoral studies, she was astounded to learn the overwhelming healthcare disparities Black women face in the United States. Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die from complications from pregnancy than white women, prompting a need for advocacy for patients of color.
After seeking other leadership roles and talking to colleagues, Roberts decided opening a women's health clinic was the best way to give back to her community. She also hopes to decrease women's health disparities among women of color.
"I always believed if you are not invited to the table, you create your own," Roberts says.
2. Have Your Paperwork in Order
You need paperwork to get your business off the ground. According to Jules, this includes:
- Choosing a name for your practice
- Figuring out how to structure your business (e.g., limited liability company, sole proprietorship, partnership)
- Getting an Employer Identification Number
There are many types of business structures you can choose from. First, you should decide which type of business will work best for you and your company.
Three Common Types of Business Structures
- Limited liability company: An LLC lets you take advantage of both a partnership and a corporate business structure. You must file your LLC with the state where you practice.
- Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is when one person owns and runs the daily operations of the business.
- Partnership: A partnership is when two or more people own and run the business's daily operations.
These business structures have pros and cons, so remember to research to find the best fit for your goals.
3. Know How You'll Fund Your Business
You want to open your nursing business, but how will you fund it? There are many ways to fund your business. You can use the money you've saved up, or you can borrow from a bank.
Since Jules and Nelson opened their business during the pandemic, they encountered hurdles while securing funds. Many banks were not willing to support their business.
"We initially relied on our family, friends, and ourselves, emptying out our 401ks to fund the business," Jules says.
Luckily, they partnered with Carver Bank, the largest African American managed bank in the United States, who helped them navigate the banking system through the pandemic.
To secure funds, it's important to gather enough information to make informed decisions. This includes:
- Speaking to family and friends
- Calling several banks to find out which ones will work with you
- Consulting a certified public accountant (CPA)
Speaking with a CPA can save you a lot of time and prevent mistakes. The benefits of consulting with an accountant can help set up your business successfully, Roberts says.
4. Speak to a Healthcare Attorney
When opening a business, you may think all attorneys are created equal. They aren't. A healthcare business is specialized. Roberts suggests seeking out attorneys who are fully versed in healthcare law.
"Really do your research and interview your attorney," Roberts advises. This will help with any unforeseeable issues.
Also, make sure to budget for an attorney. They can be expensive. Roberts is based in New York, so her attorney came with a hefty price tag.
"[Attorneys] can charge anywhere from $200-$1,000 an hour," Roberts says.
Make sure to do your research before meeting an attorney. Have your questions ready. The more prepared you are, the lower the price tag.
5. Obtain Certifications Your Practice Requires
If you want to open a medical spa, getting certifications will allow you to provide various services and attract more clients. Jules suggests getting the certifications your practice is going to require.
"For myself, we decided to do intravenous (IV) hydration, so I undertook certifications in IVs and injectables," Jules says.
Build as much outside knowledge as you can to bring value to your clients and wealth into your practice.
6. Understand Your Business Partner's Role
Opening up a business can be confusing and emotional if you have a partner. Personalities can clash. That can be draining and take away from your business goals.
Jules and Nelson are sisters, roommates, and business partners. "We saw each other every day," Jules says.
To combat possible roadblocks, Jules suggests understanding your partner's business language.
For Jules and her sister-turned-business partner, this meant separating their personal relationship from their business relationship. By doing this, there is less room for role confusion.
"If everyone is doing everything, it's difficult to keep track of your success or your failures," Jules says.
7. Research and Find Resources
You can't start a business without doing research. You should use your resources for advice.
If you are an NP, research the practice authority in your state first.
Note that an NP's scope of practice varies from state to state. Some states have full authority; some have restrictive authority. Be sure to know which level your state offers.
8. Network, Network, Network
In the age of social media, finding resources to help guide your path of nurse entrepreneurship shouldn't be too difficult. Roberts suggests leveraging social media platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn to network and access resources available to you. You can get a lot of information from nurses and NPs who are opening similar businesses, too.
With endless access to advice on social media, it's important to separate reputable sources from misleading ones.
If you are suspicious, Roberts suggests checking out the website or LinkedIn profile for the businesses or business owner you're looking to take advice from. Follow them for awhile and see who else they follow. Finally, make a decision based on your findings.
Remember that you have many transferable skills as a nurse that can lend to successful entrepreneurial adventures. It takes making the first step to get to where you want to be.
Other beneficial resources to support you along the way include:
- Reaching out to your local Small Business Association
- Attending networking events for nurses and business owners
- Taking advantage of professional nursing organizations by becoming a member of a nursing or an NP association
Meet Our Contributors
Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC
Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC, is a doctoral-prepared, board-certified New York licensed women's health nurse practitioner. She has extensive experience in preventative medicine for women, high risk pregnancies, and sexual medicine. Roberts' passion and dedication to providing the utmost care to women has led her to her own practice, Trust Women's Healthcare, which provides comprehensive and holistic care to women of all ages.
Wendy Jules, RN, BSN
Wendy Jules is a passionate aesthetic registered nurse and co-owner of Fleur De Lis Beauty & Esthetics nestled right in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Before working in skin care, Jules traveled the world as a crisis nurse assisting people during natural disasters and casualties. Jules' top goal at Fleur De Lis Beauty is to engineer skin care and wellness that will take center stage in the lives of her clients by providing a focus on beauty, self-care, and a healthy lifestyle.
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