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12 Things Nursing Taught Me About Owning a Business
Have you ever wondered whether you're cut out to be an entrepreneur? Nurses sometimes tell me they aren't sure if their nursing career has prepared them to start and succeed in their own legal nurse consultant practice. Yet even the most routine nursing job is full of life lessons that apply to the business world.
My first job as an intensive care nurse in a major medical center prepared me for business success. Subsequent jobs reinforced those early messages. I invite you to look closely at your own nursing career and discover the lessons that will help you succeed as a legal nurse consultant.
Success Lesson 1 — Find Your Passion and Turn It into a Business
As much as I loved my work with critically ill patients and their families, my inner voice told me I wouldn't be working in a hospital forever. As a young nurse, the vision of myself working in the ICU at age 40, 50 or 60 just wouldn't come into focus.
With only 6 years of nursing experience, I left the hospital and started my legal nurse consultant business. From there, I listened to my inner voice and reconnected with my first passion teaching. At age 8, I spent hours every day teaching an imaginary class. Today I am privileged to teach, coach and mentor nurses to live their career dreams. I turned my passion into a business, and since then I haven't worked a single day.
Listen to your inner voice, and you will find your passion. Many nurses have reconnected to their passion through legal nurse consulting, a choice unknown to them before they took my program.
Success Lesson 2 – You Have the Power to Take Control of Your Career Destiny
Patients heal faster when they take control of their health and practice healthy habits. Even the smallest positive action can give a patient a sense of control and empower the healing process.
I learned this lesson time and again as I struggled to gain control of my own nursing career. Each time I refused to give in to the frustrations of working within the healthcare system and took a positive step on my own, I felt better. With every step I grew, I thrived and I came up with new ideas to further my sense of control and satisfaction.
The same is true about your career. You have the power to practice the healthy habits essential to take control of your career destiny. Educate yourself about the steps to achieving career health, including new career options like legal nurse consulting. Then take action on those steps. You really can take control of your career destiny.
Success Lesson 3 – Don't Give in to Fear
As a nurse, I frequently treated patients who had the same progressive disease, yet experienced dramatically different outcomes. We all have known patients who lived years after their predicted demise and other patients who should have lived but didn't because they gave up or didn't want to live. The fact that so many elderly patients die within months of losing a spouse is a solid example of the mind-body connection. In almost every case, the patients who died too soon had given in to fear.
There's also a mind-business connection that will influence the health of your business. When I give in to fear, I become the biggest obstacle to my success. That was true when I started my business 19 years ago. That is true today.
Fear will paralyze you instantly. Practice mind control and exercise your mind daily for positive thinking. Shake off your lack of confidence and negative thinking. Don't wait for an MI to stop inhaling the toxic smoke of fear. Don't let fear be the reason you don't live your career dreams. Always remember the mind-set of the patients who live and the patients who die.
Success Lesson 4 – Nurses Can Do Anything
As nurses most of us have brought patients back to life. We all can recall at least one miracle story a case where, with our help, a patient survived against all odds.
Whenever I face a business crisis, I remind myself, "I'm a nurse and nurses can do anything." I've repeated this same message for 19 years, and it has helped me overcome every obstacle.
If you can heal sick patients and handle life-threatening emergencies as easily as you make your bed in the morning, you really can do anything – especially something as straightforward as starting a business.
Success Lesson 5 – You Can't Climb Mount Everest without Practicing on the Foothills
I had to have extensive education and training just to qualify for my first nursing job. All the lessons from that job helped prepare me for the next. Each successive nursing position required new and different skills necessitating more training and education.
The same applies to owning a business. Today I handle things easily and successfully that seemed impossible 19 years ago. But that's because I've been in training for what I do now ever since I became a nurse.
If you're frustrated with your nursing career, don't feel like you've thrown your life away. No experience or job is a waste. Everything you have done has trained you to move up to the next level. Above all, don't let the fact that you're not trained to climb Mount Everest stop you from pursuing your dreams of becoming an independent legal nurse consultant. Your nursing training and experience was the first step. Start the next step of your training today, and you will make that climb to start your successful legal nurse consultant business.
Success Lesson 6 – The Nursing Process Is Your Friend
When I left clinical nursing, I thought I could set aside the "nursing process" forever. I couldn't have been more wrong. Business requires that same process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation. Every project I take on requires me to assess the possibilities and needs, diagnose the problems, plan how to achieve my goals, implement the plan and evaluate my results.
Your nursing jobs have prepared you well. You can apply the nursing process to any business situation and challenge. You will thank your nursing instructors for this one. Every time you review a medical-related case, interview with an attorney or face a challenge in running your business, you will rely on the process they taught you.
Success Lesson 7 – Act Quickly and Decisively
As an ICU nurse, I learned that seconds made a difference in patient outcome. That's true for nurses in any specialty. I rarely had lots of time to ponder or brood over a clinical decision.
I have applied the same principles of acting quickly and decisively in business, too. Am I always correct? No. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Yet because of my nursing experience, I'm never paralyzed into inaction and I've been able to make the most of numerous opportunities I would have missed without acting quickly.
Don't miss your chance to succeed. Learn to act quickly and decisively, and you will grow your legal nurse consultant business.
Success Lesson 8 – What You Focus on Is Where You Achieve Results
In nursing I was often overwhelmed by short staffing, heavy caseloads and lack of support from hospital administration. I soon learned to triage and focus on what I needed to do to heal patients in this less-than-ideal environment. Nursing taught me that where I focus my time is where I achieve results.
That skill comes in handy in business. It's as important to triage and prioritize your actions in business as it is when working with patients. Every day I'm confronted with dozens of challenges, five things that must be done at once, and 20 new creative ideas for my business, but I rarely panic. The organizational and multi-tasking skills I learned as a nurse have served me well.
When you start your legal nurse consultant business, you will not receive any extra hours in the day. In fact, the days will feel shorter. Even the general public knows that working conditions for RNs are worse than ever. Your ability to focus on what's really important under these conditions is the perfect preparation for your successful legal nurse consultant practice.
Success Lesson 9 – This Is Just Business, It's Not Breast Cancer
Ministering to patients and family members helped me put life with all its problems and challenges into perspective. Today when I overreact to a problem or feel I'm in crisis, I think of sick and dying patients. I think, "Now fighting for your life is a REAL problem."
In business I've had lots of ups and downs. When the down moments come, I remind myself, "This is business – not breast cancer." This helps me focus positively on solving the problem rather than embarking on a pity party. I've thrown plenty of those "parties", and they never helped me solve a single business problem.
As you grow your legal nurse consultant business, it helps to ask "So what if this month is not as successful as I planned?" or "So what if my best attorney-client retires?" and to remember its just business, not breast cancer.
Success Lesson 10 – Illness Can Wake You Up
As a nurse I treated many patients who only began to live after they almost died. We've all had patients who said they are glad they got sick, because while they were well, they weren't living the life they wanted. The health crisis forced them to wake up, reassess their lives, decide what was truly important to them, and go for it.
Not every day is a healthy business day. Some days I wake up to a disease challenge in my business. Surprisingly, it's the business ills and mistakes that often awaken me to creative ways of injecting my business with new life.
If your career is facing a health crisis, this is your opportunity to wake up and change things for the better. Legal nurse consulting is one way to restore the health of your career.
Success Lesson 11 – Business Is Personal
Even though technical skills are vital for an ICU nurse, the relationships with patients and their families were what mattered most to me. Those relationships paid off one day when I made a mistake. Because of our relationship, the patient requested that I continue being his nurse despite my error.
Legal nurse consulting is a service business where you will apply the same relationship principles you learned in nursing to your attorney-clients and prospects. Provide quality service and excellent work product that no other legal nurse consultant can replicate, and soon you'll feel like you're in a short-staffing situation all over again.
Success Lesson 12 – Healthy Patients Take Care of Themselves
We've all worked with healthy and unhealthy patients and we've seen the effects of poor health habits on the human body. The health of a pregnant woman is often dramatically reflected in the health of her offspring.
To run a successful company you must enjoy an optimal state of health. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. I love my business, but I love myself more. After all, without a healthy me, I couldn't muster the energy to give 110% to my clients and employees every day.
Every lesson I learned from nursing, I apply to my business today. You've already learned similar lessons yourself. You don't need another hospital job to help you succeed in business. Take a moment to revel in all nursing has taught you. These lessons will multiply your success when you transfer them to your new legal nurse consulting practice.
About the Author: Inc. Top 10 Entrepreneur Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute, the oldest and largest legal nurse consultant training and certification company. Credited by The New York Times with pioneering the legal nurse consulting profession in 1982. She is the author of the bestselling self help book for women, Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn't Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now.