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April 16, 2017

Meet Angela Brooks - From Nurse To Entrepreneur

Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after working in mental health for 25 1/2 years. She built her 6-figure business part-time on her lunch break. Now she helps entrepreneurs use social media and a blog to build a wildly successful business online.

What inspired you to start a business on top of being a nurse? 

I wanted to go to school business school before starting nursing school; I didn’t know what kind of business, but I was still drawn to it. However, I was not the one paying for my tuition and I was discouraged from  going in that direction. At the time, my husband was in the military so a nursing job would easily  transfer to new locations than most careers connected to the military life.

I worked night shift all but the last 5 years I worked as a nurse. I used health products  that would support my energy level and focus; I knew nothing about business or that talking about the products was prospecting language for business.

As I began to learn more about the industry, I realized I could make extra money very part time. I am a mother of two boys who were very active in sports; my oldest son traveled with baseball and I wanted to make $500 - $1000  a month to cover the expenses for his weekend trips and long weekend tournaments. 

In order to make that much extra money as a nurse, I would have to work overtime and be away from my family more than I already was. I didn’t want to spend more time at the hospital where most of my OT income would be taken in taxes; I needed a tax break and income I could actually see.

What are things you enjoyed as a nurse?

I enjoyed connecting with the patients I took care of. I worked in a general hospital on the float team, working in all areas of the building for almost two years when I switched to a local state psychiatric hospital. 

I spent 25 ½ years working there and retired from nursing in December, 2014. I heard lots of sad stories, but after spending that many years in the hospital as the patients came and went over the years, I really got to know them and their families. Some didn’t have families and we the staff became like family. One thing I miss being retired is not knowing how some of those patients are doing now. 

And what challenges did you have? 

When I worked on the psychiatric floor, we would cover 2-3 units with 20-25 patients on each floor and only two assistants who helped with the work load.

It was a very dangerous job and some of the stories in “The Nurse’s Voice”, the book I wrote about my experiences, seem unreal. However, they were all true; with respect to the people in the stories, all names and locations were omitted for reasons of privacy. 

In a psychiatric state hospital, anything could happen at any moment; one incident could take the rest of the night to complete in terms of paperwork. 

Rarely did you have just one event -- one always led to another. We did not have computer charting, so it was all handwritten with at least 20 documents in a packet to cover a single incident. The packet was reviewed during morning meeting and you could be pulled from work duty if it was not completed well, triggering an investigation to look into the events.

This was all very stressful, which would make nurses handle an event themselves rather than pull the alarms for help. This left people at risk of injury without enough staff   in place to deescalate a situation properly.

There were lots of challenges working for the state. There were very few raises; in the final 8 years, we received 1% raises over about 5 years before it went to 2%. We were due a 3% raise January 1st of 2015; this was my actual retirement date and I was not given that raise to go toward my pension. 

After spending 25 ½ years as a employee, I was not given my 25-year certificate nor a retirement  plaque from the hospital. I was told that that process had changed; leaving was easy.

How has your experience as a nurse impacted your business outlook? 

My last five years, I worked in the education and training department with one other coworker. I processed and educated 200 nursing students who came through our facility as their internship for school. I also kept the staff updated on policy changes and skills each year.  I taught all  of the new nursing employees as they came through orientation; I also taught CPI (crisis prevention) for all new staff once a month.

I learned firsthand how people respond to different methods of training and coaching, as well as what motivates them to do certain skills the right way and stay alert in class. People generally like to learn but it has to be something that is fun and keeps them entertained.

How you make someone feel as a new employee is the same as the best approach to a new customer or business partner. Most people will learn if they are given the tools for success; some will and some won’t, of course, and that is just human nature. I learned to work with those that are willing, alert, and leaning in to know more.  I can’t make people do anything, so I am looking for those who are ready to learn without having their hand held. 

Nurses are super resourceful people. They study, they ask questions, and they look for more detail; they’re also excellent teachers. Nurse are also action people, which makes them perfect in the role of entrepreneur.

What are your biggest influences and how have they shaped your career? 

To be in business, you can never take all the credit for the success that you have. I have hired coaches who have gone down the same business path that I also wanted to travel. My current business coach, Ray Higdon, has been amazing -- he offers no fluff, just straightforward coaching that has helped me almost double my team in 10 months. In business, you need someone who will guide you in a direction that works instead of just trying to figure it all out on your own.

Some people will try to learn business skills on their own, and they can to a point; but to scale up, you need guidance. Just like becoming a nurse, you have to go to school to gain the skills you need and be coached on how to do things better for your patients. 

How has the power of social media and blogging transformed your career? 

Blogging and social media are the number one tools I’ve used to build my business. With me working full time, I didn’t have the energy or time for the standard “home parties”. I was also told my method would never work because this is a people business; that always made me laugh because those who are on social media are real people. I have built some of my strongest relationships online; when we actually get to meet in person, it’s like long time friends seeing each other again.

When I worked as a nurse, I would take my lunch break and use my smart phone to write a blog post, emailing it to myself so that I could post it to my blog after I arrived home that afternoon. I stopped having lunch with my coworkers and used my short breaks and lunch breaks to listen to business trainings or follow up with potential customers. My vehicle became an on-the-go university where I would play training CDs on my 40-minute commute to and from work each day. 

It took two very focused and determined years to generate a six-figure income through blogging and social media. Blogging and business are about being consistent; your readers need to know that on a certain time or day you will be sharing new content with them. Most people who start a blog miss that step and then think it doesn’t work. There is a lot behind a blog other than just writing updates; it is your home place where people get to know you and learn about what you do, your mission, and how to stay connected with you. 

Going into my 4th year, it no longer made sense for me to drive to work because I was making more in the first six days of the month part-time from home than I was in 30 days at the hospital. I started checking into my retirement status, and on the day all of my benefits were available, I turned in my notice.

If you knew back then when you first started out as a nurse what you knew now, would you do something differently? Why or why not?

I was a very young 20-year-old brand new nurse right out of school; all I knew to do was to work hard. Being young, the experienced nurses usually passed on the patients they didn’t want;  what I learned from those patients taught me how to treat people. Some were not even all that difficult -- they just needed someone to talk to. 

Listen to your patients. Every time I wanted to rush and use shortcuts in patient care, I would stop and think what I would want if that was my mom or a member of my family. Rarely do people want to be sick and in a hospital; you must be a good caregiver, even with the amount of paperwork you are required to do. The biggest reward is when you see a patient 20 years later in a store and they tell you how much you meant to them while they were sick. 

Nurses are unique. 

Nurses are impactors.

Nurses change people when they think they are just changing a dressing or answering the call light AGAIN.

Nursing is hard.

What advice do you have for young nurses just starting their careers? 

Be a good listener. Be humble enough so that your title doesn’t overtake your thinking. What you say is not what people remember -- they remember what you do. When you have to do or say hard things, allow yourself to pause in your busyness to listen to the family or patient; they will be forever grateful that you took the time to listen. 

What advice do you have for nurses who are feeling burnt out? 

Burnout is hard to admit; you spent so much time in school to learn skills that you feel obligated to use. Find your passion; that helps. 

When it becomes difficult to go to work or you find yourself dreading work more and more, pause and ask yourself who you are helping in that state of mind. Patients feel that energy and know you are not at your best. If your passion shifts, allow that to happen; try something new, change your shift, change your job, change to something that makes you feel light and happy. 

I was miserable. I watched the clock. I felt almost sick walking in the door at work, and I couldn’t wait to leave. No amount of vacation days could make it better. 

When I started traveling to workshops and business boot camps to learn how to build a successful business, I noticed that my energy and mood were different and I craved to learn more. I enjoyed the long hours in class, took tons of notes, and could not wait to get back to the computer to put the new things I had learned into action. 

That is when I knew it was time for a change. I had worked my business part-time to generate a very nice income. I found that there were so many other nurses who felt the same way, and they also needed to slowly work their way out instead of quitting their jobs right away. 

Some nurses never want to stop working in nursing -- at least part time -- and when their business is growing well they have that choice. What most have learned is that they then end up going to work happier, more refreshed, and no longer feeling like it is their only option -- because it isn’t; they’re now there by choice. 

In the long run, the nurses with part-time businesses who I’ve had the privilege to work with generally become better nurses when the stress is decreased. Less overtime means more time with family, and when they take vacations they have the extra money to enjoy themselves. And if vacations are taken in conjunction with a business workshop, it can be a big tax benefit. 

We all like knowing that we have options and that our nursing skills can be used for more than just patient care. I choose to stay within the health and wellness industry; with my nursing background, I have been able to use my skills on non-nursing platforms to improve the health and wellness of others. 

Learn more about Angela on her numerous social media pages: twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube, Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Next Up: Meet Nacole Riccaboni: Helping Nurses Thrive

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