Viewpoint: Nurses should be running the healthcare business

America needs more nurses — not just helping patients, but running the business of healthcare, Joel Theisen, BSN, RN, wrote in an opinion piece posted Aug. 8 on MedPage Today.

Mr. Theisen started his career as a critical care nurse at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic. In 1992, he joined his mother-in-law's home health business and later established his own senior health company.

"Business skills gave me an opportunity to use my nursing know-how to change healthcare and how senior patients experienced it. As a nurse, I knew I could make life better for my own senior clients, but as the leader of my own healthcare startup, I knew I could make life better for many more seniors and their families," Mr. Theisen wrote.

Many executives define medicine by dollars and cents and view it through spreadsheets, profit-and-loss statements and claims management metrics, but nurses are "customer-driven." 

"We are wired and trained to focus on people — what people want, what people need, and how we can make their lives better," he wrote. "Our job is to view life through the client's eyes. Based on what the customer tells us, we solve, we adjust, and we adapt. We must earn the customer's trust and then deliver results. The key skill for nurses is the ability to listen."

Mr. Theisen says "without reservation" that healthcare would be better if more nurses were in the C-suite. "Nurses might even provide an edge for savvy leaders looking to improve their businesses." 

He said that being a nurse made him a better business leader. 

"I don't work with clients every day, but I definitely rely daily on the skills that nursing gave me — the psychology, sociology, empathy, grit, flexibility, tirelessness, unflappability and fearlessness needed to survive in our profession."

Mr. Theisen said leaders need to think beyond traditional roles to what nurses want and open doors for leadership and C-suite potential. 

"We need to encourage more nurses to see the versatility of this profession and its untapped potential to be bold learners. Yes, we need more nurses on the front line, but we also need them leading the change in business," he wrote.

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