Nurse entrepreneurship has become a common reality in the 21st century, but what does it mean to be an intrapreneur in the worlds of nursing, medicine and healthcare? And what kinds of contributions do nurse intrapreneurs make?
Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur?
Whether they’re nurses or not, entrepreneurs are movers and shakers in the business world.
Entrepreneurial individuals start businesses of all sizes, and nurses are no exception. A nurse entrepreneur might be a freelance writer, the owner of a home health agency, or an internationally known motivational speaker and consultant. There are no limits to what nurses in business can accomplish.
When we talk about the notion of intrapreneurship, we are referring to an employee who ‘takes ownership’ of their work, who thinks about the good of the whole, and who strives to make a significant contribution to their place of employment.
A nurse intrapreneur might notice that a particular system is inefficient and will take it upon themselves to present a potential new system to the team. An intrapreneur will go above and beyond to help a coworker who needs support completing their assignments for the shift.
Intrapreneurial nurses look for novel ways to utilise their talents, contribute to the good of the whole, and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Nurse intrapreneurs are innovators, disrupters (in the positive 21st-century sense of the word), and self-motivated employees who go the extra mile, doing what others might otherwise avoid or overlook.
Why Be an Intrapreneur?
Why would a nurse choose to be an intrapreneur? Isn’t it better to just do what’s expected and nothing more? Isn’t being an intrapreneur making more work for yourself?
Employees – including nurses – don’t necessarily always consciously choose to be intrapreneurial. For some, being an intrapreneur comes naturally, while for others, it’s a learned role.
If you examine the nursing workforce’s work habits, it would probably fall along a ‘bell curve’: the vast majority do a good job and complete all of their tasks and assignments; a small minority at the low end are underachievers and do the bare minimum (at most); at the other end are those who strive to achieve and contribute more than the average worker – these are the intrapreneurs.
There are many benefits of being an intrapreneur, some more tangible than others:
- Increased potential for promotions and special assignments.
- An inner sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction.
- Recognition by colleagues and upper management.
- The enjoyment of creative thinking and problem-solving.
- Being a natural leader.
- Improved communication skills (intrapreneurs often need to defend or explain their innovative ideas).
- Sharpened leadership skills.
- Having an outsized impact.
Intrapreneurs often have bigger fish to fry in their lives and careers. They’re often the people who will risk thinking in new ways and do more than is expected of them. They’re generally great communicators with a very solid sense of self-worth and personal/professional ambition.
Stoking the Intrapreneurial Flame
Innovation is a major driver of almost every 21st-century industry, and healthcare organisations are no exception.
With the ongoing development of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation, change is inevitable, even in situations where it was never surmised that a robot could make a significant contribution.
Enter the intrapreneur, who doesn’t listen to the old adage, “Oh, that’s just the way we’ve always done it.”
Rather, the intrapreneur will continue to ask, “why?“, and come up with new ways of doing things.
Innovation doesn’t always work on the first try, but healthcare organisations that encourage innovation, disruption and new ways of thinking will move ahead faster than those who rely on the old ways.
Healthcare organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve need intrapreneurs to make things happen and move the needle for everyone. Imagine a hospital hosting a ‘hackathon’ wherein staff are encouraged to work alone or in small groups to come up with solutions to ongoing problems, or innovative ways of reengineering processes that are not quite up to par.
The sky’s the limit.
The Thriving Intrapreneur
The thriving nurse intrapreneur isn’t afraid to fail. He or she innovates, thinks outside of the box, isn’t stuck in the past, and has heightened powers of perception and communication.
Intrapreneurship can lead to many unexpected positive outcomes for both the organisation and the intrapreneur him – or herself.
Savvy healthcare organisations encourage and reward intrapreneurship and tap the intrapreneur-employee population for innovators and thought leaders who can fill the succession pipeline and take the organisation to new heights and greater success.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram---as well as at www.nursekeith.com and Digital Doorway.