Recently I have met and exchanged ideas with many nurses who are using their talents and education to go beyond the bedside and becoming their own bosses. Many of these nurses I have spoken to, have a vision and a business plan along with the desire to enter the entrepreneurial world, building a greater network for nurses worldwide, be it starting their own homecare agencies, nurse consultant firms, scrubs brand and medical supplies or even outside the medical field, from fitness centers, to debt reconciliation agencies, writers, bloggers and many others.
One of these influential nurses that I have had the pleasure to meet and learn more about her entrepreneurial skills and business vision is Jennifer Dickson, a Registered Nurse from Texas. Jennifer has built and recently launched her own on-demand babysitting business, SitterNeeded, and what caught my attention even further was the fact that she was giving back to nursing students trying to make their way through nursing school. Sitter Needed has recently launched in Dallas and I wanted to learn a little bit more about her goals and be able to share her accomplishments with others.
Who is Jennifer Dickson? What is her business idea? Where did the idea come from?
Jennifer Dickson, BSN, RN, is a nurse by education and proud to be a part of the nursing profession. She started her pursuits in nursing over 15 years ago working full-time while attending community college to obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing.
“It took six years after high school to complete the program as I worked extremely hard to balance work and school. It was during this difficult time that I created the concept for what is now my company, SitterNeeded; A flexible work opportunity for nursing students by working as on-demand sitters for families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”
Jennifer points out the fact that many nursing students are encouraged not to work and focus solely on the program.
“While I understand that recommendation, it is not the reality for many students who share my experience in which work is required to fund school. Therefore, flexible work is vital and babysitting is a perfect option as the hours are variable and the work is meaningful to the community. I knew this would be a great resource for both students and families but as I graduated nursing school, I launched myself into my nursing career and my vision was tucked away in a folder that would travel with me for the next 15 years.”
Jennifer worked as a pediatric cardiology nurse on night shift for five years while raising her son.
“As a working, single mom, I knew my business idea would benefit families but I had no experience in the area of business or in management. Five years into my career, I moved into a Clinical Educator position in which I was responsible for the training oversight of new grad nurses as they transitioned from school to their first nursing role. It was at this time that I also returned to school to obtain my Bachelors Degree in Nursing (BSN). Myself and many of the new graduate nurses were working through similar struggles to find trusted childcare while working hospital hours that fall outside of the normal hours of a daycare facility. I saw everyone doing what he or she could to make childcare work but wishing that there was a better option than that constantly looking for help.”
After obtaining her BSN, Jennifer became a Clinical Manager on a nursing unit with over 90 employees. Through this experience, she gained invaluable knowledge in the hiring and mentoring of new employees, the pursuit of quality performance while balancing day-to-day operations.
“After five years, I was looking for an opportunity to impact nursing quality as well as business in a new way and made a transition into consulting. I found that my pursuits of service excellence and continuing the trusted perception of nursing in the community could not be fulfilled in that role. However, that nursing leadership role along with my overall years of experience has been instrumental in the development of SitterNeeded today. I officially began launching the concept of SitterNeeded in October 2017 and am working diligently to begin offering services to families starting July of 2018.”
Who are her target clients and employees?
Her company is designed to help Dallas-Fort Worth families who need on-demand childcare services outside of traditional daycare and after hours.
“We want to be the trusted choice in babysitting services. We will do this by employing current nursing students from the many accredited nursing schools in the area and online. This employment opportunity is for nursing students who need to create income while balancing the demands of nursing school and therefore require autonomy in scheduling their work.”
How is this benefiting nursing students? What are the criteria to be hired in your business?
“I am excited to launch this company at this time in my professional nursing career. 18 years ago, as a brand new nurse and a brand new mom, I had the vision for the company but did not fully understand the potential without the experience I have now gained in my nursing career and a single mom. In addition, to a flexible work option for students, my aim for this company and my leadership is to provide a positive impact on the next generation of nursing professionals through professional mentorship. As an experienced nursing leader and educator, I will offer assistance with resume preparation and review as well as behavioral based interviewing preparation.”
Jennifer assures that these skills are necessary to set graduate nurses apart from the many applicants that managers receive for a few nurse residency positions. In addition, the demands of healthcare have changed greatly over the years and nursing professionals need more experience and exposure to service excellence.
“Utilizing my healthcare experience, I have developed training that incorporates similar service elements into our business model and will promote this in daily business operations. My aim is to complement the nursing instructions received in school with the service skills that are necessary for today’s competitive market.”
What are some limitations you have perceived? What are your plans?
“Flexibility on my part as an employer is key in order to serve as a desired employment opportunity for students. Nursing schedules vary by school and semester and often change on very short notice. It is imperative that I build open communication channels with my employees and provide a structure in which flexibility can be provided as much as possible while still maintaining our core commitment to the families of our community. In addition, families are looking for trusted childcare, but this is a brand new offering that must demonstrate its value in the marketplace. We must be the professional care offering that we promise to be in order for families to recognize the value in our services. However, I see this as an opportunity. It’s a way in which we can continue the perception of trust that nursing has within the community. This allows nursing students the opportunity to positively impact that communal trust in a very real way.”
Any challenges you’ve faced a nurse entrepreneur?
“I have enjoyed an amazing career as a nurse and feel very confident in the realms of nursing leadership, education, quality and process improvement. Being an entrepreneur; however, is new to me. I would say that every single aspect of creating a business from scratch has been a challenge. Thankfully, my passion for nursing and my vision to offer this opportunity to nursing students keeps moving me forward on a daily basis. Also, the continual positive feedback from students and families in the community serve as reminders that the challenges are worthwhile and the end result will be needed.”
Are you currently working with any nursing schools?
“Yes, we are connected to local nursing schools in various ways. We attend career fairs when available, post our job listing on school sites, and connect with nursing program coordinators.
Below is a list of schools SitterNeeded have connected with and/or hired nursing students from:
University of Texas at Arlington - College of Nursing and Health Innovation
Texas Women’s University - T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences
Brookhaven College (DCCCD)
Mountain View College (DCCCD)
Chamberlain University College of Nursing
Park University - College of Education and Health Professions
El Centro College - Center for Allied Health and Nursing (DCCCD)
Northlake College (satellite campus for El Centro program)
How can you apply to be a sitter?
The website is currently undergoing a Phase 2 upgrade that will incorporate a student portal to learn more about our employment opportunity as well as apply. This is set to launch on or around August 1st.
In the meantime, students can apply directly using the link below:
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN