From Registered Nurse to Business School Student

Before coming to Fuqua, I worked as a registered nurse on the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

While working as a floor nurse at Mott, I began reading about health care innovation and reform. I noticed that rarely, if ever, was a nurse mentioned in the discussions. This was particularly troubling to me since so many of the kids I was caring for were affected by health care system changes in one way or another. I knew that if I wanted to be included in the conversations about health care, understanding the business side of it would give me valuable insights. While applying to graduate school, I was looking for a program that could introduce me to the core concepts of business and give me the tools to apply them in real-life problems, which is why I chose this program at Duke.

The Unique Skillset of a Nurse in Business and Technology

Academically, nurses are taught how to evaluate scientific articles, the applications of scientific methods, and health care delivery in the U.S. and abroad. As a student nurse, we participate in clinical rotations working with a variety of patients, in the hospital and community, ranging from newborn babies to critically ill adult patients. During a leadership course, I worked with a nurse manager to implement unit-wide leadership rounds in order to improve patient satisfaction scores. During a community health rotation, I worked with a team in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to improve lead poisoning education for those affected by the Flint water crisis. Typically, nursing students have a strong foundation of health knowledge, but we also know how to implement the skills and quality improvement techniques we learn.  

As a nurse, we see a different side of health care—we care for patients from a holistic point of view. Arguably, no one spends more time at the bedside than nurses do. We’re taught emotional intelligence, motivational interviewing skills, and time management that is incorporated in daily care while working with the patients, the health care provider teams, and families. Improving patient care has always been collaborative, so solving health care issues should be collaborative as well.

Nurses as Innovators

My interests in innovation and health care technology have always stemmed beyond professional nursing. During my senior year of undergrad, I took an introductory coding class on C++/Python and a course on science, technology, and public policy. These courses had a big influence in shaping the way I view the health care system. I realized even before I was a licensed nurse that there are many angles to improve health care, not just through direct patient care.

My clinical experience plays a pivotal role in how I tackle health care issues. I am currently working on a mental health app for adolescents. Recently, my team and I presented this idea to a panel of judges during the Triangle Health Innovation Challenge and placed second overall. My clinical experience played a role in developing the app features, while my business courses taught me market sizing, pricing strategies, and competitive analysis tools.

Bringing in a clinical perspective into business school is extremely valuable. You have an interdisciplinary skillset, where you can solve business issues and understand the clinical environments in which they occur, making you an incredible asset.

Winna presenting with her team at the Triangle Health Innovation Challenge; nursing and business

Presenting with my team at the Triangle Health Innovation Challenge