Donna Cardillo Shares Her Path From ER Nurse To Business Owner

You started your career in emergency and psychiatric nursing. What led you to move into health care management and business? I moved my residence and had to find a new job. When I couldn’t find a job in a local ER on the day shift, I began to explore my options. I responded to an ad to work in a medical weight control center because it was close to my new home. I wound up getting hired as the head nurse in this privately owned company and eventually was promoted to center manager. It was then that I began to realize all the transferable skills I had as a clinical nurse to work in management and healthcare business settings. I also discovered that I could have an even broader impact in such roles. It was also a great opportunity to stretch myself personally and professionally. You never know what you’re capable of, or even what you enjoy doing, until you try.

Tell me what you consider the biggest challenges or concerns about nursing today. The entire healthcare delivery system in the US is changing and evolving to meet the changing demographics and healthcare needs of the population now and in the future. Nursing is changing right along with it. Yet many nurses are stuck in the old model and don’t realize/don’t accept that they need to evolve and change along with it. This includes staying competitive, current, and relevant in terms of education, self-marketing skills, emotional intelligence, professional development (certification, writing and speaking skills, etc.) and technology. It’s also important to stay abreast of trends in healthcare that effect the job market and current and future career opportunities for both newly licensed and experienced nurses.

You are a blogger for Doctor Oz, and have received multiple awards of such as Business Woman of the year and named one of the 50 best women in business, additionally, you have authored several books. How do you manage your time and sanity? What throws you off balance and how do you know you are out of balance?  We all make the time for, and give priority to, things that are truly important to us. I set at least three big professional goals for myself each year, goals that challenge me and propel me forward. Through professional organizations such as the National Nurses in Business Association, The National Association of Women Business Owners, and the American Nurses Association, I associate with other nurses and individuals who are successful, upbeat, supportive, and forward thinking. This helps to keep me motivated and on track.

When I find myself feeling frazzled, unfocused, irritable, and exhausted from trying to be too many things to too many people or doing too much without seeking help and support, I know I have to step back to regain energy and balance.

What brings you back into balance? I made self-care a priority about 15 years ago after I almost completely burned myself out. It was a wake-up call for me. I love the outdoors and spend time in nature (including the beach) when I can. I take an annual self-care retreat by myself for 4 or 5 days at a spiritual destination. I get regular massages and energy work such as Reiki. I make time for friends, family, and personal pursuits. I write about this journey in my newest book Falling Together: How to Find Balance, Joy, and Meaningful Change When Your Life Seems to be Falling Apart.

How have you adapted to learning technology? Technology is an integral part of our lives so I am forced to keep up although I am sometimes resistant to it. However, I must admit it has made my life easier and more organized in many ways. Of course it can also be a distraction and I have to work to keep that in check.

What advice would you give to new grads starting out? There is no one right path for all nurses to follow. We’re all different and nursing offers many different opportunities to make a difference. It is the most diverse profession on the planet and will take you anywhere you want to go. Follow your heart and create a career in nursing that suits your lifestyle, personality, and interests. Make it your own, not what someone else tells you it should be. My career in nursing has been largely nontraditional

Donna’s most recent book Falling Together: How to Find Balance, Joy, and Meaningful Change When Your Life Seems to Be Falling Apart was published in the spring of 2016. She is also the author of Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful ProfessionalThe ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career, and A Day Book for Beginning Nurses.  Donna Cardillo, RN, MS, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), The Inspiration Nurse, travels the world helping women and health professionals to live fearlessly in career and life and reach their full potential. She is a Dr. Oz Blogger, transformational keynote speaker, retreat leader, author and cut-up.