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A Conversation About Healthcare Law with Nurse and Attorney Irnise F. Williams

September 21, 2022

In the latest episode of the Caring Support Podcast, we sat down with Irnise F. Williams, Esq, a nurse lawyer from the United States. We spoke about the fact that she has been able to find a perfect balance between two fields as different as healthcare and the law, and many other things related to the two. Overall, it was a smart and captivating conversation that we are sure our audience will benefit from. Keep reading to find out what she told us.

Healthcare Law with Nurse and Attorney Irnise F. Williams

Irnise, what came first in your life, your love for healthcare or the law?

Being a nurse was something that I always dreamed of. I grew up around my grandparents who were sickly, so I was always around nurses and doctors. And I feel like back then it wasn't as rushed of a process. You could actually spend time with your physician and get to know your physician and they knew your entire family, and that was the experience that I wanted to provide for other patients as well. But then I got into healthcare and I realized it wasn't that intimate, that many times you have a very short period of time for caring for your patients, and I quickly decided I wanted to have another option, so I went to law school but I stayed in healthcare. When I graduated, I had a hard time trying to get people to understand the value of nursing outside of the hospital setting. People understand that nurses care for patients, but they don't understand that nurses are part of the technology world now, that nurses are essentially specialized in so many different things inside of healthcare systems as well as in community health. And they just couldn't understand why a nurse would become a lawyer. That's what they would say in my interviews. Or they would ask "what kind of value do you bring with your background?" And I'm just like "I am task oriented, I can multitask in a very high pressured environment." And especially these things are not necessarily life or death on the legal side, but in my old job, it was and people really had a hard time understanding that. And so I got tired of trying to prove myself. And I ended up staying in healthcare a few years longer than I expected. And then, of course, the pandemic did what pandemics do, and it shook a lot of people up and it shook me up. And I said, "OK, if my life ended tomorrow, would I be happy about what I was doing?" And although I'm always proud to be a nurse and I'm a nurse at heart, I knew that I had more things that I could do, especially with my background. So that's kind of how I reemerged back into the legal world, even though I've had my license for about seven years.

How have you been able to combine two fields that seem so different from one another?

Everything in health care is heavily regulated. I think that we as healthcare practitioners only see the clinical side of what we do but everything we do is essentially approved or not approved by a government agency and by all types of regulators. The federal government has their hands on everything that we do, how we care for our patients, what happens to our patients when they leave the hospital, how we interact and communicate with each other, and how we get access to information from one provider to the next. All of that is heavily regulated, but clinicians don't understand the law and those who are creating the regulations don't understand what clinicians really do, and there has to be a voice in between that kind of bridges it without it necessarily being always at the head. So many times when issues are fixed in healthcare, it's because there's a huge issue like the pandemic, and now we're trying to go back and find a solution where I'm telling people we don't have to wait until we're at that boiling point, that we can actually do a lot of proactive and preventative advocacy to have conversations with regulators and government agencies to let them know what it's really like to care for patients. And so I have served initially as an educator. So I got on social media to educate healthcare providers on systems. What is happening outside of your unit? What is happening outside of your hospital? And outside of your town to get people to start thinking bigger and systematically. And then, as those people started to say "hey, I'm tired, I'm burned out, I want to get out of direct patient care, but I still want to have some type of healthcare business," I started helping them understand the regulations, the scope of practice, how they can protect their license, their practice and their patients, and bridging that gap for them because they would go talk to lawyers who understood business or understood the law, but didn't understand what a nurse practitioner was, what a CRNA was; they didn't understand the scope of practice and the risk and liabilities that came with that. And so people were left with unanswered questions which can be super risky for patients. Being able to bridge that gap and provide information and resources, consultations, and sometimes compliance and legal resources for those clients has kind of been what my practice has been built off of. RPN vs. RN - What are the differences?

It's great that you have your own law office, specializing in helping healthcare organizations thrive. What are the most common cases you work on?

A lot of people initially just want their questions answered. I do a lot of consultations with clients, just helping them understand the lay of the land. If a nurse looking to get into business, they need to figure out many things, from something as simple as opening up a business bank account and getting all the documentation in order, all the way to the types of services that they can provide in their state based on the regulations. I provide that foundational support. Then some clients decide, "OK, I know what I know, but I have a lot of things that I don't know. I need some additional support." And so there are a few different ways that people work with me. Either they come on and they get access to all of these tools and resources that I created so that they can be successful in business, protect their business, protect their patients, and protect their license; or they come on and then they do some consulting with me where I help them bridge the gap in their lack of education. A lot of my clients are essentially well-seasoned healthcare practitioners who just don't understand business and entrepreneurship and don't really know where to go. I feel like the business world is a monster and if you go into it, you can get easily overwhelmed. Entrepreneurship is a whole other beast and getting into can be extremely overwhelming. You're getting information from every different person on social media or online and in all of these different places, and sometimes people just need a little bit, enough to kind of get them to the next phase until they can kind of take on more. Most of my clients are nurses or nurse practitioners. I do have a few providers and physicians who are also working with me. Then I work with a couple of healthcare tech companies as they begin to expand into different states and really kind of understand the regulations on that end. Nurse Practitioner vs Doctor

In your experience, what are the most frequent challenges faced by healthcare workers who want to start their own businesses, like their own clinics or private practices, for instance?

Most people come in and just want to know what they can do with the license they have. And then, those who are advanced practitioners, such as nurse practitioners and physicians, usually want to know what they can delegate because they can't do it all on their own. They're trying to find the clarity and these "gray areas" that are just not well explained. I feel like here in the US things can be very murky in areas that are profitable because the more people get into it, the less profitable it is for those who are actually in it. And there are a lot of regulations that may not be necessary or are just outdated, but they haven't removed them and you still kind of have to adhere to them. That's where I come in, to provide that clarity. And even if we don't have a specific answer, we then begin to put things in place to make sure that if any issues ever arise, you have a plan. On the other side of that, it is "when do I bring in marketing?" So we talk about how to build awareness for your practice. How to not burn yourself out. If you're leaving a situation where you're already burned out, you're going to get into entrepreneurship and it's going to burn you out as well because it's even more work since you're doing everything versus just collecting a paycheck and showing up three days a week. And then we talk about what they do and what you don't know. I tell my clients, knowledge is powerful, but sometimes you can't learn it all at once. You can't take on all that information. One thing that healthcare providers are not good at is trying to figure out how to make money. They're good at what they do, but they don't understand the operational cost that goes into it. And so I'm like, "OK, if you're charging this much, how many people do you need to see? If you need to see 700 people to make $10,000, you're not going to be able to make that number ever." And so that's difficult. And I think now in the tech world, it's all about systems, automation, and workflows. How do you make this as easy as possible so that people can get access to what you have?

What are your recommendations for healthcare workers who want to go on their own, but are afraid to do so?

I tell people to go to the library and get some books because what I feel is happening is that everyone's getting their information from social media, which is short form, and it's not comprehensive and it's not giving people a long-term or long-form strategy. So you'll hear someone's strategy that they explain in a 15-second video or 30-second video, but they don't really go into all of the details. And I tell people, get a book, pick a strategy, use the whole strategy, and not just a little piece of it. And if it doesn't work, then pivot. But if you take a thousand pieces of information and try to put it all together, you're going to find your business in disarray. And I think that's hard for people to actually sit down and go pick up a book and find some time to dig into what it is that they're seeking to do. There is so much quality information about starting a business, growing a business, scaling a business, finding clients, all of the things that people have questions about. But people don't necessarily want to spend the time doing the research before they take that next step. I see people who are $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 in and then they're saying, "Well, I don't even know how I'm going to get my first customer." And I'm like, "well how did you get this far?" "How did you spend thousands of thousand dollars on training?" So I tell people that once you are competent at the things that you can do and the things that you know, nobody can sell you on something that you don't need. And there are things that you need in business. There are resources, amazing tools and projects that are out there essentially helping business owners do it better. But then you can't use every system. You can't use ClickUp and Asana and everything else. You can't use it all just because you feel like that's what everyone is using to build a better business. And I think that when you have good companies that have good integrity, that's what you're looking for. But when you're rushed, you don't have the time to find that.

Finally, is there anything you would like all healthcare workers listening to this podcast to know?

I always tell people that nurses and even other healthcare providers are amazing business owners. We have all the skills, we operate with them daily through the tasks that we do, caring for others, thinking about what's most important to other people, and figuring out cost-effective solutions. We are the hackers of the hospital, trying to make things work and tie things together for other people. And you can do that in business, but you just have to understand how it works, just shift your perspective. Instead of necessarily caring for a patient in the traditional sense, you're caring for them, but you're taking in a lot of other factors as well. And even when people come to me, I still refer them to books. I'll say, "Hey, you need to read this marketing book. You need to read this because it's a confidence builder." I can tell you anything, and yes, it may work, but there's something about when you know it for yourself, how powerful that is. And so I want people to stop making excuses like that you don't know enough, or you can't learn it, or you're you know, you didn't have a business major. Most people who are business owners didn't go to business school. They're essentially people who just had an idea and were gutsy enough to go after it. And so I really encourage people to just try, start small. Don't leave your job until you know you have an income that you can essentially replace, but start actually applying the skills that you use every single day into a business, and potentially you'll be able to see kind of just a different outlook and perspective.

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Additionally, I would say that even if you plan to stay at your job full time, there are still so many options and opportunities to get into entrepreneurship as a side hustle. Or something you can do when you retire, or just something that essentially fuels your passion. And it doesn't have to be healthcare-related. So many people who are in health care are multi-talented and multifaceted, and they bring so much value to other people in other industries. So don't feel pigeonholed to having to start a healthcare business. There are so many other ideas that you can pursue. If you're an artist become an artist, right? Still, start a business to protect your business and protect your art, and make sure everything is legal and legit. But don't keep yourself pigeonholed in this one industry just because that's what you do every day. That's your career path. That's an option. That's a job. But if you really have other passions, go after them. It's worth it. Literally, I woke up one day and said, "if I died of COVID tomorrow, would I be happy?" And I said, no. And the next day I started back on the mission of fulfilling my own dreams. And I'm so much happier for it. And I definitely want that for as many people as, you know, who want that for themselves. Read More: How to Apply to a Nursing Program in Ontario

About Irnise Williams, esq.

Irnise is an experienced nurse and attorney and a Change Management expert who helps healthcare workers build, operate, and protect their businesses. She has worked with over 100 companies and assisted them in creating systems, solutions, and success through her 5-Step framework. She has also trained thousands of healthcare providers through her digital courses, webinars, and speaking engagements.

Irnise has been a nurse for over 15 years and a lawyer for half of that time. Her primary practice as a nurse was in hospice, end-of-life, surgery, and outpatient care. During the pandemic, she decided to relaunch her law practice to work specifically with nurses and nurse practitioners who were opening up all types of health care-related businesses.

"It's just been a really good journey to just spread a lot of education, provide support and to build that bridge for nurses who are getting into entrepreneurship," she says.

Read More :

How to Find Success in Nursing According to RPN Ashley Fox

A Decade of Nursing with RN Kerry-Ann Raymond

All About Social Worker Jobs

You can listen to the full interview by visiting our Podcast or our Youtube Channel, where you can also find all of our past episodes.

Thank you for reading!

About The Author
Laura Woodman
Content Marketing Specialist

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