The idea of starting a new business, let alone a new healthcare practice, can be intimidating and taxing. However, there are many benefits and advantages of owning and managing your own practice in healthcare.
Graduates of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) Kelly Walker DNP, FNP-C, and owner of Walker Wellness LLC, and Porsché Battle, SLPD, CCC-SLP, owner of Battle Speech & Swallowing Services, LLC, know firsthand just how rewarding it can be.
Prior to enrolling in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at RMUoHP, Walker’s dream was to help care for people in a way that was both respectful and humble—Walker wanted to be a medical professional who listened to her patients.
For her, it started when she was a patient seeking medical care and often felt as though she was not really seen nor heard. It was not until a nurse practitioner really listened to her that she was able to be successfully diagnosed and treated. “It was at that moment,” said Walker, “that I decided to go back to school with the goal to someday open my own family practice.”
In starting one’s own practice, Walker said to “write down the pros and cons and do not overthink it.” She adds, “Talk to your family and to those who know you best.”
Battle, who recently graduated from the RMUoHP Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD) program, explained that one of the biggest challenges of starting her own practice was the amount of time it takes, especially with balancing work, family, and other responsibilities. “Starting a private practice while catering to a little one who wants all of my attention, going to school full-time, and being a wife was a huge hurdle,” said Battle.
“I love being a speech-language pathologist,” said Battle, “but becoming a business owner was not automatic. I had to do a lot of research on starting and running a business.”
Battle and Walker share what they’ve learned along their journeys of starting their own businesses and provide insights for other healthcare professionals.
Determine Your Mission
When starting a healthcare practice, it is important to keep in mind one’s own mission or objectives that a private practice will fulfill.
For Battle, her mission is focused on four key aspects: (1) provide personalized care with excellence through in-home and teletherapy services; (2) educate patients and family members about treatment options and interventions to improve their quality of life; (3) bring awareness about the profession of speech-language pathology; and (4) provide resources and ongoing support to patients and their families.
Walker’s mission in starting her practice was to “empower patients to strive for their best quality self by helping them reach their goals.” She adds, “We partner in their care. I am not the boss of them; they are the boss of themselves, and when they can see that and take measures to improve their overall being, health ensues.”
Find a Mentor
Battle encourages all prospective business owners to find someone who can help them along their journey. “I have linked up with some of the most amazing coaches and mentors throughout my career.”
She adds, “As a private practice owner, investing in a business coach or mentor could save you time and money in the long run.”
Decide on Your Scope of Practice
There are many different types of practices to choose from and ways to make that practice uniquely capable of adding value to the community.
For Walker, a major priority for her private healthcare practice is to “truly listen, investigate, and be thorough in her work.” She said, “I am also not afraid of being real with patients…Most patients want to change and, when given the tools, are excited when they see their body transform to a healthier them.”
It’s not just about being a healthcare provider, explained Walker. “I am also their cheerleader. Small changes need to be celebrated. Life is hard; it is not my job to discourage. So in being honest with them and offering tools, you encourage people and give them hope.”
These techniques and mannerisms are critical to what makes Walker’s business different from other healthcare practices in her community.
Battle’s speech and swallowing practice focuses on being up-to-date and open for everyone. “Our practice is not one-size-fits-all,” said Battle. “We don’t operate with cookie-cutter techniques and antiquated practices. Instead, we strive to provide updated, evidence-based care to each individual that we serve. We treat our patients like family, and sometimes that means going the extra mile.”
While doctoral degrees aren’t required for starting your own practice, both Battle and Kelly credit their educational programs for assisting them in the process.
For Walker, the DNP program prepared her both to care for patients’ medical needs and to start a solo practice with the necessary background in informatics, evidence-based practice and research, policy and ethics, and healthcare economics.
“I learned crucial skills before going out into the world,” said Walker.
Battle’s education from RMUoHP was a demanding but positive challenge as it increased her “understanding and use of evidence-based practice.” She discovered an enjoyment for writing and qualitative research. “My spirit of inquiry has grown because of my education at RMUoHP,” said Battle.
Remember Why You Started
The process of creating a medical practice certainly requires hard work and dedication, but owning a private practice is an obtainable reality if you determine your mission, find mentors and supporters, decide your scope of practice, and continue forward.
Walker found that being your own boss can create a rewarding career. “I really am my own boss. Upon opening, I structured a contract for patients to sign that states that I do not do emergent or urgent care, and I don’t work or take calls after hours or weekends. This has streamlined the type of patients that migrate to the practice; they are the ones who genuinely want to engage and do work to help themselves. This makes practicing so rewarding!” said Walker.
Battle started her own practice because “flexibility, autonomy, and freedom” were her top priorities in her career.
“When I started my practice, I wanted the freedom to offer specialized services to specific populations, as well as the flexibility to set a schedule that works best for my family and me.”
For Battle, “the benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages” that come from starting a practice.
“I always have to remind myself of my ‘why.’ I decided to make my life reflect the top values that I profess: faith, family, and well-being. Once I started making decisions from that viewpoint, it was a lot easier to keep going when things got challenging,” said Battle.
“There are definitely times of fear, anxiety, and doubt,” said Walker. “But when that happens, spend time away from business activities and do self-care, spend time with family—keep the faith.”