How to Become an Independent Nurse Contractor
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If you love nursing but don't like working for a boss or being tied to a schedule, you might be happier working for yourself, as an independent contractor. There are myriad job options for independent nurse contractors, but you won't have a guaranteed salary. Instead, you'll need to steadily build a loyal client base.
Develop a Specialty
You might be able to be a generalist at a hospital or clinic. To maximize your knowledge as a contractor, though, consider picking a specialty. This should be an area in which you have extensive training that makes you a competitive job candidate. For example, if you've spent a decade working on a pediatric oncology ward, you might consider becoming an in-home health aid for children fighting cancer. If you don't have expertise in a specific area of medicine, consider sticking with your current job -- or switching to a new one -- until you have a marketable niche.
Manage Legal Issues
To shield yourself from liability for accidents, property damage and medical malpractice, you'll need to incorporate your business. Your employer might have paid your nursing malpractice insurance or indemnified you against liability, but you'll now need to protect yourself with malpractice insurance. Without it, a medical error could give rise to a lawsuit that bankrupts you. Take a few hours to meet with an attorney to discuss common legal issues in your field of nursing. For example, some states won't allow nurses to incorporate as professional corporations, forcing them to choose other corporate structures instead. Then ask the attorney to help you draft legally sound contracts addressing common issues such as payment for services and consent to medical procedures.
Build a Client Base
Building a client base is the key to successful independent nursing. It's also highly challenging, and "Modern Medicine" emphasizes that building a client base consisting of individuals is not financially possible. Instead, consider working with an organization. You can contract with hospitals and clinics, either as a staff member or as a home nurse for the medical center's patients. In some states, Medicaid also contracts with registered nurses to provide care -- both in-home and at medical facilities -- to Medicaid patients.
In addition to attending continuing education classes to maintain your license, you'll need to work to remain educated on current issues in your specific field of nursing. While hospitals and doctor's offices might provide you with pamphlets and employee training, you'll need to take responsibility for your own education. Attend additional continuing education classes, and subscribe to journals and magazines related to your field of nursing. Membership in a professional organization can also help, particularly if you rely on members to help you answer challenging nursing questions. Legal issues can also change over time. For example, the limits on malpractice awards may change. Annually consult with your attorney so you can remain up-to-date.
- Nurses Service Organization: Commonly Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice Insurance
- Oregon Department of Human Services, Aging and People With Disabilities: Long Term Care Community Nursing
- Johnson and Johnson: Independent Nurse Contractor
- MinorityNurse.com: Why It Matters If You're an Independent Contractor or an Employee
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.