By: Portia Wofford
Nurses should always have a voice whenever and wherever healthcare is a discussion. Not only do nurses hold significant value to the overall state of the healthcare system, but we also have our pulse on the needs of patients and have been trained to create innovative solutions. So, whenever the table presents itself, nurses should pull up a chair.
Veronica Southerland, APRN, FNP-BC, FIEL, DNP(s) did just that. Also known as Vee the NP, Veronica -- a nurse practitioner, speaker, and entrepreneur -- got the opportunity to show the United Nations exactly why nurses deserve a seat with world leaders.
Invitation to the United Nations
PW: How did you come across this opportunity?
VS: I am a fellow with SONSIEL, a society of nursing leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. As a board member, I was invited with a group to visit the United Nations. There are only 100 fellows across the U.S. Out of that one hundred, I was chosen to represent nursing entrepreneurship and to be a part of this global health policy conversation on how nursing entrepreneurs and innovators can make an impact.
A lot of the time, entrepreneurs in the U.S. are only focused on the commonality of our geographic location, not truly understanding the impact that we can have on global health.
PW: Tell us about your experience at the UN?
VS: The experience was absolutely amazing. The Secret Service was everywhere! It was everything I thought it would be. As an African American woman who grew up in a small town in the South, sitting in the meeting spaces and chambers and having a seat at the table of the United Nations was surreal!
Unfortunately, some of the dignitaries said their only knowledge of nursing's impact on healthcare stemmed from their personal experiences. So, hearing people like Kerenna Gore speak and havingDr. Holly Shaw let the dignitaries know there were 40 nursing professionals, innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders, and scientists in the room was phenomenal. I was grateful to have been chosen. I communicated that and was told I was selected because my accolades speak for themselves.
The whole experience was just surreal. That’s the only word to describe it. I took a photo and was in tears, just trying to grasp the magnitude of what was happening.
Impact on nurses
PW: What do you want other nurses to gain from your experience?
VS: I need all nurses to understand that we are more than just a 12, 14, or 16-hour shift. We are more than just the physical tasks at hand. We’ve gone to school and learned not only a trade, but to critically think to help with patient outcomes, new technology, and new treatment modalities. We add so much more.
Once you realize that you have more to add to your profession and that people actually need to hear what you have to say via your experience or research that you’ve completed, it makes a difference. We, as nurses, need to understand our worth. I don’t know if nurses genuinely understand that.
When you understand what our worth is in health equity, it makes a difference. Realizing what it means and moving the pendulum forward for nursing, I think it makes a difference. We add so much more to medicine and nursing as a profession.
Advice to nurses
PW: What advice do you have for other nurses who want "a seat at the table?"
VS: Work your ass off! Ultimately, you have to put the work in. You can’t expect anything to be given to you. You have to be able to hold your own. That means continuing to educate yourself, continuing to read and do research, and write articles. Don’t just let people tell you what nursing or healthcare is. Go out and find out for yourself. You always have to be learning and strive to work the clinical ladder, if you’re in the acute care setting. If you’re in a leadership position, always be open to mentor others and allow yourself to be mentored.
As an entrepreneur of 16 years, I have put the time in. It takes time to build business acumen, where people actually listen to what you have to say. My experience has been yes, I’ve done the research, but I’ve also walked the walk. So when a dignitary asked me, “What is that you do?” I can honestly say I’m a disruptor. I’ve truly gotten tired of going to courses and being the only nurse practitioner present and my ethnicity not being represented. That dynamic needs to change. Lots of times, I’m the only minority in the room.
In 2019, I’m going to do my part to ensure everyone has an opportunity to impact global health. I’m trying to pave the way for others coming after me. I would say to those nurses, who want a seat at the table, to be on your grind! Be purposeful and intentional about the things you’re doing in the name of healthcare and nursing.
PW: Tell us about your nursing background.
VS: I am a board-certified family nurse practitioner, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and a nurse practitioner since 2011. I own Advanced Practice Care, which is a primary care/urgent care based inside a pharmacy -- so I have a retail health practice. I also own chronic pain management and opioid therapy practice and an IV hydration lounge.
I'm also the curator of “Watch My Flo,” which is an IV hydration business startup, where I teach other healthcare providers across the country how to start their own IV hydration practices. I'm the only one who travels across the country and am the first nurse practitioner to do this. Through my work, I've had several people successfully start and maintain their own IV practices.
Prior, I owned a very successful homecare agency for twelve years with six sites in North and South Carolina. Before entrepreneurship, my background was ICU and emergency medicine. I also practiced in dialysis, interventional radiology, post-acute step-down, I worked as a travel nurse, home health -- I’ve done it all!
PW: What are currently working on?
VS: Honestly, so many things. Mainly working with SONSIEL to continue to push the pendulum forward for other nurses interested in innovation, procurement, or working as a nurse scientist.
There's not a place for nurse entrepreneurs who want to get into other industries. Healthcare is interwoven in everything we do, and nursing should have a place. We’re working hard to continue to create that movement. I’m doing a lot of speaking engagements, working on a book, and working on the webinar for IV hydration, as well.
Want to contact Veronica?
Social media: Vee the NP
Portia Wofford is a nurse, millennial strategist, healthcare writer, entrepreneur, and micro-influencer. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for career development--while providing organizations with tools to close generational gaps within their nursing staff. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.