How this Nurse Lost $4 Million and Got Right Back Up Again
When I met Vee the NP (Veronica Southerland), I could feel the confidence oozing down the phone. I want to add that there wasn’t a shred of ego, but rather an air of graciousness and gratitude that comes with an entrepreneur of her level.
Vee, as we’ll refer to her, has been through it all, and I had the pleasure of spending an hour learning all about it. Vee makes no joke that money drives her, but it’s the deep-rooted desire to care for people that is endearing. It’s the pain you feel when talking to her when she tells you of having to fire 200 people. It’s the joy you feel when listening to her successes.
“I was broke,” was the response when I asked why she got into nursing. “But Nurses don’t earn that much,” I had said to her. She replied, “You’re right, and my parents also knew it. They flat out told me that they didn’t go into debt so I could be earning $19k a year. This was 20 years ago, when nursing was different, and nursing school was harder than it is now.” A dear grandmother’s passing would help jolt Vee into the passion-driven field of Nursing.
“Helping people fascinated me; I was always interested in healing and how the body works,” she explains. Vee obtained her undergrad in medical technology with biology as a minor. After switching to social work, she then went into medical school. Alas, it wasn’t for her. With only three weeks left in the semester, Vee bowed out. After a call with her manager, he asked if she’d thought of Nursing. “I went with it,” says Southerland. Her manager called the school and the deadline was that day. Vee got accepted at the 11th hour, and says it was the best decision she’d ever made. “I only had to do the clinical portion as I had everything else!” And while nursing school was tough, Vee graduated with 16 others from a class of 75.
Anesthesia school was next; that’s what she thought she wanted to do. The result? Vee cried every day for the first six months. “The pressure is real. I dealt with an emotional transition from school to practicing as a nurse, I did acute care, open-heart, worked in trauma ICU. I rotated through all of the ICU; my plan was to go to anesthesia school and stick with it. I was shadowing some of the people I worked with and realized I hated the OR, I just couldn’t do it. So, I started to move around: dialysis, radiology, I was trying to find my fit. My skill set was top notch as I came out of ICU. I’d been around for a while so transitioning from pillar to post was pretty easy for me.”
So, what about her social life? Vee was married right out of undergrad school. After realizing that the ICU wasn’t for her, Vee then tried travel nursing. “Talk about a strain on your marriage; but we made it work.”
What jolted Vee into the next phase of her life?
“I realized that no one had home care. When they got out of the ICU, there was no one there to help people. That’s when I decided I wanted to go into home care. The same people I would treat, I would see in the ER later, because no one was taking care of them at home,” she explains.
The money started rolling in.
“I took the leap and opened a home care agency, and within the first two years I did very well – I made $2 million. I did clinical, my husband took care of all the financials, and we were a great team. Within a year after that, we had made $4 million. We just kept growing, relationship-building. Our reputation in the community was paramount. I learned quickly to do what you can and not what you can’t. We didn’t advertise a lot, we built on referrals from physicians we’d worked with and we got a lot of people coming to the home after hospital.”
Not one to skip a beat, Vee found herself spending a lot of time transitioning those from the hospital to the home, for which she wasn’t getting paid. What did she do?
“I went to NP school so I could get the license to do the transition and get paid for it,” she says as she explained her plan.
Hard Times Ahead
Vee hit hard times around 2008 when Obama hit office because of some of the policies that changed. “We stopped getting a lot of referrals. We dropped from $5 million to $1 million based on what you could be reimbursed for. A lot of people stopped paying for private care because they couldn’t afford it. I had four offices across the state, but I had to lay off 200 people and close two offices. I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep. These were people with families, with mouths to feed. If you’ve ever had to lay someone off, imagine what it feels like laying 200 off.”
Pick Yourself up and Try Again
Vee did what any good entrepreneur did next: She dusted herself off and tried again. “I came back and looked at where I could rebuild, and we built it back up, but I wasn’t in it anymore. So, I sold my last office this year. I was pretty much ready to move on to the next side and now, I teach people to have an exit strategy for when it’s time to move on. It’s something I was wildly unprepared for; no one came in and said to me, ‘Hey, this is how you exit a company.’ So now I help teach others about when it’s right to bow out.”
Vee’s story goes forward to yet another turn: “Getting back to helping people heal is what I wanted to do, so I opened up my own doctor practice. I was lucky enough to be approached by a large pharma company, who let me open up my clinic inside their pharmacy. A lot of the demographic coming to me were older people who were dehydrated, so IV hydration was a regular thing in my clinic. Thanks to the celebrity craze, and Kim Kardashian (she featured IV therapy on her show) suddenly the kids of the older patients were calling me wanting IV hydration therapy. I was flooded with bookings, so I took advantage of it.
I was getting a ton of calls, going to conferences, learning more about hydration, learning about the benefits of a holistic approach. I hired a clinical optimization team to come up with recipes. It’s not cookie cutter; I spent approximately one year researching it. It’s different than just juicing someone up, and it goes to a cellular level. In research and development, I learned a lot about how fluids benefit people in a million different ways. I then separated my clinic and developed FLO Hydration.”
I want to continue my business teachings, but in a different way. I want to empower and inspire. Holistic medicine is where it’s at for me.
Vee the NP will be teaching business webinars on Scrubs Magazine starting in September. She also teaches regular classes on how to start your own IV hydration business.
For more information visit IV Hydration therapy, or call 704-344-6494.
You can see more of Vee the NP on Instagram.
Michael Harbron is the Editor in Chief of Scrubs Magazine.
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Michael Harbron is the Editor in Chief of Scrubs Magazine.
By Michael Harbron