The Business of Continuing Education

What problem does your company solve?

We provide current, relevant continuing education coupled with a strong emphasis on self-care to nurses who work in clinical settings. Our founding members have more than 50 years of bedside experience and we observed ourselves as well as other nurses failing to meet self-care needs. People were burning out at an alarming pace and we saw that the culture of nursing must change if we are going to be able to provide quality, safe and fulfilling care to our patients, our communities and ourselves.

When did you first see this problem as one that needed to be solved?

I've been in emergency nursing for over twenty years and I began to notice burnout in my peers after only a few short years. When you become an ER nurse, it takes a good couple of years to get down your assessment skills, the psychomotor skills and group dynamics before you can effectively pick up on the more subtle forces at work in the clinical environment. I noticed that nurses who were burnt out called out (and were!) sick more often, tended to be assaulted more often and had more work-related injuries than nurses who were not showing symptoms of burnout. They also tended to engage in more lateral violence than their healthier peers. I listened to my colleagues as they vented about the heavy toll nursing was taking on their bodies, their ability to experience compassion and their relationships. One day I began to notice symptoms in myself. I realized that I'd been in denial for a number of years, subscribing to the "superhero" culture so often glorified by emergency nurses. I started to recognize that we take on that culture relatively early in our careers and that we begin to believe we're stronger than the average human. While that may be true for some, we do have a certain toughness about us for sure; living like we don't need care ourselves is a dangerous delusion we accept and perpetuate. I wanted to change that. I want nurses to recognize that we need care every bit as much as our patients do. Without proper care- healthy eating, adequate sleep, regular recreation and gentle exercise, fulfilling relationships and firm boundaries- we cannot provide genuine, compassionate and effective care at the bedside and our work tends to be less fulfilling for us.

Did the problem ever seem like it was bigger than you?

"Oh my gosh, YES! The problem is enormous and multi-faceted. I like to say that I may not be able to change the world (of nursing) but I would like to shift it somewhat in a direction that is supportive of nurses at every level. I love nurses who support other nurses in authentic ways and our classes do just that. Each class has content and group exercises built into the day to support healthy habits and self-care, starting with raising awareness. We begin introductions in the retreats with engaging questions that are designed to focus the group's attention on the "why we do what we do" and how we can do it by putting ourselves first. We also establish at the very beginning that participants are in a safe place where everyone has a voice and that everyone needs to be heard. We do a lot of discussion around professional issues and the culture of nursing, sharing examples of how we can better support one another in the workplace.

Everyone is welcome to share as much- or as little- as they want but we do encourage participation. The bonding that type of environment creates is unbelievable!

What makes YOU stand out from others who may solve similar problems?

We offer our classes (I also like to refer to them as retreats) in small batches in tropical locations and classes are structured in one-hour blocks, each day of instruction is only three hours. That leaves a ton of time for participants to enjoy quiet reflection, yoga, healthy meals (that we provide) and recreational activities outside of the classroom. We also encourage our participants to engage in gentle yoga before morning class to awaken their senses, focus their minds and prepare for the day ahead.

What, if any, concerns are there related to nurses NOT knowing about non-traditional roles?

Nurses are, and always have been, innovators. To pigeonhole ourselves into believing that our skills and knowledge are only appropriate for the bedside is extremely narrow-minded. Restricted thinking like that underestimates the considerable reach that our training and experience affords us. I would hate to think that nurses would accept the "traditional roles" paradigm without challenging it by demonstrating our power in roles outside of clinical nursing. What I'm seeing is more of a trend where nurses are recognizing their considerable talents and using them to branch out in ways that are unprecedented. I'm just so proud of the businesses that nurses are starting- take New Thing Nurse for example. There's an experienced, talented and well-organized nurse who is using her superpowers to help other nurses succeed in their professional endeavors. She's amazing! There are loads of other examples out there for inspiration; there's really an incredible zeitgeist occurring in our profession today.

Some say, "It's not what you know, it's about who you know." In terms of developing business relationships, do you agree with that statement? Please explain your rationale.

Oh, I think it's a combination of both. It's important to acknowledge your skills and education but also, and perhaps more importantly, your limitations. People are smart and they'll pick up on your ability to deliver rather quickly. It's imperative that you're knowledgeable in the service or product you're promising, otherwise, your audience will lose interest quickly. You have to be confident in your knowledge, know your boundaries and authentically represent yourself. Who you know is equally important. Making the right connections can make all the difference when you're trying to get a business off the ground. We all have limits and when we've reached them (and can acknowledge that we have reached them), our network gives us the opportunity to continue to grow beyond those limitations.

Tell us about your transition. What was the process of moving away from the clinical role into a business role? What mindset shifts, if any, did you need to make?

I began my transition rather slowly, maintaining my full-time position for the entire first year as a safety net. It was hard to let that go, and I did so only very recently. I went from full time, to part-time and then finally to per diem before I decided that I needed to focus my energy on my business without other distractions. It's been hard. I often miss the ER and the camaraderie that exists in those teams but I love what I'm doing and I believe that it can help bring about important change. That made the transition easier for sure. While I was still in my clinical role, I used my peers to help me bounce ideas around, getting important market research done in the process since those nurses are essentially my target audience. Ultimately, I knew I had to leave the bedside when I noticed that shifts were less and less fulfilling and more and more fraught with frustrations. I had to shift my thinking away from fixing the machine (hospital policies and practices) to empowering the nurses to effect change themselves by standing up for their own care as a priority. I realized that by supporting nurses to become assertive in their boundary setting I could, in effect, change how they're treated on a much broader scale.

What has been the hardest thing in starting in your specific type of business or job role?

Promoting myself! Hands down. Marketing hasn't been as easy as I'd originally planned and I'm realizing that there are a lot of nurses who don't travel to get CE, which is a shame. All too often nurses just do the easy online courses to get the minimum required CE for their respective states. I get it, I've definitely done that myself, waiting until the last minute to do it so I could renew my license. It's cheap, it's quick and easy but it falls short of so many other needs continuing education classes provide: networking, support, idea exchange and relationship building. I discovered that competing with cheap online content is hard but it's not impossible. I need to be able to demonstrate the value to nurses. Convincing nurses to spend that hard earned money (and it IS hard earned!) on a nursing retreat has proven extremely difficult, but I suspect that as we continue to work to broaden our audience it will get easier. Our first class was an enormous success and the participants were all excited to go back to their workplace and share that experience with their colleagues. After seeing that enthusiasm, I'm optimistic the movement will catch on. Right now we're only offering a few classes per year but eventually, I'd like to be able to do one a month.

What has been the most rewarding thing about being in your business or job role?

I love supporting nurses. Nurses are unsung heroes, MY heroes, and knowing that I can help build resilience by promoting self-care is extremely fulfilling. Nurses are an underserved population and by providing tools to help them find their own voice and discover their power is something that really inspires me every day.

What would you say are the five important resources (books, conferences associations) for a nurse who wants explore business?

The National Nurses in Business Association is an excellent resource for sure as well as other professional organizations for the type of business you're exploring. Local chapters of your professional organization (like ENA) can really help you get the word out about your product and or service and are extremely valuable assets. They're also great for networking so don't be afraid to attend some chapter meetings and maybe even volunteer. Investing in your people is time well spent. Definitely, find a mentor that you can trust to help you make wise decisions, too. That's something we haven't done very well in nursing in years past but it's essential to success at any level. Establishing a relationship with another who has more experience, education or training can set you apart from the herd. Meet with them often, set goals and evaluate your progress.

Let's talk legal stuff. Many nurses are afraid of this part of the business. How did you address this concern in your business? What worked for you?

That is definitely part of the business I don't enjoy but we all have to deal with legal implications. I started out using LegalZoom for my basic needs- filing for a business license, business tax help, etc. We're a pretty small education company so we don't really have a lot of legal needs. So far LegalZoom has been able to help with everything. If you're just starting out and on a limited budget I think it's a great way to begin, they even have consultation services built into their platform and I've used them several times for questions.

Who supported you during this transition? Did you have paid mentorship or coaching? If so, what made you make that investment in paid support?

Yes! I sought the support of a Bay Area women's business group called HATCH. they were phenomenal in helping me understand basic business practices and by providing unbiased feedback about my ideas. During all of my years of nursing and education, I had never been prepared for a career as a businesswoman and I needed that support. I think it's a shame that more nursing curriculum doesn't include at least one or two classes on non-traditional roles and business basics. I think we'll be seeing that as a trend in the years to come, however. Today's nurse often wants to step out of the box and use their considerable knowledge to excel in business. No matter what you decide to do in your career, making investments in yourself is never a waste of money or time.

ExpeditionEd provides small batch continuing education to adventurous nurses in beautiful tropical locations. We place heavy emphasis on self-care and building resilience by infusing every retreat with fresh, locally sourced meals, gentle yoga, play and extracurricular activities so that our participants have plenty of time to refresh, unwind and regroup. ExpeditionEd is continuing education reimagined. "We know the value of water when the well is dry"- Ben Franklin. Shouldn't you invest in yourself? Check us out at for our next class "Oceanic Emergencies: Bites, Stings and the Bends" in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico July 2018. We're partnering with a PADI Master Dive Instructor to offer scuba certification for participants who are interested in enriching their experience while enjoying the retreat.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

Invest in yourself. Your life and your livelihood depend upon it!


Allison Shuttleworth RN, MSN, CEN  ExpeditionEd

Allison Shuttleworth RN, MSN, CEN

Allison Shuttleworth RN, MSN, CEN
ExpeditionEd @ExpeditionEdRN

We provide current, relevant continuing education coupled with a strong emphasis on self-care to nurses who work in clinical settings. Our founding members have more than 50 years of bedside experience and we observed ourselves as well as other nurses failing to meet self-care needs. People were burning out at an alarming pace and we saw that the culture of nursing must change if we are going to be able to provide quality, safe and fulfilling care to our patients, our communities and ourselves.