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Meet Our Founding Director
Sharon Burch, MSN, APRN, PHCNS-BC, APHN-BC, HWNC-BC
Sharon Burch is a board-certified holistic nurse coach, educator, and entrepreneur and the director of New Directions for Nurses. This article summarizes her four decades as a holistic nurse entrepreneur and some of the lessons she has learned.
Sharon grew up in a family that used the power of whole food, fresh air, exercise, and mindset to maintain health, so she knew there was more to healing than medicine and surgery alone.
When Sharon entered the hospital workforce as an LPN in 1973, she felt frustrated when she saw how patients on her Cardiac Progressive Care unit were treated for their physical problems and given very little education or support for living a healthy life.
After two years, she left hospital bedside nursing and chose to work as a visiting nurse, where she felt much more at home.
Lesson 1: Some nurses are not happy doing direct care in hospitals, and there are good reasons for that.
With the help of a nurse-midwife, Sharon's daughter was born at home in 1977 and Sharon took a year off of nursing work, then chose a job at a long-term care facility nearby. It wasn’t long before she wanted more skill and power to improve the care she saw. So over the next six years, Sharon attended nursing school, got her RN license, became the director of nursing at her facility, and learned to be a massage therapist.
In 1984, Sharon opened a massage practice as a side-business because she wanted to provide natural health and healing services directly to the public. One of her clients introduced her to the inventor of the Genesis Bio-entrainment Module, an interactive musical environment that facilitates the release of tension and armoring.
Sharon loved the Genesis experience and set aside her massage practice to become the first Genesis Bioentrainment practitioner. For the next five years, she facilitated entrainment and armoring release sessions at the Genesis Center in Indianapolis, IN, and traveled the US and Canada, promoting the Genesis and training new owners of the modules.
In 1989, Sharon married and joined her husband in opening “Integrative Bodyworks,” a massage therapy business that was located in the HCA Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, KS. With a team of 8 massage therapists, they provided massage and Therapeutic Touch to hospital staff, patients, and the public for four years.
They were liked and respected in the community and made a good income, but the work didn’t meet Sharon’s personal development needs. So she started giving CE workshops to nurses who were interested in natural health and wellness approaches.
She was co-owner of a thriving massage therapy business and an approved provider of CE for nurses. Still, she had an itch to do more, so she went part-time in the business, earned her master’s degree (MSN), received her advance practice registered nurse (APRN) license, and became board-certified as a public health clinical nurse specialist (PHCNS-BC) in 1993.
Lesson 2: In a nursing career, one inspiration often leads to another.
Sharon’s dream was to set up a private practice to coach clients on improving their health and provide massage therapy, energy work, guided imagery, functional nutrition, and herbal medicine to complement the coaching. In 1993, Sharon established this private practice at the Southwind Health Collective in Lawrence, KS and published “Consciousness: How Does It Relate to Health?” in the Journal of Holistic Nursing.
Sharon's visibility as a holistic nurse brought clients and unexpected opportunities. For example, a local community college invited her to teach pathology to massage therapists. Back in 1998, there were no textbooks for this course. She seized the opportunity and formed a company called Health Positive!. Then she wrote and self-published the first pathology textbook for massage therapists in the US, sold the book to massage therapy schools, and created a home study CE course for massage therapists and holistic nurses. She followed that book’s success with an expanded version in 2002.
Lesson 3: Nurses can creatively and successfully apply their skills and insights to serve the public in new ways beyond the conventional settings of inpatient care, out-patient care, public health, and nursing education.
Success in that business came easy. After three years, Sharon closed her private holistic health coaching practice and went full-time in Health Positive!. Over the next ten years, she wrote more than 40 home study CE courses and pioneered in delivering them online. It was a significant investment for her and it was considered risky at the time, but she persevered because she felt sure that online courses were the wave of the future.
One of the most memorable weeks Sharon had during that time was when a marketing campaign she created brought in close to $50,000 in 4 days! That was quite a cash flow in 2007!
During those years, Sharon lived an adventurous lifestyle beyond what she had ever dreamed of! For over a year, she lived off-grid in a tropical paradise in Hawaii. Then she returned to the mainland, bought a liveaboard sailboat, and moved it to a beautiful lake in Arkansas where she lived part-time on the boat and part-time in a cottage in a national forest, next to a stream.
However, Sharon had only entered the “home study CE courses for massage therapists” market because it seemed like a good business opportunity. She hadn’t considered if she would be happy in her business, and she was not happy in it!
Why? Because she was working long hours without enough help, and she was learning marketing by trial and error, without a mentor to guide her, so sometimes she made costly mistakes.
Lesson 3: Learning by trial and error is expensive in time, money, and energy.
Lesson 4: Assess opportunities carefully - many are ripe for short-term gain, but to be happy in the long run, we need to have competent people to delegate to, business peers to support and encourage us, and mentors to guide us.
Here’s what happened next. When Sharon’s pioneering business started having competition, she realized she MUST find a marketing mentor! She tried learning from several, some of whom are well-known today, but what they were teaching was like a foreign language - Sharon couldn’t understand what they were saying or how to apply it successfully. After three years of trying different mentors but not finding one whose language and values matched hers, her stress and unhappiness increased to the point that she had a health crisis that forced her to stop working.
Sharon chose a shamanic arts/energy medicine practitioner to help her with her health crisis and she worked intensively with her energy patterns to shed the layers of consciousness that no longer served her. She decided to sell Health Positive! to her main competitor, then she took a year and a half off to rest, regroup, and study shamanic healing arts. Over the next two years, she earned certificates as a Dying Consciously teacher, an Energy Medicine Practitioner, and a Medicine Wheel teacher from the Four Winds Society Light Body School.
When Sharon sold her continuing education business, she was still running a vacation home rental business in Arkansas and her grandparents' small organic farmstead in Indiana.
After taking time off, Sharon wanted to build another business, but only if she could be truly happy in it. In 2012, Sharon formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit community health-focused organization, named it "Awakening to Grace," and began testing several ways the company could serve its mission.
You might think it would be easy to start a new business since Sharon had already built three successful ones in two different niches, but she had been lucky to enter those businesses before she had competition, and her effort to be a successful self-published author and learn how to market her courses online had cost her well-being.
In her heart, Sharon felt she lacked essential pieces of business and marketing education, so she attended many of the well-known online marketing education programs that sound so promising. While these programs were interesting, when Sharon applied their lessons, she often had poor results that left her drained, exhausted, and feeling like a dunce.
Lesson 6: Recognize when you need a coach or mentor and choose them carefully. Make sure their values are aligned with yours and their methods match your business’s stage of development.
Sharon was experimenting with different niches for Awakening to Grace when another nonprofit organization, the Hawaii Yoga Institute, asked her to assist its development. She helped that organization for several years, then became the President of its Board of Directors in 2016.
The next several years brought significant health challenges for Sharon, her daughter, and several other close family members, so Sharon moved from Arkansas to Kansas and took a job so she could make a living without the stress of a business start-up. In that job, she was the first Holistic Nurse Practice Specialist at the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA).
During the three years she was at AHNA, Sharon:
Became board-certified as an advance practice holistic nurse (APNH-BC) and a nurse coach (HWNC-BC)
Advised nurses via phone and email about advancing their holistic nursing practice in any setting: hospitals, hospices, private practice, the community, etc.
Developed the first “Holistic Nurses’ Pain Relief Tools for Patients and Self-care” with over 50,000 copies sold and translated into 4 languages
Coordinated a project to evaluate and publish evidence-based nonpharmacologic approaches to pain relief for nurses to implement
Coordinated the “Integrative Healing Arts Program in Holistic Nursing,” a residential 84-hour CE program offered on coasts and in the midwest US
Led a team that produced 20 one-day regional self-care conferences for nurses, each with different speakers, and each held at a different location across the US
Through the American Holistic Nurses Association, Sharon met nurses who were working as CHANGEMAKERS and bringing holistic nursing into diverse parts of the US. Many of these nurses had left the conventional healthcare system to forge new approaches to serving the public’s health directly, and others had stayed inside the system and planted seeds of change.
Sharon felt inspired by finding so many like-minded nurses and she realized how she could use her business to contribute to a stronger culture of holistic health for all. She could help nurses increase their holistic nursing skills through her online CE courses, and she would help nurses become holistic nurse entrepreneurs.
Among all the business coaches and mentors Sharon had tried to learn from, only one stood out as consistently, dependably excellent.
Marisa Murgatroyd's "Live Your Message" education system empowers people from all walks of life to create successful, sustainable businesses in which they can authentically be themselves, starting with a small volume of dedicated customers in a low-overhead business and growing step-by-step to having a large volume of dedicated customers, if that's what the owner wants.
Sharon tested Marisa's roadmap for business success and recognized it as the missing key she had been looking for!
As Sharon looks back at her journey, she's grateful that she’s been able to stay the course, not give up on herself or her calling, and let herself remain open, growing, and learning new skills.
Lesson 7: By persevering and not giving up, Sharon had the business experience to recognize the truly valuable key to success that she could build upon to help nurse entrepreneurs be smart, strategic, supported, and successful.
Sharon believes that when more nurses learn how to grow successful businesses, the public will see nurses as respected independent health professionals who are contributing to the common good in innovative and effective ways.
Imagine what nurses can accomplish when we bring our empathy, ethics, and holistic health solutions to the public through nurse-led businesses!
To do that, nurses need business education created by nurses and targeted specifically to our mindset, ethics, and experience because we typically think and act differently from the predominant business culture.
Sharon left the American Holistic Nurses Association and designed New Directions for Nurses to teach nurses how to grow successful businesses from their education, empathy, and passion for service. New Directions for Nurses supports nurses in appreciating the value of their ideas and learning the best paths to develop them, rather than giving their ideas to other companies to profit from.
There has never been a better time for nurses to be visible, vocal, and lift each other up, because together we rise!
Learn How to Enjoy More Autonomy, Flexibility & Impact with Your Nurse-owned Business
Enjoy a complimentary Business Strategy Session with Sharon Burch, APRN, APHN-BC, HWNC-BC
You'll receive the Profitable Nurse Business Checklist & personal guidance on your priority questions.
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Our mission is to support nurses who are passionate about solving health problems holistically.
We believe that when nurses are fully supported to actualize their potential, it will change the world!
New Directions for Nurses is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Lawrence, KS, USA. Copyright (c) 2020 Awakening to Grace. All rights reserved.