Secrets of Success

Secrets of Success

High-level executives show nurses how to succeed in business

In these days of carefully-integrated patient care, nurses increasingly need business skills to do their jobs. They are asked to write business plans, develop and manage budgets, and negotiate—skills they are learning in Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s Business of Nursing (BON) Program and Executive Mentorship Program.

The twist is that their teachers are real-world executives who have spent years in fields like business, technology, and science.

The Business of Nursing

A 10-month certificate program, the Business of Nursing is a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Carey Business School. It teaches post-baccalaureate and post-master’s nurses invaluable financial skills. “You cannot think about patient care without thinking about cost today,” says BON Program Coordinator Maryann F. Fralic, DrPH, RN. “Nurses know the intricacies of the patient care process better than anything…[but] we need them to have the financial knowledge and language that’s going to be incredibly essential to nursing in the future.”

Each year, 10 to 24 BON students take courses in topics like finance and managing clinical outcomes in preparation for their capstone class, a course where they integrate their clinical nursing experience with their business skills. Here, students prepare sophisticated business plans that address a real-life healthcare need, such as the development of a new program for their hospital.

The final business plans are presented in the Johns Hopkins Hospital board room—a “very intimidating” space, according to Fralic—to a team of actual high-level executives and trustees, all of whom think from the viewpoint of real-world healthcare and finance executives.

A 2009 BON graduate, Colleen Apostol, RN, OCN, CHPN, worked with two fellow students to develop a business plan for a Palliative Care Pavilion at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Apostol had recently been hired at the Center as an oncology nurse in palliative care, a new division. “I felt meeting with the patients was the easy part, but trying to build a brand new program was the hard part,” she says. “You’re asking for money so how do you prove that you need the funds?”

The group presented their findings to a panel of three professionals including Brent Hanson, an executive for 20 years at First Consulting Group, where he focused on the intersection of information technology and healthcare.

Having listened to BON presentations for about four years, Hanson says most students need to trim the details. “Nurses are trained to look for trends, patterns, blips…[But] these are things that have probably long since ceased to be important to people who sit at the executive team or board level,” he explains. “It’s got to be presented in terms of what is important to the executive…improve the quality, reduce the cost, and every project has its own timeline.”

Hanson says it’s impossible to develop a business plan that addresses all three of these areas—”I’ve never seen it in my life,” he says—but he tells students to pick a variable that’s important to their “buyer,” like reducing cost, and focus on that.

Having coordinated the BON Program since its inception, Fralic understands the value of collaborations between students and business professionals. So much so that she decided to give a similar experience to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students.

Top Executive Mentorship

In 2008, Fralic developed and funded the School of Nursing’s Executive Mentorship Program, a one-year mentoring exper-ience that pairs DNP students with top executives from fields like business, finance, media, science, and technology. Each year, one to three students are chosen, and can each receive up to $5,000 to support the cost of expenses like travel, books, and conference attendance.

JoAnn Ioannou, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, the Assistant Director of Nursing in the Department of Medical Nursing at Johns Hopkins Hospital, applied to the program to expand her business knowledge. “I was interested in seeing negotiation skills and conflict resolution in the business world to see if I could learn something from a different angle,” she says.

In early 2009, Ioannou was one of the first three students selected for the program. She found an ideal mentor in Ron Shapiro, Co-Founder and Chairman of Shapiro Negotiations Institute and the author of The Power of Nice, a book about effective negotiation strategies. Since beginning her mentorship last spring, Ioannou has met with Shapiro several times, and attended three seminars.

Her favorite was the Butler Conference, an event on Shapiro’s farm that brought together CEOs like Morris Offit, Director of AIG at the time, and Cal Ripken Jr. to discuss the global economy and its effects on their respective industries. Shapiro even gave Ioannou an important role—she was the group’s “Medical Advisor,” bringing her black bag in case anyone needed assistance.

“[Shapiro] is the most prepared individual I’ve ever met,” Ioannou says. “He will know anything and everything that he needs to know before he walks in the room…that’s one thing I’m trying to emulate.” She has also learned to prepare for negotiations by thinking about the other person’s needs first.

Ioannou has taught Shapiro some lessons too. “I’ve learned something about the depth of nursing education. [I’ve] also learned…by having JoAnn ask me questions about what I did. It made me examine how I did it a little more deeply,” he says.

Fralic says these two programs offer nurses an unparalleled experience. “It is an opportunity that just doesn’t come that often in our lives. We seldom have people who are really committed to our development so openly,” she says. “Those are incredible gifts that last a lifetime.”

To learn more about the Business of Nursing Program or the Executive Mentorship Program, visit

Mentorship Partners

Five DNP students have participated in the Executive Mentorship Program, working with high-level professionals from a variety of disciplines.

  • JoAnn Ioannou, MSN/MBA ’05, RN …….. Ron Shapiro, Shapiro Negotiations Institute
  • Beth Kilmoyer, MS, RN-BC …….. Debra Lappin, Senior Vice President of B&D Consulting, LLC
  • Andrea Parsons Schram, MS, RN, FNP-BC …….. Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association
  • Laurie Saletnik, MSN 07, RN …….. Dr. Gail Cassell, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company and a JHUSON Advisory Council member
  • Erin Turner, MSN, RN …….. Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross

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